The Electric Commentary

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Eau Claire's ban on RA-lead bible study

My alma matter has been in the news lately due to a university policy that forbids resident assistants from leading bible study in their dormrooms. I'm a person who despises the idea of religion, and in particular, bible study. But I have to say, this is just a bad policy. The arguments in favor of the ban just don't hold water. There's the obvious establishment clause vs. free exercise clause debate, but even I wouldn't argue that some dork hosting a voluntary bible meeting in his dorm room could be a violation of the establishment clause.

Many of the arguments in favor of the ban make stupid claims about the RAs being less approachable if they are religious goofballs. To me, this is totally true. But religious goofballs aren't the only kind of goofballs. When I was in the dorms at UW-Eau Claire, my RA also led a group activity that was nearly as time-wasting as bible study and made him just as unapproachable to any normal college freshman. He hosted a weakly "Magic - the Gathering" tournament. These two activities are nearly identical and my nerdy RA never had any problems at all. What makes this more ridiculous is that the constitution specifically says that government can't prevent nerds from talking about the bible in their dormrooms. It does not specifically say that nerds have the right to play with cards with pictures of dragons on them. But what this is really about is free speech. This RA should be able to host whatever ridiculous groups he wants to host in his dorm room.


  • I used to play magic. I had some decent decks too, including a pretty kick-ass green deck, provided I got my Llaynowyer Elves and my Killer Bees out within two or three turns. The most common mistake I saw with Green decks was relying on Thrull combinations or Craw Wurms, yeah, they're cool and the Thrulls regenerate, but you either need too much mana to bring them out, and it just takes too long to get anything done, and if you're playing against someone with a faster white/red or black/red combo deck, you can forget it. Those were the good old days though, when you could still cast a Berserker spell on your Kird Apes pratically right at the start of the game and have at your opponent, before they banned Kird Apes, those f***ing pussies. Don't laugh, its no different than fantasy football.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:38 PM  

  • Wow Danny. A post filled with anti-Christian rhetoric I actually agree with!

    By Blogger Brian Hagedorn, at 2:47 AM  

  • That anonymous poster sure was spirited.

    Do you think it is possible to argue that freedom of speech is not as much an issue because the RA is using University property, which happens to also be everyone's home, and it sends the wrong message to have unsolicited religion meetings in your living room or dorm hall lounge. Does the University have more of a freedom of speech argument here if people complain? My guess in no, especially because nobody ever listens to an RA and so it can't be mandatory. But, what if the RA says that those who don't come to bible study will not be extended the timeless standard RA promise of not reporting people for drinking unless they do it unreasonably loudly?

    By Anonymous Phil, at 1:22 PM  

  • Could the RA not make the same promise contingent on attending Magic The Gathering tournaments? Dorms are basically rental property. The RA is paying his rent in service but he should still maintin his right to free speech when he is not acting like a nerd officially.

    By Blogger JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe, at 2:06 PM  

  • The constitution offers no protection from government officials using government resources to establish an area of nerdom. It does, however, prevent government officials from using government resources to establish God's kingdom.

    I agree that here most likely the resources used and the low station of the RA make it so it really is just someone having people over at his place to talk about the bible. But I can imagine a situation, like if all the RAs held such meetings, and somehow used their RA connections to reserve the best dorm lounges or something, and were able to control all the buletin boards and put a bunch of religious stuff up, where it would get a little less clear.

    By Anonymous Phil, at 2:39 PM  

  • Is an RA really a "government official"? No RA wields considerable power enough to establish an official government religion. A student could reasonably find a way to file a complaint or transfer to another dorm wing. There were no known complaints against this guy's activities. My own college RA read palms, astrology charts and tarot cards in her room, but none of us mistook her activities for a government-sponsored program.

    By Blogger Sanna, at 10:47 PM  

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