Here is a letter I sent to the President of the University regarding the Students for Freethought's attack on prayer at graduation:
Dear President Kirwan,
It has come to my attention in the past six months that the Students For Freethought here at The Ohio State University has begun a campaign to eliminate prayer from our graduation ceremonies on the basis that the prayers are always given by a Christian pastor and always refer to one God, “capital and singular,” to use their words.
The SFF further states that, because of this, other religions are excluded and their rights are infringed upon. They also want the words “In the Year of Our Lord” removed from the diplomas.
I am a Pagan student here at Ohio State, and it seemed that I should state my views on this topic before it became any hotter. I shall begin by describing what my religion consists of.
Being Pagan means, to me, that I am a worshiper of a pantheon of Gods, all of Whom are different and dynamic. I am a polytheist, to put it simply. Much of my religion falls under what the SFF considers “superstition” and “ignorance” according to their webpage and their own comments. While this is not something I find flattering, I respect their right to view my religion in any way they see fit.
I am very religious, and am in fact one of the Co-Chairs for the Pagan Student Association here at OSU (my views do not represent the PSA in this instance, due to a sharp disagreement within the group about this issue). Paganism is, for the most part, a religion that revolves around Nature and Magic.
What the SFF would have us do is deny our religion at one of our proudest moments, that of taking the first step into the real world after college. From speaking with other religious leaders on campus, many seem to feel that a prayer, any prayer, is preferable to no prayer. I know there are other Pagans who agree with me, as well as Hindus, Buddhists, and Moslems. Of course, there is dissent, even among the Christian groups, on this issue.
I feel, however, that the prayer is non-sectarian enough to cover a person of any religion (it might also be noted that many religions, while they may worship many gods, also believe that “all gods are one God”). I also support bringing other religious leaders to give the prayer, if that would help the situation.
As for the issue of the “In the Year of Our Lord” on the diplomas, I see no problem with that, as it has been how we have measured time since the Middle Ages, and we have no other way to identify our year, I find the SFF’s request truly strange. Despite a trend in scholarship to identify our years by “Common Era,” I do not think that this should be on our diplomas. (To be honest, I just like the ring of “In the Year of Our Lord.”)
If the administration does see it necessary to remove prayer from graduation, I ask only that we be left 2 minutes of silence in which we might make ourselves heard to Those we Worship. Let our joyousness be heard.
If you have any further questions or comments, I can be reached at through my OSU email address.