All students should be free to use Ford Chapel for any purpose

As the ‘I Heart the Female Orgasm’ event continues to garner a bizarre amount of attention outside Allegheny and to inspire hearty and exciting conversations on campus, something in the objections about its location needs to be kept in perspective. I have heard from diverse people that they felt that the placement of the event was an invasion of their spiritual boundaries. Violation of someone’s spiritual zone is a serious concern which always deserves attention, but this objection is being phrased as if Ford Chapel belongs exclusively to Christian students.

Ford is a community building, not even a nominal church; it is open to all Alleghenians for their usage. We use it for graduation and initiation ceremonies and community (Allegheny and Meadville)  events with no religious relation whatsoever; musical concerts, awards and many guest speakers. Many times last year, I used it simply as a quiet and solitary place to breathe, read the paper and admire the stained glass.

The assembly on Wednesday was not an invasion of a private spiritual space or sanctuary. If you, my fellow Alleghenians, feel that Wednesday evening’s event brought some taint of profanity into your place of worship, then I am sorry for your upset. But Ford is not your exclusive space – it is yours when you use it, and it belongs to others of us, for our purposes, when we use it.

I’m a very big believer in the rights of groups to designate spaces for themselves in which they can be themselves without criticism or apology. These spaces can be physical or spiritual. Any conservative or traditionally religious student on this campus knows and feels that he or she is largely an island, and that little will change that. If I, a very socially liberal non-Christian, were a student at Bob Jones or Brigham Young, I know that I could not rightfully expect the whole conservative body of the institution to bend to me.

But you are darn right that I would demand any spaces which I create for myself to be respected. If you, my fellow Alleghenians, feel that your spaces to exercise a fundamental part of your identity are not being honored, contact anyone in the Allegheny administration who might help the issue, and if the administration has half a sense of propriety it will listen to your concerns.

Contact our very friendly chaplain, or students in ACO, or Sojourners, or Allegheny Newman, or the Interfaith Fellowship, or those in the Lighthouse, or those in various Bible study or prayer groups, or just those individuals, friends or acquaintances who share your assessment of the problem.

Ask any of these folks if they are willing to partner with you in setting up private worship places in any available area that will accommodate you, where you may exercise your total right of exclusivity in proceedings, a space in which you have every right to erect what you consider a spiritually pure atmosphere.

But friends, Ford is not the place to call exclusively your own. It does not belong solely to you; it is no more a solely Christian space than Allegheny is solely a United Methodist-affiliated school.

It belongs to you when you desire to use it; if you feel it is defamed by how the rest of us use it, for non-religious or religious purposes (sex, for some, is very spiritual indeed), then I am sorry that you see it that way.

But it is not an invasion of your private space, the space you can claim for yourselves, which would be unjust no matter how one slices it.

Ford is paid for by all of us, maintained by all of us, and its doors are open to all of us.