Religious events don’t have a place in secular establishments

University student bodies shouldn’t be subject to any kinds of political or religious ceremonies without expressed consent and consideration

Religious events should not be hosted on university campuses. (File photo)

Religious events should not be hosted on university campuses. (File photo)

University campuses should not play host to religious ceremonies for a number of reasons. When a student comes to a public university, they expect a certain level of secular, unbiased, and uninfluenced operation by the administration. 

This expectation carries from our schooling to the events sanctioned by the administration, expecting the student body would not be subject to any kinds of political or religious ceremonies without expressed consent and consideration. This is not to say that diversity and multicultural practices are discouraged, but rather that anyone from the student body must alter their normal day to day operations to participate, for the sake of a belief in which they don’t subscribe to. 

To be clear, culturally significant events impeding on no one’s freedom to access the campus as they choose are not an issue. Holding an event such as Christmas or Diwali is more or less a backdrop to everyday life, and in no way imposes a belief system or new rules towards the uninitiated. 

The issue arises when a community decides to use university campus amenities to conduct their ceremonies, since the ceremonies to some degree require the general populace to alter their regular campus life to attend them. 

Freedom of religion is a human right in our country, as it rightly should be, and this includes the freedom to practice the religion as one sees fit so long as it doesn’t bring harm to others. This does not mean that others should be subjected to that religion’s rule in secular venues. 

For better context, imagine a soccer game being held on school property. One might argue there is no inherent difference between an event of that nature and a religious event, since they are both events and they both require a certain set of rules to participate. To this, I would say a soccer game doesn’t require a courtesy out of the ordinary to everyday life. 

The spectators are more or less expected to be non-disruptive to the activity and to behave with the common decency they would normally show on campus. The game doesn’t require a dress code, a new set of rules on conduct for attendees, nor does it exclude them on a basis of who follows said rules. It is truly a public event. On the contrary, when a religious event is held on campus, it precludes the idea that the event is open to the general public on the basis of them following the said religious rules. 

One argument could be that Kwantlen Polytechnic University already has the Multi-Faith Centre and the Kwantlen Student Association has religious faith clubs, so this kind of activity is already accepted and explicitly supported by the administration. 

I think the distinction between the Multi-Faith Centre and religious clubs and an event held on school property using school amenities, is that the people who choose to participate are not relegating others to something they hadn’t agreed to, and this type of event forces others to comply with the religious decrees. 

This means to attend the event, a person would be obligated to follow and adhere to whatever religious rules may pertain to that event, whether that be standards of decorum or dress. In the case of a club or multi faith center, people are entering the designated areas/communities with the understanding of its non-secular nature. The clubs and Multi-Faith Centre are non-discriminatory which makes them accessible to the whole student body, regardless of special rules, and so this should follow with any events taking place. 

The underlying issue is the idea that we are a secular nation, government, and education system. It is one of the cornerstones of our society to be free to choose what religion we follow, along with whatever decrees said religion might establish, but this does not mean that we have the ability to enforce our religion upon others or require them to follow its rules. 

Using the political climate of our southern neighbors as an example, the rise of Christian-nationalism is in part due to the gradual assimilation of their religion into the bureaucratic process. 

Overall, it is my view that religious events don’t have a place in a secular establishment, such as KPU, due to the values and understandings of the attending population, and any attempts to inject religious attitudes into our daily academic lives should be met with scrutiny in order to keep the environment as welcoming and non-exclusionary as possible.