Before I go on my rant it would be appropriate to review the following direct quote of the 1st Amendment:
“Bill of Rights Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
This article is concerned with the prohibition of free exercise thereof and freedom of speech. These two sections of this article are actually joined at the hip. If one falls so falls the other.
It appears as though there is a concerted effort by the powers at Savannah State University (SSU) to silence the Christians. This is not unique to SSU in that there are other state universities throughout the country that are actively attempting the same stunt with our rights. It seems that SSU has revoked the official recognition of an on campus Christian ministry identified as Commissioned II Love (C2L) for engaging in harassment and hazing. The harassment is identified as their efforts to enlarge the size of their group by attempting to recruit new believers. These religious practices were identified as cult type activity. Well, I guess the guys at C2L do not understand what Christianity is about. It is about spreading the word. The hazing is the leaders of C2L washing the feet during a worship service. This activity was identified as one that endangers the physical health of students.
Needless to say SSU is now facing a problem in court. Apparently these Christians are not turning the other cheek nor do they plan on taking it in the shorts. The SSU Student Handbook identifies rights to free speech, freedom of expression, and the right to assemble peaceably, however, this right apparently does not apply to Christian groups. Specifically SSU has decided to punish C2L by prohibiting the exercise of their religion, free speech, the right to assemble, and the right to associate freely.
This university allegedly has an anti Christian petition signed by 150 students.
One of the defendants in this law suit made a police complaint with the campus police against the Christians alleging that C2L engaged in “practices that are not unlike that of a cult” such as Baptisms and foot washing. One of the complainant alleged that the C2L members called him names and told him that he needed to be saved. The complainants also told the cops that anyone in the group that has different views is ostracized. I suppose if one joins the college Democrats and expresses solidarity with the Republican Party one might be ostracized but I suppose that would be OK with the campus authorities because everyone knows the Republicans are just wrong.
In one incident after these complaints were alleged the cops were ordered to stop a group of students from praying and the cops followed their orders. They also had a problem with this group associating with an off campus minister.
The following sanctions were imposed upon the Christians:
(1) conducting any activities (this appears to be an all encompassing sanction. This could mean praying, having a religious service, or maybe reading the Bible in public)
(2) congregating (there goes the right to assembly)
(3) wearing its paraphernalia (What is this crap? Cannot wear a cross perhaps? Cannot wear a Christian pin? Would this university tell Muslims not to wear a burka or perhaps tell Jews that they cannot wear a yarmulka or other clothing that identifies them as Jews)
(4) soliciting member ship (This is an interesting sanction because Christians as a religious practice invite others to join them)
(5) participating in “meetings, step shows, other underground activities on campus or off. (Meetings? This is another broad sanction. What is underground activity? Now they really have stepped into it when SSU tells students that they cannot practice their religion on or off campus.)
Keep in mind that we are talking about a religious group and as such one should expect them to engage in the practice of their religion. Other universities have and are doing this same thing to stifle the Christian groups. If one questions why this is not done to Jewish and Muslim groups it will be proffered that Jews and Muslims are a cultural group.
While this suppression of free practice of religion was in full swing the university found out that a group of its Christians as well as some non-members were going to Orlando, Florida to listen to contemporary Christian music, pray, worship, and listen to the playing of religious theme music. On the day the group was to depart a group representative was contacted by an SSU official and instructed to cancel the trip. The group alleged that it was an off campus event and they went anyway. This resulted in the expulsion of the group from campus.
My first problem with this university is they have failed to identify any harm inflicted by the Christians. Perhaps they were using very hot or very cold water when they did the feet washing. SSU also alleged that public expressions of faith amounted to harassment. We should consider that organizations such as SSU are state agencies and as such should be protecting the rights of individuals to practice religion. It is likely that if they are confronted with this concept they will come up with a defense that they have to have a “wall of separation of church and state” as outlined in the US Constitution. No such outlines exists in the Constitution but it is identified nonetheless on too many occasions.
This type of offense committed by any institution of higher learning is especially dangerous. First off the immediate harm is that they interfere with the free practice of religion. A more significant problem is that they end up teaching some students that if you do not like someone else’s belief system it is OK to use the system to stifle them. From my perspective if you cannot talk about God then you cannot talk about other things.
For information on this subject or other related subject regarding the universities and colleges check the following web site for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: http://www.thefire.org
By Brujo Blanco
Crossposted from The Baltimore Reporter