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Atheist Group Pens Complaint to Ala. University With 'Faith-Based' Housing

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By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter
August 6, 2013|3:21 pm

A Wisconsin-based atheist organization has sent a letter of complaint to a public academic institution in Alabama over its soon-to-be opened "faith-based" housing program.

Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison sent the letter last Thursday to Troy University arguing that their housing program, scheduled to be open in the fall, was unconstitutional.

Andrew Seidel, FFRF staff attorney, wrote in the letter that the housing program gives preferential treatment to some students at the expense of others.

"Giving preferential treatment to Christian and religious students in housing decisions violates provisions of the Alabama Fair Housing Law as well as corresponding provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act," wrote Seidel.

"Troy University, through the statements of its officials and the act of building a religious dorm, indicates a preference for Christians and religious students."

Andy Ellis, director of University Relations for Troy University, told The Christian Post that the housing does not represent a church-state violation in part because it is not publicly funded.

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According to Ellis, the housing "is owned, operated and managed through the Troy University Foundation, a nonprofit entity funded through private donations."

"The idea for the dorms comes directly from the ideals and desires expressed by the Troy University student body," said Ellis.

"The lease agreement is between the Archdiocese and the private TROY Foundation. The Newman Center dorms are open to all students, from any faith or denomination. No preference is given with regard to faith."

Ellis also told CP that Troy has received the FFRF letter but cannot "comment further on the specifics of the letter at this time."

According to Evan Belanger of the website All Alabama, Troy announced earlier this year the creation of a 'faith-based' housing for students.

Scheduled to open in the fall, the $11.8 million student housing complex will include 376 beds and a 2,300 square-foot Newman Center operated and leased by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile.

"The new facility gives preference to students who maintain an active spiritual lifestyle and are actively engaged in a campus faith-based organization," wrote Belanger.

"Residents are required to engage at least semi-annually in a community-service or service-learning project that is tied to a church, such as food or clothing drive."

According to Troy University's website, there are certain requirements for living at the faith-based housing, including a "minimum 2.50 grade point average overall and each semester;" a ban on using "alcohol or illegal drugs while in the facility," and being "respectful of diversity."

"The Newman Center is open to students of all faiths," reads the webpage, adding that there will be a preference for "students who maintain an active spiritual lifestyle and maintain an active engagement in a campus faith based organization."

 

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