Decidedly academic. Distinctly Christian. Definitely Northwest. SPU in a nutshell. And the ACLU is hovering like a starving squirrel. The lawsuit brought against SPU and nine other schools by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) concerns the separation of church and state that was dictated in the Constitution.
In simpler terms, the ACLU feels that it’s wrong for government funding to be used for religious purposes, such as promoting and evangelizing Christianity, even to the point of proselytizing students, and SPU is being accused of doing just that. Is SPU a Christian factory? Whether or not the ACLU is justified in the lawsuit, there’s plenty of evidence that SPU is handing out degrees in Christianity as well as degrees in English and history.
Before students even arrive at the university, they’re required to sign a contractual agreement stating that they will comply with university regulations regarding alcohol and tobacco — namely, that they will have no contact with either substance, even after reaching legal age, except when the rules conflict with family customs.
Similar rules are in effect regarding sexual behavior, and through these rules, SPU forces students to demonstrate Christian behavior. "Force" is a strong word, but students who don’t comply face increasingly serious punishments, even expulsion, and while smoking, drinking, and having multiple sexual partners may not always be healthy activities, they aren’t illegal for adults.
Almost everyone is familiar with the SPU chapel policy. Fifteen credits required every quarter, and those who fail to meet the requirement for two quarters have their delinquency noted on their permanent record. Alternate religious faiths, such as Judaism or Buddhism, are grounds for petitioning the 15 credit requirement, as are heavy work schedules or commute problems. However, atheism and agnosticism (religious uncertainty) don’t qualify as valid reasons for non-participation.
Of course, not all students participate fully in chapel — many sit in the back, studying or sleeping, and leaving as early as possible. The university hasn’t developed a strict punishment for chapel napping, but by not taking a firm stand on an otherwise strictly enforced rule, the university seems to be questioning its requirement that students attend events that are essentially church services.
Chapels involve songs of praise and worship, prayer, and messages from students, faculty, and staff that present the tenets of Christianity in a positive light, and hold up its doctrines as a method for living a more productive life of a higher spiritual quality.
Students have no choice but to explore Christianity to some extent as they complete their general education requirements. Not only does the school require 10 credits of coursework in biblical literature, but students must also take courses such as "Faith and Literature" and "Faith and Philosophy."
The latter two courses could almost be considered more evangelical than the biblical literature courses. Rather than focusing on one work of literature, they involve an integration of Christian values with everyday lifestyles. Many courses teach secular subjects such as history, politics, or science, from a Christian viewpoint, and essays and exams often require students to compare and contrast aspects of their subjects with Christianity. It’s to the students’ advantage to have a very thorough command of the official campus religion as well as their area of study.
It’s also important to note that SPU faculty are required to be Christians — a rule which also applies to members of the Board of Trustees — and to most staff positions. Many of the more prestigious student positions also require a statement of faith, and a relationship with Christ is even considered a vital quality for candidates for the Homecoming Court.
SPU’s focus on Christianity could almost be compared to a conservatory’s focus on the fine arts. In some ways, it’s just another area of study. Whether there’s anything wrong with promoting Christianity is yet to be determined. Many students attend the university of their own volition, and it’s their choice to place themselves in a pro-Christian environment.
SPU is "decidedly Christian" — right down to the Bible verses etched in stone in Martin Square — but why are we denying this fact? From what I’ve learned in my classes , it’s something to be excited about. And as far as financial problems go, God will provide, won’t he?
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Title: Is SPU evangelical? | Author: Paige Morgan | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 1999-05-26 | Internal ID: 689