Opinions: Students Argue For and Against Elimination of Graduation Prayer

April 26, 2004

Source: Edinburgh Student Newspaper


On April 26, 2004 Edinburgh Student Newspaper ran two opinion pieces by students regarding the recent decision by the university to remove Christian prayers from the graduation ceremony. One student, Helen Brown, argued against the decision, writing, "Thus a belief in the innate goodness of religious diversity is equivalent to stating that no creed can in fact be true according to its own standards; or, at least, that discernment between truth and falsehood is not a social good - quite the opposite. Attempts to discern truth in public must, on that basis, be avoided at all costs. Oddly, it is precisely the avoidance of such public discernment which seems to be regarded as the appropriate soil in which diversity can flourish. Thus Senatus has here prioritised pragmatic fudge over addressing the difficult but real issues: the relationship of the university’s corporate public activity to the supernatural, and the location of authority to determine this." Naomi De Berker argued for the decision, writing,"By changing the overtly Christian prayer into a 'time for reflection,' the university allows diversity. Whatever religion you follow you will not be offended as you can use the time to worship your own way (or think of the pints down the pub afterwards, if you want). Diversity is good in itself because it allows people to get on without strife...The university is not letting us down in its search for accuracy and truth by doing it [eliminating graduation prayer]. It’s merely searching for an answer to a difficult question. Perhaps the best answer would be to get rid of prayers or 'moments of reflection' altogether. That way religion does not come into it at all. It is, after all, a highly personal thing."