Stanford's "Warning" about Religion
tushnet at law.georgetown.edu
Mon Apr 11 11:56:02 PDT 2005
In connection with Rick's question, you might want to look around your
campus for posters/signs with headlines like "Stop Psychiatric Abuse,"
and for tables with banners like "Stress Management" or "Stress
Reduction." Also, this story -- Andy Newman, "Bumping Up Against Subway
Regulations, New York Times, March 29, 2005 -- may be instructive. (Of
course, I may be particularly sensitive to this sort of thing because I
teach at an institution that obviously has a pastoral mission with
respect to its students.)
Rick Garnett wrote:
> Dear all,
> In the course of looking into something having nothing to do with
> law-and-religion, I came across a web page, provided by Stanford
> University's Office for Religious Life, entitled "A Word of Warning."
> Here is a link:
> Here is the text:
> A Word of Warning
> Maintaining and nurturing your spiritual life during college and
> graduate school is one of the best ways to keep perspective on your
> studies and to avoid the isolation that is too often a part of
> scholarly pursuits. The Deans for Religious Life and members of SAR
> are committed to providing opportunities for spiritual growth,
> rewarding friendships and intellectual inquiry into matters of faith
> in a supportive environment.
> Unfortunately, not every religious group has your best interests at
> heart. Groups to avoid have some or all of the following characteristics.
> * Pressure and Deception: They use high-pressure recruitment
> tactics or are not up-front about their motives when they first
> approach you. SAR members are required to identify themselves on
> all News and Publications and to be clear and forthright about
> their motives.
> * Totalitarian Worldview: They do not encourage critical,
> independent thinking. The first goal of higher education is to
> enable you to think for yourself. Be aware of groups or leaders
> who try to control your life or who claim to possess the truth
> * Alienation: They want to choose your friends for you. While all
> religions have moral guidelines, watch out for groups that
> encourage you to sever ties with close friends and family who
> are not members. They are manipulative and extremely dangerous.
> * Exploitation: They make unrealistic demands regarding your time
> and/or money. If participation in a group takes away from your
> study time, beware. A group or leader that cares about you
> understands that your studies-your future-are your first
> priority as a Stanford student. SAR members are strictly
> forbidden to require dues from student participants.
> If you feel you are being pursued aggressively or manipulated by a
> group or leader, contact any of the Deans for Religious Life or call
> * * *
> Now, it strikes me as reasonable and appropriate for a University like
> Stanford to provide (perhaps) paternalistic guidance to students on
> all sorts of matters involving their "personal" lives, including
> involvement with religious groups and activities. (I would hope that
> a University's willingness to provide "warning[s]" to students about
> the dangers posed by some religions to "critical, independent
> thinking" would indicate a willingness to warn about similar dangers
> posed by, say, political or identity-related groups). I imagine that
> reasonable people will disagree about what, exactly, "counts" as
> "claim[ing] to possess the truth exclusively" or "[dis]courag[ing]
> critical, independent thinking," but put that problem aside. I
> wonder, do any members of this list have any thoughts or views on how,
> if at all, the First Amendment would constrain the issuance by a
> state-run university of a "warning" like Stanford's? Or, approaching
> the matter from a broader, "religion and liberal democracy"
> perspective, what would we think about this "warning"?
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