Recently, I wrote about a friend who couldn’t hold an event discussing evolution at a publicly funded campus because “religious issues might arise.” At the time, I said, “If so, that would make clear that the theory itself is a religious one.” Otherwise, whether religious issues arise or not depends entirely on the speaker and on others in charge of the event.
There is also a question whether, even if such issues do arise, under what circumstances is that a problem?
We will leave that question for another day. For today, it turns out that he has been given the go-ahead to hold the event. Higher campus authorities ruled that the prohibition applies to religious services as such, not to events that may or may not involve, benefit, or harm the reputation of a religion.
As I wrote to my friend,
I am glad to see that sanity prevailed, for whatever reason.
For one thing, “evolution” is not,strictly speaking, a religious topic, unless the person who is speaking chooses to make it so.
If no argument for or against a given interpretation of events in the history of life is based on the claim that the Scriptures of a given religion provide an authoritative depiction, I do not see that it is a religious topic at all.
Of course, some interpretations may be more favourable to this religious orientation and others to that. For example, evidence of Neanderthal intelligence is more favourable to a Catholic interpretation of the history of humanity than it is to Michael Shermer’s atheistic one.
Does that mean that if I gave a talk on the subject, my talk is religious in character but his is not? So I am not allowed to speak at your local college but he is?
I doubt that a person needs a law degree to see that such an approach is simply discrimination against traditionally held opinions, in favour of “nouveau” ones— or any opinions favoured by the administration of the day. At a tax funded institution. And on what grounds? By what right?
I am glad if someone there had a long think about this and realized that decisions about what amounts to a religious activity must be based on something more substantial than somebody’s impression about what religious orientation would be benefitted if a given assertion were backed by evidence.