Thank you to all of those who have written letters condemning the words of Professor Taves implying that I’d be rejected from Graduate School at UCSB for being “an atheist activist with an axe to grind”. We will be launching a secondary campaign aimed at those administrators and regents of the UC system as a whole. Here are a few of the letters that were CC’d to me. Thank you all very much, enjoy!
Dr. Michael D. Young
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UCSB :
5203 Cheadle Hall Santa Barbara, CA 93106-2036
ATTN: Dr. Michael D. Young
Dear Dr. Young,
I was recently made aware of the situation of a young man who was
rejected for a place when applying to the Graduate Department of
Religious Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara.
I have read David McAfee’s infrequent writings for some time and
consider him to make generally balanced arguments. I would certainly
think that he displays many of the skills of critical thinking I would
expect to be displayed by someone in a Graduate program.
It is my fervent hope that as Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at
UCSB you are in a position to influence the outcome of this situation
in such a way as to result in a more balanced outcome.
Whilst my personal views are unlikely to sway your position I feel
obliged to relate to you that I was in the process of relocating my
family from Australia to Santa Barbara with the express objective of
furthering my children’s education. I am now rethinking this landing
point and considering Portland instead. At least we are less likely
to be subject to Religious Discrimination in Oregon.
Michael D. Smith
Dear Dr. Young,
I am writing to you in reference to a student attending your school, David G. McAfee. I heard his story about being denied acceptance into Graduate School. From what I understand, Mr. McAfee has been studying English and Religion and has, or will soon receive a Bachelor’s degree from your institution. However, his attempt to further his education has been thwarted by an administrator on the UCSB staff who called him “an atheist activist with an axe to grind”, which in all fairness is quite harsh.
I cannot tell you how many people I have heard say that Christians and religious people are being discriminated against. I think this case is one that clearly shows the opposite. Mr. McAfee has an intense interest in religion and is showing a high degree of desire to become well educated on the subject. This administrator is clearly basing her denial of his acceptance in the Graduate program on his religious viewpoints and not his academic fortitude and success.
I am curious to know what your administrator would have said to a Muslim student or a Buddhist, perhaps a Scientologist or a Moonie. Where does the line get drawn? UCSB is a public institution. We all know this means that UCSB is funded by taxpayers’ dollars, not the Vatican or any other religious order. This administrator’s choice to not admit Mr. McAfee based on his religious preference is clearly discrimination. I study subjects of which I am not a master or a subscribing member, as I am sure a majority of students could also claim. I am sure we could also find a list of people who study anthropology and other sciences, which are striving to show clear evidence of evolution, who are staunch creationists and adherents to “intelligent design”. I don’t imagine any of those students are denied access to higher education based on their religious beliefs. I would even imagine that it would be considered a violation of their rights to do so.
Where is it said that one must be a Christian to study religion? This is the United States of American and the last time I checked, we offer our citizens the freedom and the practice of separation of Church and State. Where is this freedom and separation being demonstrated in the decision made by your administrator?
As I mentioned, you are employed by a public institution, as is this administrator. A public institution, in the United States, has not the right to deny anyone an education based on their religious beliefs. This is not a one way street. Christians cannot expect to be given all of the rights in the country while denying them to everyone who does not see things in the same view.
I implore you to look into this matter and right the wrong that has been done to Mr. McAfee.
Dear Dr. Young,
I have come across a situation involving a graduate student applicant to UCSB, Mr. David G. McAfee. He claims that he was denied admission because of his philosophical worldview pertaining to the existence of gods and goddesses. Also, there may have been an accusation that he cared “too much” about his values, ideals, and opinions (specifically, that he is “an atheist activist with an axe to grind”.
I am a graduate of UCSB. I attended there as a masters student in Counseling Psychology, completing my studies in 1983. I was an atheist, and continue to be. I was outspoken about my atheism as well as a number of other issues including racial equality and gender equality. We didn’t call them “LGBT” back then, but in the early 1980′s we were bucking the status quo at UCSB and elsewhere by fighting for de-pathologizing homosexuality, and fighting for basic decency toward homosexuals. Look how far we have come in 20 plus years, although, we are still fighting for basic civil rights for all adult citizens.
We may disagree personally with the beliefs of another, but we should honor and respect their right to their own opinions and conclusions. No student at a public institution should be denied an education because s/he does or does not adhere to certain “religious” beliefs. I certainly hope that Mr. McAfee’s claims against UCSB are not warranted. However, if they are, I suggest you give him a fair hearing as soon as possible.
Thank you for taking the time to read this brief e-mail. My name is Troy Boyle and I am the Vice President of the National Atheist Party. It has come to my attention that your student, Mr. David McAfee, has been denied admission to your Graduate Program in Religious Studies. I admit freely that my source for this information is Mr. McAfee himself, who has chosen to broadcast his plight on the internet at the following URL: http://davidgmcafee.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/an-atheist-activist-with-an-axe-to-grind/
On this website, he details an appalling interview that he suffered with your Dr. Taves, a person apparently charged with reviewing applicants to the program and at least partially responsible for their acceptance.
From Mr. McAfee’s report of their exchange, it seems to me that Dr. Taves has rejected his application on wholly subjective grounds. In fact, she appears to be discriminating against Mr. McAfee’s atheistic philosophical stance – as though the graduate program in religion should only be available to the religious.
I sincerely hope that this is not the case at the University of California – Santa Barbara. A federally funded school is not the sort of institution that one would expect to hold such divisive and religiocentric views. I bring this to your attention so that you may instruct Dr. Taves that it is not the policy of UCSB to exclude promising students on the basis of their beliefs – or the lack of them.
I am asking you to perform another review of Mr. McAfee’s qualifications for admission to your graduate program. If, at arm’s length and without regard to his religious beliefs, he is still considered to be a poor candidate for admission to the program, then the school is obviously within its rights to deny his entry. If, however, an arm’s length analysis concludes that Mr. McAfee meets or exceeds the qualifications of those students that have already matriculated, then it is my sincere hope that UCSB will grant his admission without further delay.
I appreciate your time and professional attention,
National Atheist Party