I cannot disagree more strongly with the new Chapel policy that was announced two weeks ago.
In the first place, requiring students to attend Chapel has always been based on questionable reasoning. It is one thing for a Christian school to ban certain vices. It is quite another to exclude students from community activities if they don’t adopt a “spiritual discipline,” which is the label that the Student Guide gives to Chapel. The very idea of a “spiritual discipline” is that the individual willfully chooses it to allow deeper spiritual reflection. The purpose and benefits of such a discipline are defeated when it is required of someone against their will. There is no point in trying to coerce the unwilling into a particular time or place of worship.
The university’s stated reason for requiring Chapel attendance is to establish a place where all can participate as part of the ACU family. Presumably, attendance will inspire students to live morally and to carry Christ’s message beyond the walls of Moody Coliseum. The former consequences for excessive absence (community service in proportion to the number of Chapel sessions missed) were at least geared toward those same goals. Instead of encouraging community or service to God, however, the new punishment demands assigned seating in Chapel (creating even less of an incentive for habitually absent students to attend), requires officers in school-affiliated organizations to resign posts to which they were elected by their peers, and excludes them from Sing Song and intramurals, two of the most significant shared events of the community. Even if we accept the legitimacy of forcing a group of students to be where they do not want to be, it makes no sense to enact a remedy so antithetical to the spirit of the event.
This simply cannot be the best available answer. The administration would be well-served to reconsider this Chapel policy. If they don’t, I hope that the current students of Abilene Christian University will take it upon themselves to demonstrate the futility of the policy by organizing a boycott of Chapel. The school belongs to the students. It is partially their responsibility to ensure that the policies adopted are reasonable and designed to make the university a better place for themselves and for all the students that will follow in our footsteps.
Dave Roland, class of 2000
Vanderbilt University Law and Religion program