Policy on Multi-Faith Religious Practices

After consultation with the Spiritual and Religious Life Committee, the President and his senior administrative staff have decided to embark on a new initiative to educate students, faculty and staff on matters of multi-faith religious practice.

A. Background and Rationale

In recent years St. Lawrence University has engaged in a vigorous attempt to address issues related to diversity and multiculturalism. This commitment has resulted in a deeper appreciation of the variety of cultural perspectives and a broader understanding of the vital importance diverse perspectives to a dynamic educational environment. Yet, there has been a gap in our multicultural education related to religious and spiritual practices. The historical tension between the academy and religion has understandable origins, but it is time to move beyond dogmatic contention to embrace the open spirit indicative of the early Unitarian Universalism influences upon the University.

The Chaplain’s Office defines spirituality as “that which moves us toward wholeness.” This definition affirms the validity of all major religious/spiritual traditions, and invites individuals of a particular tradition, or of no tradition, to integrate spirituality into the fabric of their being. Therefore this policy welcomes various religious/spiritual traditions to hold public ceremonies that: 1) are faithful to their tradition, 2) educate others and 3) contribute to global understanding.

B. Use of the Chapel

1. The Chapel is open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

2. The tapestry that shades the Celtic cross will be down except for specific Christian ceremonies.

3. The Chapel is open for use by all faith traditions that feel comfortable in a cathedral space.

4. In the event that a group is uncomfortable in the Chapel, another space will be provided in consultation with the Spiritual and Religious Life Committee.

C. Use of Spaces Apart from the Chapel

All residential space at the university is private. All other spaces fall along a spectrum of privacy, which we will describe with the following definitions

private space – space temporarily reserved and closed off from the rest of the university

eg. Formal lounges, classrooms, seminar rooms

semi-private space – space reserved for an individual or group that others must enter

eg . faculty & staff offices, desktops and adjoining walls in open offices, residential lounges that can be reserved and closed off

public space – space that cannot be closed off and that others must enter

eg . All outdoor spaces, lobbies (including those with reception desks such as Payson Hall or Newell Field House), corridors, open residential lounges, dining halls

Under these criteria the following guidelines apply:

1. Private spaces

a. Regular use of private spaces for conducting religious ceremonies is allowed so long as all those to whom the space is assigned consent.

b. Religious symbols of appropriate scale and taste may be displayed.

2. Semi-private spaces

a. Religious ceremonies may be conducted in semi-private spaces that can be made temporarily private by being closed off. When they are not closed off, they are considered public spaces and subject to the same criteria.

b. Individuals may decorate their semi-private spaces with religious symbols of scale appropriate to the space, for instance, a miniature Christmas tree or Menorah a few inches high on a desk that does not dominate the space.

3. Public spaces

a. Regular use of public spaces for conducting religious ceremonies is discouraged.

b. Periodic use of public spaces for conducting religious ceremonies is allowable under the following guidelines:

i. All campus community members are welcome.

ii. Approval of the Spiritual and Religious Life Committee.

iii. Opportunity for others to be present in the public space and not feel obliged to participate in the ceremony. This would make the use of residential hall lounges unlikely choices for such ceremonies.

c. As a private university, we have the opportunity to encourage public expression of religious/spiritual traditions not afforded public universities. We need to assume leadership for the multi-cultural education of our students by inviting appropriate public display of religious/spiritual symbols. Thus, temporary display of religious symbols is allowable in public spaces under the following guidelines:

i. The symbol does not impede access and is scaled to the space.

ii. Approval of the Spiritual and Religious Life Committee

D. Review of Policy

The Spiritual and Religious Life Committee shall review this policy on a biannual basis. Reviewing this policy biannually will ensure that it keeps pace with the dynamic educational mission of St. Lawrence University.

E. Implementation of Policy

With respect periodic scheduling of religious ceremonies, the sponsoring person or organization should contact the University Chaplain at least two weeks in advance with the appropriate information (date(s), time, type of ceremony (ie, blessing, candle-lighting, meditation, etc.), duration, and structure of ceremony that allows others to be present but not feel obliged to participate. The University Chaplain will forward the proposal to the Spiritual and Religious Life Committee membership for consideration, discussion if necessary and determination.

No University funds, except those allocated to the Chaplain’s office, will be used for purchase of religious symbols.

A religious symbol is a representation of an idea, object, concept, or quality that is associated with a spiritual tradition.