by Kelsey Rowlson
On October 28, Whatcom Community College’s Student Council approved $1,200 in funding to help the Campus Christian Fellowship club attend a fall camp located in Lake Stevens, Wash.
Since the CCF is a religious club, the question arises: Does the council’s approval break the separation between church and state?
When I first found out about this, I thought for sure this was breaking the separation of church and state. I was adamantly against the fact that the council approved those funds for a Christian club. I was left with many questions. Why is my money going towards a Christian club’s trip? How is this beneficial to the school as a whole? How can people justify giving a Christian club state money? But as I’ve learned more about the club, the council, and the issue of separation of church and state, I realized that my way of thinking was wrong.
According to Kris Baier, director of Student Life, it would actually be illegal to deny these funds.
Baier came to this conclusion after talking to the Assistant Attorney General.
“Student council has a responsibility to recognize those clubs,” Baier said. “We have responsibility to make sure that if the club is recognized by ASWCC that we appropriate money by legal standards. That includes a completely neutral viewpoint of the club.”
Geoff Mumley, pastor and unofficial advisor for the CCF agrees, “No, it doesn’t breach the church/state relationship. Religious worship, practice, and instruction only happens for about 30 percent of our total time spent at fall camp.” Mumley said that the rest of the time spent on the trip includes commuting to and from the camp, socializing, free time, eating meals together, study sessions, group games, sports, and overall just bonding time.
“Every student on Whatcom’s campus is welcome to attend and our hope is that every student would feel as comfortable as possible exploring the claims of Jesus in that context,” Mumley said. He added that there are non-Christians that attend the fall trip. “People who are interested in Jesus, but who haven’t made a decision [and] people who are hearing about Jesus for the first time this school year” are among the attendees of the trip.
“If the atheist club wants to attend an atheist conference so they can be better equipped to discuss their ideas with students around them, I think it would be great for student council to help them with funds,” Mumley said.
But what’s the bottom line?
Basically, all clubs and organizations have the right to request money from the ASWCC. This is because all clubs and organizations are open to all Whatcom students. This includes the CCF club.
And the funding for the trip didn’t come from the student council alone. According to Mumley, CCF students paid out of pocket for some of the cost and during spring quarter the group does service projects to raise money to help cover the cost. The money the CCF received from the council, about 55 percent of the total cost to go on the trip, ensured that every student from Whatcom who wanted to go on the trip was able to go, whether they could afford it or not.
“Really it’s the students’ money,” said Baier about where the student council’s funds come from. Every student pays a “service and activities fee,” along with many other fees when they register for classes. This fee, when broken down is $7.61 per credit (up to 10 credits) or $4.20 per credit for 11-18 credits. So, if a student is taking 10 credits at Whatcom, the amount they pay towards the “Service and Activities Fee” is $70.61. A portion of this money then trickles to the student council.
To sum up this topic, Mumley’s words seem best. “Student council money isn’t paying for religious worship, and that student council funds are designed to be used for the enrichment of the student body.”
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