American Samizdat

Saturday, November 25, 2006. *
Bob Averill's classmates at the Art Institute of Portland had finished up their work in a character development class on November 8, and were chatting to pass the time until class was over. The discussion moved toward spirituality. Averill, a Game Art Design student and a devoted atheist - he even runs a blog called Portland Atheist - sidled over and joined the conversation.

It was the last time he'd be in an Art Institute class - within two weeks, he was expelled, less than a year before he'd hoped to graduate.

In the classroom that day, Averill says one young woman was talking about her belief in energy layers and astral beings.

"I jokingly asked her if she believed in leprechauns. It turns out, she does. They live on another energy layer," Averill wrote in notes to himself later that day. "In the interest of bringing my own view to the discussion, I began to ask her how she knew these things. Again I know all too well that people can be sensitive about their spiritual beliefs, so I was pretty much walking on glass as I did so."

Averill says he wasn't trying to disprove the other student's religious beliefs, but "to convince her not to insist that they were scientifically proven."

The student, apparently offended, complained to the teacher. Averill was called into a meeting that evening, he says, with the Art Institute's dean of education, associate dean, and the dean of student affairs.

According to Averill, he was told the meeting was "because of my altercation with [the other student]." Averill says he pointed out that he'd "only offered a different viewpoint in a discussion that [my classmate] had started."

"They didn't respond well," Averill told the Mercury. "Their mantra was 'no discussing religion in school,' which is fine except that I did not initiate the conversation, she had." Averill was suspended for four days, until a judicial hearing with the dean of student affairs.

[Article continues at link. Religion makes for hard hearts, soft minds and thin skin.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:32 AM
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