Statement on Religious Freedom at Bowdoin College

An article in The New York Times (“Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy” – June 10, 2014) has raised questions about religious freedom at Bowdoin and whether the College is interfering with the ability of faith-based student groups to worship freely.

Religious freedom and spirituality are alive and thriving at Bowdoin. Contrary to the Times article, the College continues to recognize the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship (BCF) and has no plans to drop that recognition after this summer. Bowdoin students practice their faith openly on campus as members of student organizations, and off campus at area churches, synagogues, temples, and other venues. There are currently eight faith-based student organizations at Bowdoin that meet regularly, present and sponsor programming, and add significantly to the life of the College. These include five Christian groups (BCF, the Catholic Student Union, the Bowdoin Orthodox Association, the Bowdoin Community Gospel Choir, and a new Quaker student group), Bowdoin Circle, a Jewish group, and a Muslim organization. Student members are free to speak openly about and practice their faith. They are free to advocate, debate, question, and to recruit new members. They are free to sponsor speakers or other presentations that promote their beliefs. And they are also free to choose their own student leaders.

This issue arose when two outside volunteers associated with the national Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and BCF refused to sign an agreement barring discrimination because they wanted to dictate the leadership of BCF. Volunteer advisors at Bowdoin cannot make these choices for our students. These decisions are up to the students themselves.

Every other volunteer connected with a student organization signed the agreement. This includes the volunteers associated with the Catholic Student Union, Circle, and the Muslims Students Association (the remaining faith-based groups do not currently have outside volunteers or advisors).

Faith and spirituality are a vibrant and enduring part of campus life at Bowdoin. We are proud of the students who practice their religion and of Bob Ives, Bowdoin’s director of religious and spiritual life, who works side by side with students to build and strengthen these faith-based student organizations. Our goal is to sustain an environment at Bowdoin that is open and inviting to everyone—one that supports and encourages religious freedom for all.

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