Before going to college, one might hope that colleges would make religious accommodations for all of their students. Not everyone was raised to worship and be part of the exact same religion, and they should not feel like they are being forced to participate in someone else’s religion.
Just because someone’s religion is not part of the “social norm” does not make them or their religion any less important.
I have noticed that before meetings for clubs on campus, there is always a prayer, and most of the time, non-religious students are too afraid to step out of the room for fear of being judged negatively by others. Therefore, they end up being put in an awkward position by sitting through the prayer.
I attended a Registered Student Organization meeting where the topic of prayer was brought up, and rather than being understanding, people were shamed by their peers. We were told that if we have a problem with the prayer, then we should not show up to the meetings. These meetings are mandatory for every club to attend; if we do not show up, our clubs risk being put on probation.
ABAC needs to encourage religious student organizations to be welcoming to all students, regardless of their faith. These groups can promote understanding and respect among different religious and non-religious perspectives, but so far, students on campus do not feel that these organizations are accommodating or respectful. If ABAC hosts religious services or events, they need to ensure that they are inclusive and respectful of diverse beliefs.
These types of events should be open to all students, and any proselytizing or exclusionary practices should be discouraged. They need to ensure that the campus has strong non-discrimination policies in place that protect students from discrimination based on their religion or lack thereof.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental right in the U.S. constitution, protected by the First Amendment. If accommodations are not made for these students, then this problem could potentially lead to legal trouble.
This is not to suggest that prayer in its entirety should be abandoned; instead, the prayer should take place a few minutes before the meeting so those who do not wish to take part in the prayer are not being forced to participate. This will make it fair to everyone.
It is essential to promote understanding and mutual respect among all members of the campus community. By taking some of these steps, ABAC can create an inclusive environment that respects the diverse beliefs and backgrounds of all students, whether they are religious or not.