An atheist activist group is demanding an apology from a university chancellor over the contents of a video that he reportedly recently shared with students and staff members.
American Atheists president David Silverman wrote a letter to Dr. Jack Hawkins, chancellor of Troy University in Troy, Alabama, on December 31, on behalf of a concerned student at the school who took issue with the video, which was reportedly included in the chancellor’s end-of-year email to students.
The short clip featured comments from Clay Christensen, a noted professor at Harvard Business School, who discussed his views on religion and morality in American society.
Christensen, a Mormon, said that he had spoken to a Marxist economist from China some time ago who shared with Christensen what he was most surprised to learn about American democracy after spending some time in the United States.
“I asked him if he had learned anything that was surprising or unexpected and without any hesitation he said, ‘Yeah, I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy,” Christensen said in the video.
The professor went on to claim that the Marxist economist expressed his view that democracy works due to the fact that most people voluntarily choose to obey the law and that people have traditionally seen themselves as being accountable not only to society, but also to God.
Christensen also said that he personally shares concerns about where America is headed.
“As religion loses its influence over the lives of Americans, what will happen to our democracy?” he said. “Where are the institutions that are going to teach the next generation of Americans that they, too, need to voluntarily choose to obey the laws?”
It is unclear in what context the video was shared with Troy University staff and students in Hawkins’ email, though Al.com claims that the clip was attached to a message in which Hawkins’ mentioned “the blessings we enjoy within a democracy which is the envy of the world.”
The inclusion of the video has Silverman and American Atheists demanding a public apology.
Watch the video below:
“The video asserts that religion, particularly Judeo-Christian beliefs, are necessary to be moral, law- abiding citizens, and implies that those who do not attend church will be anti-democracy and anti-social members of society,” Silverman’s letter reads. “Atheists are not a trivial minority.”
The note goes on to chastise Hawkins for using the public university’s email system and his position at the school “to disparage atheists and minority religious groups as well as perpetuating the discrimination and anti-patriotic sentiment against atheists in the United States.”
Silverman goes on in the letter to tell Hawkins that atheists, on average, have fewer abortions, divorces and lower poverty rates, among other indicators, claiming that it is not necessary to be a person of faith in order to be considered moral; sources are not offered in the letter to back these claims.
A representative for the university told TheBlaze in a statement that the email was meant to “spur introspection,” though the response did not directly address Silverman or his letter.
“The purpose of this email was to spur introspection and encourage thoughtful discussion as we transition from the challenges of 2014 to the opportunities ahead in 2015,” it read. “Troy University is an international university that contributes regularly to the global marketplace of ideas. This message and video were shared to provide the university community with information and insights for healthy consideration and debate about our country’s democracy, the role it plays in the world and the challenges America faces going forward.”