Atheists demand Troy chancellor apologize for email

The American Atheists are demanding a public apology from Troy University Chancellor, Dr. Jack Hawkins, following a mass email he sent to all students, faculty, and staff on December 30th.

The short email included a brief message and a video that featured a discussion on the positive relationship between democracy and religion, led by a Harvard Business School professor. In the video, the professor discusses how religion is the cause of law-abiding citizens. He suggests that as the country becomes less religious there will be less desire to follow the law and even a need for more police officers.

American Atheists, which focuses on fighting for the civil rights of atheists and the complete separation of religion and government, became involved after being contacted by a concerned student. David Silverman, the organization’s president, sent his own letter to Chancellor Hawkins.

Silverman took particular issue with the email being dispersed via the public university’s mailing system, demanding an apology, “[o]n behalf of the student who contacted us, the Alabama members of American Atheists, the thousands of atheists at Troy University, and the hundreds of millions of atheists worldwide who live productive, law-abiding lives without religion…for using the public university email system and your publicly funded position to disparage atheists and minority religious groups as well as perpetuating the discrimination and anti-patriotic sentiment against atheists in the United States.”

He ended his letter with a special invitation to the chancellor to attend The American Atheists national convention in Memphis, which will be held in April.

Hawkins defended himself in another email sent out to the university, explaining the background for the video and stating his regret that his message was found offensive by some in the university community.

"Nowhere in my personal message did I mention the religion," Hawkins wrote.

The chancellor went on to note that the professor in the video who had concluded that religion played a key role in American democracy was a Marxist economist before appealing to the importance of free speech in the university environment.

“American higher education values academic freedom and free speech," Hawkins said. "It also holds dear its role as offering a marketplace of ideas for this country and the world. Those ideas should span a broad spectrum—even if segments of our society are offended by the views and observations of those with whom they disagree.”

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