Troy University Criticized After Chancellor’s Email Angers Atheist Students

An email and an accompanying video sent out by Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins has atheist students angry as they feel its intent was to promote religion at the publicly funded college.

The email and short video were sent out on December 30th, in which Hawkins wrote “For your pleasure – and as a reminder – I am sharing with you a 90 second video which speaks to America’s greatness and its vulnerability.”

The video from Hawkins’ email was of Harvard Business School professor, Clay Christensen. Christensen is a practicing Mormon and said in the clip, “Americans followed [democratic rule] because they had come to believe that they weren’t just accountable to society; they were accountable to God,” when referring to a conversation he had with an economist from China. Christensen went on to say in the video, “Where are the institutions that are going to teach the next generations of Americans that they too need to voluntarily choose to obey the laws? Because if you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.”

After viewing the video and reading the email, an atheist student at Troy University was rather angry and proceeded to forward their concerns to the president of American Atheists, David Silverman.

Silverman wasted no time and fired off a scathing letter to Hawkins on December 31st asking “for a public apology to the student, and other atheists whom you have disparaged with the video you included in your email.”

Silverman wrote that the video “asserts that religion, particularly Judeo-Christian beliefs, are necessary to be moral, law-abiding citizens, and implies that those who do not attend church will be anti-democracy and anti-social members of society.”

After receiving the apology request, Troy University issued a statement that said:

“The purpose of this email was to spur introspection and encourage thoughtful discussion as we transition from the challenges of 2014 to the opportunities ahead in 2015. Troy University is an international university that contributes regularly to the global marketplace of ideas. This message and video were shared to provide the university community with the information and insights for healthy consideration and debate about our country’s democracy, the role it plays in the world and the challenged American faces going forward.”

This wasn’t quite enough for those offended by the video and Hawkins own email to students on January 5th fell equally flat.

Hawkins email said, “The recent New Year’s message I shared with the university community was not intended to offend. It was intended to encourage recipients to embrace the year ahead and to stimulate thought and discussion as to ‘why’ America appears to be challenged at home and abroad.”

Ned Carter, who according to Dothan Eagle had a Troy student shared the video with him, felt that the apology by Hawkins felt “tone-deaf” and even suggested the chancellor was blame shifting.

He said, “Not only did he say it wasn’t meant to offend, but he said he didn’t say it. But if you’re in a position of authority and you say ‘Hey, look at this!’ it’s the same as saying it.

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