CAUT accused of 'anti-religious ideology' -

CAUT accused of ‘anti-religious ideology’

Concordia prof petitions in defense of Christian universities


A Concordia professor has launched a petition against the Canadian Association of University Teachers for pursuing an “anti-religious ideology.” Since 2009 CAUT has investigated three religious universities and has concluded that all of them disrespect core principles of academic freedom.

“What we have here is an academic union ganging up on these smaller Christian universities and I thought it was high time that people from the public universities take a stand,” Concordia theology professor, Paul Allen who started the petition, told the National Post. So far the petition has 140 signatures from professors at several public universities. “There’s good reason to be vigilant about academic freedom. But what CAUT has done is misguided. The notion one can’t do serious intellectual work in a religious institution is naive,” Allen said.

The source of tension lies in statements of faith that require faculty adhere to Christian principles, such as that Jesus Christ is the one true God. So far the professor’s union has issued reports on Trinity Western University, Canadian Mennonite University and Crandall University. A fourth school, Redeemer University College, is slated for a similar report.

James Turk, CAUT’s executive director defended the investigations in the Post. “The majority of religious schools do not have a faith test for employment. An institution that includes or excludes teachers on basis of a faith test is antithetical to what a university is supposed to be. We’d be just as concerned if a secular university made its teachers sign an ideological statement,” he said.

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CAUT accused of ‘anti-religious ideology’

  1. “We’d be just as concerned if a secular university made its teachers sign an ideological statement.” Given the near-total absence of Marxists in university Economics departments and conservatives in English departments, maybe CAUT should start investigating them also? Clearly every department in every university excludes individuals based on their beliefs – they could hardly function otherwise.

  2. right on

  3. What about Biology professors who privately have reservation about Darwinian Doctrine but don’t express it because of fear that they will be without a job? 72% of Canadian taxpayers publicly identify as Christians, yet they are forced to fund public universities that sometimes discriminate against their co-religionists’ beliefs.

  4. Currently, I am a mature student at Redeemer University. This debate is very sad. As a student I have the academic freedom to attend a school where I will be educated based on my value system. To believe that this means that I will not be challenged in my faith or in my study is ignorant. Having Professor’s who share my beliefs does not hinder my education, but improves it on many levels. I choose to come to this school for very specific reasons, and I pay for it. One year at Redeemer costs (roughly) three years at Macmaster University or Mohawk College.

    To believe that a secular University is free from a belief system is again ignorant. If I were to attend a secular University, I would spend 4 years being indoctrinated by post-modern thought. Note that I do not mention biology, that debate is for another time and has no relevance to the subject of academic freedom.

    What is freedom? Is freedom a lack of restriction? Personally, I have never witnessed such a freedom, nor read about it through out history. Or do you describe freedom as the ability to be who you are? That is what I believe true freedom is. As such I am a Christian studying at a Christian Academic University. A Professor who is Christian in a secular university will not have the same freedom (as defined above) that they would receive at a Christian University. Isn’t that what this whole debate is about? The academic freedom of the Professor?

  5. Prof. Allen:

    Since you feel it is acceptable for certain academic institutions to impose a ‘faith test’, then would you also support your own institution, Concordia, if it were to have a ‘faith test’ pledging fealty to Islam or “secular humanism”?

    I did a quick search of some of the institutions highlighted by the CAUT. Some of them do indeed seem to be academically dubious. A good indicator of this is the denial of evolution as the most powerful unifying theory of biology. Here is one example posted on the website of Canadian Mennonite University: “The myth of evolution has literally robbed human existence of all ultimate significance” . And there are other such examples of blind faith ignoring reason within the websites and publications of these religiously motivated institutions.

    It seems to me that intellectual honesty is impossible in any institution that requires its teachers to agree to a statement of religious faith. I don’t have a problem with institutions who may happen to employ some individuals who value faith over reason (providing that they exhibit exemplary merit in their area of academic pursuit). However, the intellectual monopoly within these religious faith based universities will surely stifle intellectual rigor. Until the CAUT raised this issue, I had assumed that these religious schools would never enjoy the same accreditation as more academically rigorous institutions such as my alma mater: the University of Western Ontario.

    It saddens me that over the past several decades we have seen increasingly militant anti-intellectual religious influences pollute Western democracy: the air India bombing (Sikh separatists), horrendous sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, Islamic terrorism, and so on. It is important that the values of academic pursuit: the honest search for knowledge, integrity, accountability, scholarship, academic freedom, and so forth, have a refuge in credible academic institutions. By accrediting institutions with a religious agenda, you undermine those values.

