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Troy University: New dorm isn’t discriminatory

Published 11:01pm Monday, October 14, 2013

Troy University says there is nothing discriminatory about the school’s dorms.

The statement came Monday in the form of a letter written by a university attorney in response to an Aug. 1 letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation regarding the legality of Troy’s newest dormitory, the Newman Center.

“The Newman Center is a 376-bed dormitory open to all Troy students. Student housing at the Newman Center is not for religious students nor are students of any religious group given preference over others,” the letter from Brian Boyle, of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, LLP, said. “Similarly, resident assistants (‘RAs’) at the Newman Center are not chosen or assigned based on their religious beliefs.”

Boyle wrote that his letter was meant “to clarify any misunderstandings that may have occurred through media reporting.”

The Aug. 1 letter to Troy University Chancellor, Dr. Jack Hawkins from FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel alleged that the university was violating both Alabama and federal housing laws by giving “unconstitutional” preference over religious vs. nonreligious students.

“Students who wish to live in the Newman Center are required to ‘be respectful of diversity,’ but the facility itself is not respectful of diversity,” Seidel wrote. “Its sole purpose is to create a space for devoutly religious, thereby excluding the nonreligious and religious students who are not devout enough.”

While statements were made early on in talks about Troy’s Newman Center dorm regarding preferential placement to religious students, the university’s guidelines to live in the dorm are value-based, not faith-based.

According to the university, students interested in living in the Newman Center must provide a letter of recommendation from a community leader, advisor, or counselor and must meet and be willing to maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.5.

In addition, students must be respectful of diversity, must refrain from the use of alcohol or illegal drugs while in the facility, must maintain the standards of the “Trojan Way” and must be engaged in some type of community service or service learning project on a semi-annual basis.

RAs have similar requirements and must also be at least a sophomore and have lived on-campus at least one semester.

“In sum, neither students seeking housing nor students seeking resident assistant positions are given preference based on their religious views or activities,” the university’s attorney wrote. “Religious affiliation, or lack thereof, is not a criterion for on-campus housing at Troy in any of its facilities.”

The letter went on to state the university does not maintain any statistics concerning the religious affiliations or activities of students admitted to the Newman Center, or any other dorm on campus.

The Newman Center dorm at Troy does house a chapel and a common area for fellowship within the dormitory. The dorm is one of four similar facilities nationwide and part of a network of about 500 Newman Centers.

FFRF was not prepared to comment Monday regarding Troy’s letter, according to a representative, because the group had only received the university’s response letter that day. However, FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel, is expected to contact The Messenger later this week.

 

  • Bill_OReally

    Did I miss the part about how Troy State is leasing the property the building is on for $1/year for 25 years and then owns the building once the lease is up? Or was that in another article?

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  • OldSchoolPike3Worker

    How can a facility, an inanimate building, be respectful of anything? Also, if “diversity” was ever actually achieved in this country, wouldn’t that put an end to the Democratic Party? That party exist by putting Americans in sub groups and then pitting those groups against each other. Black against white, Christians against non-believers, Rich against poor, etc.

    This group should change their name from Freedom From Religion to Freedom from Christians. If you look at their website, you will only see legal actions against Christians. No other religions seem to cause this foundation any concern. Why does Christianity, a religion practiced by choice, not under the threat of death, like some other religions, such a threat to them?

    I think it’s because if they succeed in marginalizing Christians, then secular ideas such as Communism and Socialism would be better accepted by the American people. The concept of an individual accountable to a creator before government is really what they fear.

    There are plenty of countries in the world whose governments are outright controlled by religions other than Christianity but this foundation chooses to make its enemy American Christians.

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    • Observer

      The FFR objects to a “Faith-based” residence hall, not a Christian residence hall. As the Troy State argument states, the dorms are not Christian – they are “faith-based”. FFR is trying to help enforce the Constitutional separation of church and state by preventing the state (Troy State) from establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
      It only appears that such groups are against Christianity because in the United States any time the issue of mixing government with religion involves Christianity.

      One could wonder, however, how would FFR and ACLU and others react if Troy State were to work a similar deal with the KKK to build a race-hate-based dorm? Or, more likely, team up with GALA to open a sexual orientation dorm – everyone has a sexual orientation but such a dorm would imply gay, lesbian, or bi rather than straight just as faith-based in a small college in south Alabama implies Christian.

      Yes, the deal is Troy State leases the property for 25-years for $1 per year in exchange for title to the building at the end of the lease. Some think this is a great deal. It would be if the buildings are still standing and usable in 25-years. The odds are if they have not fallen down by then they will have to be torn down.

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