Religion does not belong in classroom, workplace

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 current laws and common knowledge, you probably won’t believe me when I tell you an employer asked me what my religion was during my initial interview. 

   Yes, you read that right. This actually happened to me. 

   Although I challenged my religious acquaintances about our opposing beliefs when I was young, I’ve been less concerned with others’ impressions of me once they know I’m not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for quite a while now. 

   But increasingly discriminatory situations have been creeping up on me lately, and I can’t hold my tongue anymore. 

   As I sat in one of my first classes of the semester, I was shocked when my professor asked us to raise our hands if we weren’t LDS. 

   I looked around in disbelief as I slowly raised my hand, and it seemed as though no one else thought it was completely unethical to ask a class — that has nothing to do with religion, ethics, politics, philosophy, or anything else of the like — what religion everyone practices. 

   “All right, good,” the professor said, scanning the classroom of students who stared back, noiseless.

   What does that mean? What kind of judgment was just made about me and my peers? Was my professor trying to figure out who was a lost cause and needs to be rescued or enlightened? 

   Even if my professor had asked if we were Muslim, Baptist, Lutheran, or any other religion on God’s green Earth (pun intended), I would have still taken offense. 

   I’d like to think my professor didn’t mean to offend or discriminate, but it was inappropriate nonetheless. 

   I thought about this exchange for days, even weeks, after its occurrence. I sought validation from my friends and family, asking them: “Can you believe my professor did that? I’m so frustrated.”

   Although I sought to switch out of the class, my schedule wouldn’t allow me to, so I remained. I calmed down and decided to proceed by keeping my mind open and absorbing as much as I can from my professor even though I disagreed with the teaching style right off the bat.

   A discussion about career paths filled the class period about a week later, and my professor encouraged us to choose a career we love by offering words of encouragement.

   “Think hard about what will make you happy,” the professor said. “Think about it. Pray about it.”

   I think my eyes grew seven times in size in pure disbelief. 

   At a public university especially, professors need to remain objective and should steer clear of discussing their personal views, unless, of course, the class is centered around a topic where it would be useful to know where your professor sides on hot-button issues for bias and clarity purposes. 

   When religious affiliations have absolutely nothing to do with the topic of study, I urge every professor to actively keep it out of the discussion. 

   I pay Dixie State University thousands of dollars each semester to earn not only a degree, but also a well-rounded, higher level of education. If DSU wants to move away from being perceived as a community college still, professors and administrators need to better separate the community’s and institution’s values. 

   Not only has inappropriate religious references emerged in my classes, but this issue also bleeds over into the local workforce. I applied for a job almost a month ago, and I cringed when the employer across the table from me asked if I was LDS.

   “Isn’t that, I don’t know, illegal?” my inner voice whispered during the interview. 

   Growing up agnostic in an LDS-dominated city was seldom easy. My favorite phrase I’ve heard numerous times usually comes right after I tell an acquaintance I’m not LDS. 

   “Oh, you just seemed so nice,” they say.

   I am nice, very nice, so don’t assume every nice, modest, smart, well-rounded, or decent person you meet is religious. Not everyone is a lost cause. 

   Similarly, just because someone belongs to your religious affiliation, that doesn’t mean he or she is smarter or more enlightened than someone who opposes it.

   What’s right for you is not always right for the person who sits next to you in class. Incorporating religion in the classroom at a public university is unacceptable, and DSU students deserve better. 

   So demand respect from your professors and employers no matter what religion you do or don’t belong to, even if, God forbid, you’re seen as black sheep for only trying to be yourself.