STATEMENT OF SHARED VALUES (2018)
We, the faculty of UNC Charlotte’s Department of Religious Studies, strive to help students understand the complex histories and lived realities of religious traditions; to remember that no religious tradition is a single, monolithic reality; and to avoid making broad, sweeping judgments about any large group of people. Not only are these the best practices of the academic study of religion, but as scholars of religion, we are keenly aware of the devastating and catastrophic harm that occurs when people fail to abide by them. We share the concerns of our professional organizations, the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature, that failure to understand and interpret religion, religious history, and religious identity thoughtfully hinders the free exchange of ideas, distorts public understanding of religious traditions and religious difference, threatens the safety and well-being of faculty and students, and undermines the basic values of the educational mission of the modern university.
As employees of UNC Charlotte, we are committed to developing a “robust intellectual environment that values social and cultural diversity, free expression . . . and mutual respect.” As faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, we work to build “a culture of intellectual and personal inclusion that . . . provides the means for understanding and negotiating the range of perspectives, experiences, and traditions essential to living ethically in an interdependent global culture.” This requires us to help our students understand the rich, vibrant history of religious traditions—along with their on-going contributions to American and global culture.
As employees of the state of North Carolina, we are prohibited from using the authority of our positions or the funds and supplies of the university to support or oppose any political candidate or issue, but as scholars of religion dedicated to providing exemplary undergraduate and graduate education and addressing the needs of the Charlotte region, we are obligated to use our classrooms and our scholarship to help our students and other audiences understand how to engage the reality of religious diversity well and the terrifying consequences of doing it poorly.
STATEMENT AGAINST ASIAN HATE (2022)
The Department of Religious Studies stands in solidarity with people of Asian descent who are experiencing and have long experienced the continued legacies of racism, heinous acts of terror, and murder. We acknowledge the added layers of pain, trauma, and grief upon communities already impacted by Covid-19. We also recognize the recent increase in hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In light of the 3,795 incidents received by Stop AAPI Hate (https://stopaapihate.org/), in addition to the numbers of anti-Asian hate crimes unreported, we recognize the shared trauma of systemic racism and inequity in AAPI communities as well as other minority groups.
The Department of Religious Studies cares about, and for, our AAPI community and wants to support our students, faculty, and staff as they process the pain of these events. We also recognize the larger work of advocacy in confronting and dismantling racism in all of its forms. We hope as allies to be a resource to confront and dismantle the products of hate. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY (2020)
As faculty of the Department of Religious Studies, we express our profound sadness and anger at the most recent revelations of America’s long-standing violence against Black bodies.
To our African American colleagues and students: we see you; we grieve with you; we pledge to become ever more effective allies in dismantling white supremacy and its systemic legacies. As scholars of religion, we commit ourselves to understanding more fully how religion promotes racism, how anti-blackness has shaped American religion, and how it functions as an organizing value in our world.
Knowing that statements of solidarity are not sufficient to meet the needs of people of color, we further commit ourselves to learning how we can best use our scholarship, our classrooms, and our resources to mitigate against the dehumanization of Black, Brown, and indigenous people and to help African American students—and communities of color generally—survive and thrive.
Because learning how to do this well takes time, we will devote sustained, focused attention over the coming academic year to discerning how best to meet these commitments, and will announce the specific, concrete actions we will take to embody these commitments by the end of the spring 2021 semester.
We welcome comments and critiques from colleagues, staff, and students of color (past and present) as we undertake this work.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF MUSLIM STUDENTS, FACULTY, AND STAFF (2018)
Consistent with our mission to promote the study of religion in a pluralistic and multicultural context and our desire to foster self-reflective, open, and civil conversation about diverse religious traditions, the Department of Religious Studies expresses our dismay, disgust, and outrage at the recent incident of Islamophobic harassment in Wallis Hall. We affirm our support for and commitment to all Muslim students, faculty and staff at UNC Charlotte. We affirm our commitment to the value of an informed, critical understanding of religion, religious difference, and the history of religious intolerance, mindful of the devastating consequences that follow when such values are not maintained. No student or group of students should be targeted for harassment and vilification based on their religious identity; no student should be penalized for reporting acts of harm; all students should support one another against acts of intolerance and cruelty. The Department of Religious Studies is open to hearing from students, faculty, and staff about how we can further our effort to create a community that fosters understanding, safety, and decency across difference.