  6. A biologist that doesn’t accept evolution is unqualified. Evolution is not a “doctrine”, it is a well documented theory that keeps growing in evidence. If another theory came along that was even better at unifying biology, genetics and so on, then scientists would adopt it. You obviously choose the primacy of your religious dogma over the scientific method: feel free to do that in your church, not in a university.

  7. MA: Do you know what is taught at Christian universities? Are you honestly saying that Christian universities are militant and anti-intellectual institutions who support bombing, sexual abuse, and terrorism?
    Why don’t you take a look at the founding principles of this precious democracy and try and say that there is no positive religious influence? It is anti-democratic to disallow religious academic institutions. You are denying citizens the right to investigate their beliefs and the rich history of their own religion. Just because you are not religious doesn’t mean you can impose your beliefs on those who are. I would argue that most people who have attended a religious university are able to see how reason is a part of their faith and are much less blind about their faith than those who profess atheism.

  8. Dear MA,

    I felt I should respond to your assessment of the institution at which I teach: Canadian Mennonite University (CMU). In your posting, you quoted from an article written by one of my colleagues. It’s not my place to interpret Dr. Gilbert’s statement about evolution for you. He and I disagree about many things, and agree about many others, as is typical for faculty colleagues. There is, after all, quite a spectrum of different ways of thinking under the umbrella of Christianity. However, at the very least, I would suggest that if you’re going to crow over someone’s musings on the “myth of evolution,” you should carefully examine the sense in which he uses the word “myth”.

    Furthermore, while referencing a single line from a faculty member’s personal website may provide a nice soundbite, it’s hardly a sound basis for drawing conclusions about the official position of the institution at which he or she works, or evaluating the “academic rigor” experienced by students there. Likewise, your alma mater has experienced its share of controversy (and celebration) arising from the statements and accomplishments of its faculty, no single one of which comes close to encapsulating the intellectual climate at the University of Western Ontario, let alone “secular universities” in general.

    All the above notwithstanding, I think you and I may share similar view on a number of issues. For example, I agree with you wholeheartedly about the qualifications of biologists who don’t accept evolution as the unifying theory of biology. Perhaps that is why there are no such biologists at CMU. In fact, my introductory biology students are now in the final week of an extended experiment demonstrating the power of natural selection on populations of bacteria. Full disclosure: my inspiration for this experiment came from a paper published in “The American Biology Teacher,” which included authors from Wisconsin Lutheran College — another institution that would probably not pass CAUT’s “faith-test test”. So, maybe that exercise is tainted for you. If so, I should also confess that I teach my students biological principles articulated by such committed Christians as Theodosius Dobzhansky and Gregor Mendel (the latter of whom not only taught at, but lived in and led a community that absolutely required religious commitment).

    I also share your concern about anti-intellectual religious influences (though I take issue with your implication that committing sexual abuse, or turning a blind eye to it, is an expression of Christian faith, rather than a failure that we Christians must address, individually and corporately. Ditto with terrorism and Islam or Sikhism). Countering anti-intellectual currents in religious traditions is one reason (among many) why religious institutions of higher education have an important role to play in our world. Indeed, UWO itself was a denominational school of the Church of England for the first 30 years of its existence. It is an excellent, academically rigorous school today as you state, dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. I’d wager it was similarly excellent and similarly motivated in its early years as well. Perhaps someday CMU will join the ranks of the many public universities in Canada that began as religious schools and then secularized, but I hope not. Whatever may come to pass, if you’d like to come out for a visit, I am always happy to chat about ways I could improve the courses I teach.

    -John Brubacher

  9. JB:

    Mendel and Dobzhansky may have been committed Christians whose scientific research was not hindered by those views. But what was their view of Chritianity and what did it mean for them to be Christian? Obviously, Dobzhansky’s Christianity did not prevent him from being an evolutionist. The question is: does the Christianity promoted at CMU prevent acceptance of evolution? It seems that you are not prevented, but how many of you are there? Is there an official CMU view? The fear of many CAUT members is that CMU as an institution and a disproportionate number of staff are anti-evolution so that students come out of CMU questioning it from the basis that it is anti-biblical. To argue vaguely that science and religion are compatible is not the issue here. Clearly certain types of Christianity and science/evolution are. What kind is CMU promoting?

    David Wiebe