New Trend of Religious Dorms Has Atheists in a Fit

Sep 5, 2013 by

The Wall Street Journal explores a new trend in higher-ed, religious dorms:

“I like the Christian feel of it,” said Ms. Gray, 17 years old, who attends a nondenominational church back home and moved into the dorm in August before the start of classes. “We’re like a family.”

The Newman Center is one of several faith-based housing facilities, backed by Catholic ministries, that have opened this semester at secular universities around the country. Other schools housing them include Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Texas A&M University-Kingsville and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Another is under consideration at Purdue University in Indiana.

Matt Zerrusen, president of the Newman Student Housing Fund, a private development company that owns the residence halls at Florida Tech and Texas A&M, said his group plans to build one or two more a year throughout the country. Demand appears strong, with the new units either fully booked or nearly so…

But the facilities have provoked some controversy. Last month, the Freedom From Religion Foundation—a group in Madison, Wis., that seeks to maintain state-church separation—wrote a letter to Troy outlining why it considered the Newman Center illegal on a public-university campus.

Among other things, the group quoted the university’s website, which said preference for the dorms would be given to “students who maintain an active spiritual lifestyle.”

“That’s absurd,” said Andrew Seidel, an attorney at the organization, which also is looking into the residence hall at Texas A&M, another public institution. “You can’t favor religion over nonreligion” at a government-funded college, he said…

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New Trend of Religious Dorms Has Atheists in a Fit.

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