By Elaine Magliaro
David Ferguson of Raw Story reported earlier this week that the group American Atheists had blasted “an Alabama university official for sending out a fear-mongering anti-atheist video to students” at the end of the year. On December 30th, Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins sent out a mass email with a link to a Clay Christensen video to “every student and staff member at the public institution.” Ferguson said the video “disparaged atheists and non-religious people as a menace to American society.”
Clay Christensen on Religious Freedom
This is the message that accompanied the video:
As we approach a New Year I am reminded of the blessings we enjoy within a democracy which is the envy of the world.
For your pleasure — and as a reminder — I am sharing with you a 90 second video which speaks to America’s greatness and its vulnerability.
May your New Year be blessed!
In his video, Christensen said that Americans follow the law “because they had come to believe that they weren’t just accountable to society, they were accountable to God.” He added that he was beset by a “vague nagging feeling that as religion loses its influence in the lives of Americans, what will happen to our democracy? Where are the institutions that are going to teach the next generation of Americans that they, too, need to voluntarily choose to obey the laws?” Christensen continued, “Because if you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.”
American Atheists has called upon Chancellor Hawkins to issue an apology for emailing the video “that drew a connection between religion and democracy.” David Silverman, President of American Atheists, wrote an open letter to Hawkins on December 31st. Silverman said that he was contacting Hawkins on behalf “of a Troy University student, who is concerned about a video you sent to all students and staff in your end-of-year email on December 30.” Silverman noted that the “video asserts that religion, particularly Judeo-Christian beliefs, are necessary to be moral, law-abiding citizens, and implies that those who do not attend church will be anti-democracy and anti-social members of society.”
Atheists are not a trivial minority. In Alabama alone, we represent 11% of the population, and statistically even higher numbers in universities and among college-aged residents; as many as 32% of people under age 30 are not religious.
On behalf of the student who contacted us, the Alabama members of American Atheists, the thousands of atheists at Troy University, and the hundreds of millions of atheists worldwide who live productive, law-abiding lives without religion, we demand an apology from you for using the public university email system and your publicly funded position to disparage atheists and minority religious groups as well as perpetuating the discrimination and anti-patriotic sentiment against atheists in the United States.
As you represent an institution of higher learning, we would like to take this opportunity to educate you about atheists and morality. Atheists are overwhelmingly ethical and upstanding people. It is not true that religion is necessary to keep people from becoming criminals.
The Christian Post reported that Andy Ellis, Troy’s director of university relations, provided it with a statement from the university regarding Hawkins’s email.
The Christian Post:
“The purpose of this email was to spur introspection and encourage thoughtful discussion as we transition from the challenges of 2014 to the opportunities ahead in 2015,” read the statement. “This message and video were shared to provide the university community with information and insights for healthy consideration and debate about our country’s democracy, the role it plays in the world and the challenges America faces going forward.”
The Dothan Eagle said the university’s statement also included the following: “Troy University is an international university that contributes regularly to the global marketplace of ideas. This message and video were shared to provide the university community with information and insights for healthy consideration and debate about our country’s democracy, the role it plays in the world and the challenges America faces going forward.”
Carly Omenhiser of the Dothan Eagle reported that Ellis said that “at this time this is the university’s response to the letter written by the American Atheist president.”
That’s the public university’s response to the concerns of one of their students and the American Atheists organization. Maybe Silverman’s letter to Hawkins should have spurred introspection in the chancellor? Did Hawkins not feel that Silverman’s letter provided him and the university “with information and insights for healthy consideration and debate about our country’s democracy…”?????
Atheist group demands apology from Troy chancellor (Dothan Eagle)
Clayton M. Christensen (Wikipedia)
Clayton M. Christensen (Harvard Business School)
Clayton Christensen (claytonchristensen.com)
Clayton Christensen: The Survivor (Forbes)