A diversity workshop focused on the advantages of being Christian has stirred an uproar on right-wing news outlets this week.
The Multicultural Student Services Center will host one of its regular inclusion training sessions Thursday, focused on the “built-in advantages” Christians have over non-Christians, according to the event’s description. The event, which went viral this week, has sparked outrage from conservative students and news outlets, who claim the event downplays the ways Christians are persecuted across the globe.
“How do we celebrate Christian identities and acknowledge that Christians receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country?” the training’s description states. “Let’s reflect upon ways we can live up to our personal and national values that make room for all religious and secular identities on an equal playing field.”
The workshop, titled “Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!,” will touch on white privilege, the difference between equality and equity and examples of Christian privilege, according to the description. Tim Kaine, the associate director of inclusion initiatives, will lead the event.
Right-wing political commentators have blasted the description of the event and described the workshop as an attempt to launch attacks on Christians and ignore the religion’s history with persecution. The event description has been widely reported on conservative media sites like Campus Reform, Fox News and the Washington Times since Tuesday and was the subject of a segment on the popular Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends.”
Fox News Channel Contributor Robert Jeffress called the topic a “front for launching more attacks on Christians and restricting their very real Constitutional rights.”
Freshman Caroline Hakes, a correspondent for Campus Reform – a conservative news site focused on higher education – told “Fox & Friends” that the session is “a symptom of a larger issue of elements of Christianity being downplayed on college campuses and in the mainstream media.”
Christian persecution in the Middle East is underreported and public figures, like Vice President Mike Pence, are often criticized for discussing their faith, she said.
Junior Abigail Marone, the former director of political affairs for the GW College Republicans, also penned an op-ed in the Washington Examiner Wednesday calling the event “outlandish” and demonstrative of a “flawed understanding of Christianity on campuses and around world.”
“I thought it was a bit ridiculous that GW was hosting a seminar lead by a diversity professional, not a faith leader, which aimed to tell Christians how to live out their relationship with God,” Marone said in an interview.
George Washington University is to hold an event to combat “Christian Privilege”
The fact is, Christians are THE MOST PERSECUTED group in the whole world. Especially in the middle east Christians are being killed right, left and center for their beliefs.https://t.co/URn1inpf7k
— PeterSweden (@PeterSweden7) April 3, 2018
Christian Privilege, as they said, “White Christian Privilege” George Washington University attacks White Christians. Talk about intolerance at its best, talk about racially driven religious hate at its best. If you want to gain an under grad degree in hate, enroll at GWU
— Garyt4344 (@talijangary) April 3, 2018
Now George Washington University holds a seminar on Christian privilege! This is another attack on Christians. George Washington was known as the man who couldn’t tell a lie. It’s SHAMEFUL this university is named after him. BTW everyone has the privilege 2 walk with Jesus! #MAGA
— Georgia (@malteseTTT) April 4, 2018
University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said the MSSC is “dedicated to creating a welcoming environment on campus and preparing students for success in an increasingly diverse and global society.” She said Thursday’s session is one of 15 trainings the center is hosting this semester on topics like socio-economic status, LGBTQ identity and unconscious bias.
“The center offers a variety of one-time optional workshops throughout the year to help students, faculty and staff learn more about culture and diversity in society,” she said in an email. “Sessions focus on acceptance, understanding and celebration of all cultures and provide students an opportunity to explore and embrace diverse identities.”
She declined to say what response the University has heard from outside groups and students to the workshop, how officials have responded to public backlash and what the University’s reaction was to the media coverage about the training from conservative outlets.
Officials also removed the description of the workshop from the MSSC website, but Csellar declined to say when the site was updated and why. She declined to say if the University expects protests and if the event will have increased security in light of the online response to the event.
Matthew Ludwig, the vice president of GW Catholics, said he was surprised that the event is being hosted because a majority of the U.S. population identifies as Christian. He said the name of the seminar is “misleading,” given the global persecution that Christians face.
“I don’t think limitations should be placed on the type of seminar GW should or should not be hosting,” he said. “But when our University does put them on, let’s make sure they are framed well, advertised clearly – and most importantly, carried out thoroughly and fairly.”
But other student leaders said the training is necessary to create a dialogue between Christian and non-Christian groups on campus.
Leah Hong, the president of Hope Christian Fellowship, an Asian-American evangelical campus ministry, said the seminar will open a forum for non-Christians to grasp major concepts about the faith.
“Realizing that I am a woman and I am Asian, and our history has shown a lot of privilege towards white, Christian men, I was really intrigued by the fact – and really actually encouraged by the fact – that students at GW and the MSSC were going to do a seminar like this,” she said.
Johnny Morreale contributed reporting.