Stop funding God with student union money

April 23, 2014
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Student unions across the country are funding religious clubs at universities. This practice has no place in the modern Australian university landscape and needs to stop.

God is like Big Foot: highly unlikely but some people just can’t be convinced. This is fine. Not everybody needs to live in the real world. That said, I don’t want my student union dues spent on the proliferation of ideas that ignore the basic principles of quantum mechanics, physics, and gravity; I don’t want my money to be spent on bibles, brainwashing, and propaganda; and I sure as hell don’t want my hard earned cash spent on the RMIT Christian Union’s “real community, centred around the wonderful God!”

Why? Firstly, “the wonderful God” is not all that wonderful. As far as I can tell he seems vengeful and not all that happy about anything. He condemns gays, condones bigotry, and seems to get very angry about some very trivial things—pre-marital sex? Who cares?

There is also the fact the entire structure of this belief system is based on one very old book. If I wrote an essay with only one source referenced for my ironically nicknamed journalism teacher, Chuckles, he would tear my head off. That said, if I could only find one source to support my argument I would probably surrender to the fact that I was probably wrong, but that’s just me.

And far be it from me to tell other people what to do with their lives or what to believe. I had an imaginary friend as a child and as far as I can tell it did no harm to anyone. Of course, he was not xenophobic, misogynistic or vindictive and this probably helped keep the peace. The point is I believed in him and no one told me there was anything wrong with that and nobody got hurt. That said, I never asked for money to support my imaginary habit... Oops! I mean friend.

Which brings me to the brass tacks: money.

A certified affiliated RMIT Student Union club receives $250 once it reaches 10 members. I am using RMIT because that is my uni (Represent!) but I imagine there is a similar system at other universities. I would have researched further but my childhood imaginary friend came back and told me I didn’t need to bother. He does that sometimes; he shows up when it’s convenient.

Imaginary friends aside—well as aside as they can be in an article about religion—$250 is $250 too much. In fact, one dollar of public funds is too much. Fess paid to student unions are for free beer and sausages, breakfasts, services like financial help, day care, and student welfare initiatives. Yes, a large portion of student union funding does come from the university but the university is funded by our fees and taxes. We are well within our rights to question where that money goes.

And really, to go one step further, religious clubs should not be afforded rent free rooms or even be allowed on campus for that matter. Belief without facts has no place at a university. Banning religious groups from campus, however, would be akin to banning infamous climate sceptic Lord Monckton or notorious anti-Islamist Geert Wilders and I don’t condone censoring free speech. But I digress.

The point is that money is being spent on religious clubs supporting views that have been proven scientifically and are often considered morally wrong. I should point out that I have been particularly focused on the Christian clubs but this applies to all denominations. Christian clubs, however, appear to have the biggest following and are taking the bulk of the funds. At RMIT, for example, there are seven Christian clubs or abbreviations of, at Monash there are five, and at Melbourne University there are at least seven. That is far too many. The only reasonable amount of religious clubs at any university would be none.

Of course, I know I probably don’t speak for the majority of students, the apathy among the student body toward almost anything remotely controversial is very readily apparent. I do, however, think that there is a lack of awareness among students as to how club finance works. Education, therefore, is the key. Students should be made aware when they pay there dues to the student union that those funds might be spent on spreading religious dogma. I think, at least I hope, that this might make a difference; that when students realise where their money is being spent they might make a concious effort to say “No. I will not have my money go toward the proliferation of make believe.”

It is time to stop funding religious clubs at universities. The fact that anyone still believes in God at university level, to be blunt, is astounding; but, the fact student unions are openly providing finance to religious clubs is completely and utterly dumbfounding.

Religious clubs need to be cut off from the the student union cash tap or, alternatively, equal funding should be put toward tracking and capturing Big Foot. The former makes more sense but the latter seems much more fun and I would happily accept either. What I will not and cannot accept, however, is the status quo and, with God as my witness, I will damn the practice of student union funds supporting religious clubs at every opportunity.

Mark Barnes is a journalism student at RMIT who believes in considered appropriation of student union funds. If you need to follow something, then why not follow him: @mbarnesau

All views expressed in this piece are solely that of Mark Barnes and not of Hijacked.