Religion panel discusses K-State’s tolerance for different religions

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Panelists answered questions and expressed their personal beliefs during a panel on religion from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday in the K-State Student Union Courtyard. Union Program Council was host to the event as part of Inclusion Week – a week-long celebration of diversity and culture on campus.

Each of the nine panelists gave a brief history and explanation of their respective spiritual beliefs, while also discussing how they came to their beliefs. Some of the discussion included how each person views life after death, who or what each believes to be a higher power, free will, hell and how science plays into faith.

Panelists included Alley Stoughton, Unitarian representative; Suveyda Karakaya, Muslim representative; Zoe Zhou, Buddhist representative; Sterling Knapp, Mormon representative; David Cohen, Jewish representative; Ryan Edick and Cary McCall, Christian representatives; and Jessica Ice and Ryan Allen, atheist representatives.

After each representative gave a brief speech about their respective spirituality, audience members were given the opportunity to write questions for the panel to answer.

One of the questions asked if the panelists felt the K-State community is open and accepting of religious diversity and moral beliefs. While many thought K-State was “pretty tolerant and accepting,” Ice said she thought the campus was not accepting of atheist beliefs.

“As we can see from the chalking done a month ago, I simply asked ‘If you don’t believe in God, come to our meeting,'” Ice said. “There was outrage on the campus. I found it kind of sad that someone is so afraid of my lack of belief that they should be cruel or mean.”

Knapp said in any community there will always be people who are not accepting and believes K-State overall is “very accepting.”

“Most people don’t believe the same things as [Buddhists] do, but they’ve been very tolerant as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

McCall said the university, just like anywhere else, has people who are very tolerant and understanding as well as negative and narrow-minded.

“With something like the chalking with the Individuals for Freethought, they found themselves in conflict with people who unfortunately were very close-minded and unaccepting and who hopefully learned lessons out of it,” McCall said. “We have a broad mix of people [at K-State], and hopefully the goal is to be understanding of each other and tolerant in a way we can understand each other without compromising who we are and what we believe.”

Cohen said he believes K-State has improved and become much more tolerant than in past years.

“I think when people know we’re here, they’re pretty accepting,” Cohen said.

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