Instructor Richard Young points to the number of free parking spaces available at Bow Valley Chapel for University of Calgary students returning to class today. The spots are free if students are willing to attend a class based on the Mormon faith.

Religious instructors at a church near the University of Calgary have faith an off-kilter proposition will see more students parked both in their lot and in their classrooms.

For years, academics have parked at the Bow Valley Chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, likely because of its proximity to campus and zero cost.

Unfortunately, many of those parkers have been slapped with tickets over the years, which instructor Richard Young admits “is not a good way to make friends.”

Now, the church is promoting free parking for a whole semester in exchange for participation in one of 17 daytime classes hosted there. Students are required to attend at least 10 of the 13 weekly classes, which generally last 90 minutes.

Accounting student Hamid Behmanesh took the institute up on its offer last year and will again be parking and participating there when classes resume today.

“They are not trying to convert people,” he said. “I get more information on what a Mormon is. It serves my personal interests.”

But the offer is not for everyone.

“I don’t know if people are doing it for the right reasons,” said fellow student Nazy Abbas. “If you are going to take classes on religion, your heart has to be in it, as opposed to just doing it for free parking.”

Young said feedback from students has been positive, so far.

“Have we had people who have learned more about the church and joined? Sure,” Young said. “But is that the ulterior motive? No.”

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