(RNS) Eric Fromm, the student body president at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Ore., has spent the last three years in a constant state of fear that his peers might find out his long-kept secret: He doesn’t believe in God.
Fromm, a senior communications major, “came out” as an atheist to his classmates in an Oct. 30 column published by the online student newspaper, the Beacon Bolt.
Fromm explained in the column that he had primarily chosen the university based on its communications program. Though he has felt comfortable at the university the past three years, he “wasn’t at peace” and wanted to set the record straight.
Though a few of his close friends knew his secret, others had verbally attacked and ignored him when they heard he was an atheist. As his secret began to spread, rumors circulated that Fromm “hated Christians.”
“Every day I’m burdened by the fact that my peers might reject me because I’m different from them,” Fromm wrote. “I’m writing this primarily because I don’t want to keep my atheism a secret any longer, but I’m also writing this because I want to take my peers to task on their inability to accept those who don’t fit their Christian pattern.”
Within hours of being posted, the post went viral on the Internet, attracting hundreds of comments ranging from support to ridicule.
University officials say they accept Fromm for where he is on his “journey.”
“Eric’s story within the blog post isn’t a surprise to us,” Jeannine Jones, a university spokeswoman, told ABC News. “We as an institution meet students where they are at and believe that our God is big enough.”
According to the university website, the school aims to foster “wisdom, faith and service through excellent academic programs within a Christ-centered community.”
The reception on campus was overwhelmingly positive, and Fromm says he is relieved to have the secret out.
“I don’t have to hide anymore,” Fromm, 21, told The Eugene Register-Guard. “I know that people accept me for who I am.”
(Emily Atteberry writes for USA Today.)