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Various religious groups growing in number on campus

by Nicholas Zanetti,

Elon University may no longer be recognized as the Fighting Christians, but religion is still a key part of many students' lives.

With a wide range of religious affiliations and beliefs represented on campus, the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life seeks to allow students to not only grow in their own faith, but explore others as well.

The space and structure for organizations including Intervarsity, Hillel and Catholic Campus Ministry, among others, are created by the Truit Center, according to Phil Smith, the Center's director. The Truitt Center also provides programming during the year specific to various religious traditions as well as spaces for groups to have services.

"Elon is a place that offers a whole lot in terms of religious life and programs, but it's always at an arms length," Smith said. "Religion should never be enforced or coerced on students."

There is an active Jewish population on campus, according to Nancy Luberoff, director of Hillel.

"Hillel at Elon is extraordinarily active given it is only made up of 100 students, currently," she said.

Despite the small size of Hillel, an increased number of Jewish students are enrolling at Elon.

"The Jewish demographic is one of the fastest growing on campus," Luberoff said. "The current freshman class is 8 percent Jewish."

Besides the most represented religions, such as Judaism and Christianity, Elon also has students from a variety of religions less widely practiced in the U.S.

Laura Addiss is one of the few Quaker students who attends Elon.

"Overall, I think that the Elon community is very receptive and accepting of less common religions like mine," she said. "Although people often confuse Quakers with Amish people, in reality we are very different."

Although Elon students are predominantly affiliated with Christian denominations, one of the fastest growing religious groups on campus is that of students who claim to have no religious preference, or consider themselves non-believers.

"I think the number of people who consider themselves agnostic or atheist is definitely increasing," Smith said. "Some people check the 'no preference' box in surveys because they are not sure or don't want to associate themselves with a specific denomination or faith, and they don't want to be put in a box."

Religious life at Elon will continue to be important in the future, as the university plans for the construction of a new multi-faith center in the Academic Village. A Muslim group will also be forming soon, according to Smith.