Letter to the Editor: First Amendment justifies GVSU’s addition of neutral prayer room

I am an alumnus of GVSU (class of ’02), who is forever thankful for the education and exposure to other ideas while attending. At the same time, I am very much a Christian who loves God, and loves my neighbor as I am commanded to do by God.

I am writing about the tone that is displayed in this article (Blurring the Lines, from the Nov. 8 issue of the Lanthorn), which has me concerned that it can be taken the wrong way in that the student body is against such expression of individual faith.

While the First Amendment is brought up, I need to note that it doesn’t say anywhere about the separation of church and state, nor does it say anything about freedom from religion, but it does specify freedom to practice one’s religion and prohibiting government from interfering and/or establishing a state religion (much like the Church of England, Roman Catholicism in Argentina, and Islam in many Middle Eastern countries). In other words, while the government can’t establish religion, it can’t prohibit individual expression of faith, and has a responsibility to ensure that one can express it freely and without persecution, unless it start bordering on hate-type expression.

While it is true that GVSU is a public university, and that we do have Cook-DeWitt for such faith-based services (which itself seemed undersized, and often being used during the day, while I attended), it is by no means unreasonable to provide quiet, safe, yet convenient rooms in Kirkhof, or anywhere else for that matter, where students can devote whatever time to their faith they need while they deal with the daily grind of being on campus. As long as it’s done tastefully and neutrally (which from what I hear of the prayer room, it is done quite so), and as long as it doesn’t cater to specific faiths or religions, I don’t see a problem with any funds going toward furnishing a room or a series of rooms for prayer or meditation, even if I don’t use the room myself.

Steven Heicher ’02