An Open Letter to President Mitch Daniels

Subject: An Open Letter to President Mitch Daniels
From: Sara Louise Hargrave
Date: 1 May 2013

Dear Mr. Daniels,
Recently, I was pleased to see you make a decisive and important statement regarding Purdue’s views on hate crimes and other types of intolerance, stating:
“…bigotry and hate are neither welcomed nor tolerated at Purdue University. There is no place at Purdue for those who act from hatred. If you recognize yourself in this last sentence, you are not welcome at Purdue.”
This concise speaks to your strength of character and moral fortitude, recognizing that no groups are to be treated unfairly on this campus. I believe that you care deeply about Purdue, and very much want to provide a quality education to all students. However, there is a substantial group of individuals at Purdue who need your support, but are not receiving it: atheists.

You have personally contributed hateful rhetoric against atheists, when, in December of 2009, you stated that
“…atheism leads to brutality. All the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists – Stalin and Hitler and Mao and so forth – because it flows very naturally from an idea that there is no judgment and there is nothing other than the brief time we spend on this Earth.”
This statement is false on multiple levels. Hitler was Christian (albeit not a good one), and many religious groups (for instance, the KKK and Al Qaeda) have committed horrible acts. Furthermore, the suggestion that society would degrade if not for the promise of an afterlife speaks ill not only of atheists, but also of humanity. Your statement suggests that you know very few atheists, and that you rely on unfair stereotypes to inform your worldview.
The lives of atheists are impacted by this rhetoric. Atheists are still banned from public office in multiple states, face workplace discrimination, and are considered the least trustworthy group in America (equivalent to rapists; Gervais, et al., 2011). There is no evidence to suggest that lack of faith in a god contributes to morally repugnant behavior, yet hurtful statements abound.
This is a shame, since a large proportion of your employees are nonbelievers. According to the Pew Research Center (2009), 41% of scientists do not believe in god. Given Purdue’s current position as a leader in science and technology, it seems imprudent for its President to have made explicitly bigoted statements about the people who make this university great – possibly even hindering the recruitment of students and professors.
Mr. Daniels, atheists are not brutal. The world we live in is all we have, and every moment is precious. Those of us lucky enough to be involved with Purdue appreciate its culture of intelligent discourse and respectful debate. I very much wish that we had a President who did not view so many of his colleagues with disdain. A retraction of your statement, and an apology for the pain it has caused would solidify your commitment to the entire Purdue community.

Sara Louise Hargrave,
Ph.D. Candidate, Behavioral Neuroscience. Department of Psychological Sciences, College of Health and Human Sciences. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.