Religious freedom restrained at Duke University


Duke University has recently been under scrutiny for religious decisions made on their campus. Duke first announced that they would allow a Muslim weekly call to prayer on Fridays to come from the chapel tower. The call to prayer would last only about three minutes each Friday. This plan was meant to promote religious unity on campus but instead provoked outrage. Duke has since canceled the call to prayer from the chapel tower and instead has the Muslims gathering for their call to prayer in a grassy area near the tower before heading inside the chapel for the weekly prayer service, a service that has been held in the chapel for nearly two years.


Duke University made its original decision to allow the call to prayer on campus to bring forth religious unity. Duke was making an attempt to show respect to multiple religions and not just Christianity, though they still respect the establishment of Christianity by having a campus chapel and holding weekly services. Students of all religious backgrounds are welcome to enter the chapel to worship and celebrate in their respective religions. Despite this, Duke revoked its original decision to allow the call to prayer from the chapel tower and instead is only allowing the call to come from a grassy area near the tower. The university faced harsh criticism from some in the evangelical Christian community, including Franklin Graham who urged alumni to cease donations to the university until the broadcast was no longer in effect.


Graham said on his Facebook page, “Duke University announced today that they will have a Muslim call to prayer from their chapel bell tower every Friday. As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism. I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.”


Religious freedom is hard to come by, in large because of posts like these. Many people do not like or agree with this particular faith, and it is mostly due to world events. But just because people do not agree with a particular faith, or this faith, which is not of a majority, does not mean Muslims or those of another religion do not qualify for the same rights provided and protected under the First Amendment. Christianity is not the religion under attack in this situation, and Duke was not trying to attack any religion, but instead bring forth religious unity on its campus. Duke’s campus consists of nearly 15,000 students, including about 6,500 undergraduates. Of these students, the university says more than 700 of them identify as Muslim.


We are not defending one religion over another, but rather defending the rights to practice religious freedom provided by the First Amendment, which is a right that is being denied to nearly 700 students of Duke University. The university is a place that is supposed to foster diversity and inclusion, not hinder it because people don’t agree with a specific religion.


What Duke did was make a bold move toward religious diversity on their campus, which was once affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The Muslim students at Duke were ultimately stripped of their First Amendment rights because of their religious affiliation on a campus that is no longer affiliated with Christianity, but instead is non-sectarian.


Following Duke’s reversed decision that sparked several to voice their disappointment in the university for “giving in to xenophobia and fear mongering,” the gathering for the call to prayer on the grassy area outside the chapel was a peaceful one with hundreds of students and faculty in attendance.


Muslim students across the nation, as well as those of other religions, should feel safe enough to practice their religion at their respective universities, including here at West Texas A&M University. In order for any university to truly be a diverse and inclusive one, students should not have privileges revoked because they identify with one religion over another, but should rather have equal access to university facilities.


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