Friday, January 31, 2003

From the WSJ:

The secularization of Fordham and Yeshiva Universities

Though Fordham has chosen a priest to head the school (unlike, say, Georgetown), secularization abounds. Only 40% of the students are Catholic, and of those many are concerned that the school not become too Catholic. As one senior told me: "You hear it's a religious school, and you worry it's very strict." Though this student grew up Catholic, she is not especially religious and has been happy to find that the school isn't either, measured by both student conduct and curriculum offerings. Eric Caroll, a theater major from Michigan, echoes the sentiments of most students I met at Fordham: "If you went into my classes you wouldn't know you were in a religious school."

....Legal limits are part of the problem. Along with almost ever other university in New York, Fordham accepts money from the state government and by doing so agrees--under the New York's version of the Blaine Amendment--to refrain from promoting religious doctrine, a restriction that has helped to make the school's religious identity less robust since the 1960s, when the funding began.

The Blaine Amendment plays a role at Yeshiva too. To qualify for state funding, the flagship university of Orthodox Judaism rewrote its charter, splitting the seminary from the rest of the university. This had big effects, in part because, around the same time, the orthodox Jewish community in America began cultivating an outlook that discouraged interaction with the secular world.

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