Letter to the Editor: Criticism of prayer, meditation room starting unnecessary controversy

In the Monday, November 8th issue of the Lanthorn, there was an opinion piece, entitled “Blurring the Lines”, about the temporary meditation/prayer space on the second floor of Kirkhof and whether or not making this space permanent would constitute a violation of the idea of the separation of Church and State. I would like to present my opinion, as a tolerant and non-religious student, on the subject.

I believe this opinion piece is stirring up controversy where none needs to exist. As another article in that edition of the Lanthorn pointed out, this space is available for all students regardless of their religion or lack of religion to use for quiet reflection, meditation, and, yes, prayer if they wish to. I, being a non-religious student, am equally able to use that space if I feel the need to. It is not recognized as a religious space, and so cannot be classified as university, and therefore state, sanctioned religion.

The Cook-DeWitt Center, as opposed to the space in Kirkhof, needs to be reserved for students to use and is not always available when a student needs to pray (5 times per day in the case of Muslim students) or meditate. If it were available at all times, and were always an appropriate and convenient place for prayer or reflection between classes, I’m certain students would use it. As your own article points out, however, students have had to use other rooms on campus for this purpose. Cook-DeWitt, then, does not meet the needs of all of our students. Again, as a non-religious person I would be more comfortable in a different space, one not classified as a chapel, for my reflection or meditation time. The space in Kirkhof is far more fitting for this need.

Finally, I believe the way the Muslim Student Association was referenced in this piece was inappropriate and unnecessary. It is true that the MSA has worked hard for 5 years to create this kind of a space on campus, and that is an effort to be proud of. However, the tone of this article, whether intentionally or not, seemed somewhat hostile to me. It presented the idea that this space has been created specifically for Muslim students, which is not the case. Considering the controversy surrounding the construction of Islamic community centers and mosques in other areas of the country, I believe fanning this kind of flame on GVSU’s campus is frankly irresponsible. The MSA has done students a favor by creating a quiet, private space for us all to use when we feel the need to.

Amy L. Simpson

GVSU student