Saturday, February 18, 2006

At Religious Universities, Disputes Over Faith and Academic Freedom :: New York Times

And these universities are not located in the UAE.

A gay film festival opened at the University of Notre Dame last week with a sold-out showing of "Brokeback Mountain." On Valentine's Day, Notre Dame students staged a production of "The Vagina Monologues."
. . .
"Precisely because academic freedom is such a sacred value, we must be clear about its appropriate limits," Father Jenkins said last month in a speech before faculty members and students. "I do not believe that freedom of expression has absolute priority in every circumstance."

The controversies at Notre Dame are the latest and most high profile among disputes at many other religiously affiliated universities about how to promote open inquiry and critical thinking while adhering to the tenets of a given faith. Tensions seem most acute at some Catholic and Baptist universities, in large part because student bodies and faculties have grown more diverse and secular over the years, some theologians and historians said.

For instance, The Catholic University of America in Washington and Providence College in Rhode Island, among others, have sent productions of "The Vagina Monologues" off campus, and four other Catholic colleges have canceled the performances. The Georgia Baptist Convention voted late last year to break with Mercer University in Macon, Ga., in part because the school permitted a gay rights group to operate on campus.

For many, the disputes at Notre Dame arise from different ideas about what it means to be Catholic. Those who oppose the events say they contradict the church's core teachings on human sexuality. Others contend that prohibiting events runs counter to a Catholic intellectual tradition of open-mindedness.


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