The debate over whether to allow prayer in schools is not a new issue, but after today it may affect VSU students more personally.
On the agenda for today’s Faculty Senate meeting is a request to change the university’s policy on public prayer.
Previously, the Minority and Diversity Issues Committee (MDIC) recommended the following to the Faculty Senate: “Valdosta State University is an increasingly diverse community with persons from many social, demographic, and religious backgrounds. In response to the results of the recent diversity audit, the Minority and Diversity Issues Committee recommends the campus community be mindful that public prayer at official VSU events can make attendees feel marginalized. For these events, any public prayer should reflect sensitivity to the diverse background of members of our community. (e.g. a moment of silence is the most widely accepted practice in North American academic institution).”
Now, the MDIC has a revised suggestion. They want the policy to read as follows: “Valdosta State University is an increasingly diverse community with persons from many social, demographic, and religious backgrounds. In response to the results of the recent diversity audit, the Minority and Diversity Issues Committee recommends the campus community be mindful of the following: The University may not engage in conduct that advances or inhibits religion. Silent reflections or non-religious inspirational passages are appropriate alternatives to religious based references and practices.”
The wording of the newly proposed policy is extremely vague. There is no clear definition of what “The University” refers to. Is it every organization or public gathering at the university or does it refer to just the university and not organizations that are not solely the part of the university? It also lacks a clear definition of “conduct that advances or inhibits religion.”
We fear that the policy’s vagueness could be used against student groups that prefer to pray before their functions and ask the Faculty Senate to take that into consideration.
We urge the Faculty Senate to be mindful of the following: Our country was founded on the desire to express personal beliefs, whether they represent the majority or not.
If someone in a meeting asks a group to pray, it doesn’t mean everyone in that room has to comply. Just because someone is standing at the front of the room praying doesn’t mean you have to pray with them. If someone is praying to a god that you don’t believe in, stay silent or have a personal prayer to your own deity.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental American right. Giving everyone the right to pray to whichever deity they choose also means not barring someone from praying to their deity just because you don’t believe in the same one or in a deity at all.
It should be up to each group or individual whom they want to pray to, as well as when and where they choose to pray.
This editorial was written by Amber Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org) and it expresses the opinion of the entire editorial staff.