Imagine Jessica, a young, vibrant eighteen-year-old and recent high school graduate, embarking upon a new experience in her life — attending college. She decides that college is the next step to a better life for both her and her family. Jessica’s religion is one of the most important aspects of her life. Her local church group is a nondenominational, Christian-based organization that promotes Christian principles, such as values of non-violence, refraining from drug and alcohol use, abstinence until marriage, constant prayer, and other similar principles. Although Jessica was sad to depart from this chapter of her life, she left for college with excitement and was eager to begin anew, while maintaining her own self-identity.
Once Jessica arrives on the campus of Sunflower University, she is overwhelmed, yet intrigued, by the immense amount of student involvement taking place, including a gay-activist booth advocating for gay adoption, an animal rights group passing out leaflets on how to stop animal cruelty, and a racial diversity group encouraging students to take a stand against racial violence. However, Jessica is disturbed by an Atheist group chanting, “Death to and hate for all Jews, Hindus, Christians, and all who believe in a Higher Being! There is no God!” Jessica was outraged by these statements and actually feared for her life. The foregoing hypothetical helps to illustrate that colleges and universities struggle to provide their students the constitutional right to exercise their religious beliefs and practices. Yet still, colleges and universities must offer a safe learning environment for their student body as a whole to protect students who face attack by the religiously motivated hate speech of their fellow peers because of differing religious thoughts and beliefs.