Friday, May 21, 2010

More Colleges Drop Prayer at Commencement

Prayer was dropped from New Hampshire Technical Institute's graduation ceremony in an effort to shorten the program.

-- From "NHTI grads don't get prayer" by Paula Tracy, New Hampshire Union Leader Staff 5/21/10

Stephen Caccia, vice president of student affairs at NHTI, Concord's Community College, said . . . "We were looking for ways to shorten the program. It's not because we don't believe in prayer."

Anni McLaughlin, professor of communications/English and adviser for the Christian Student Organization, circulated an e-mail among faculty and administrators questioning why the prayer was removed.

In the 13 years she has attended graduations at NHTI, she said, the school has had members of varying faiths provide a short, ecumenical message "to reach everyone." When there was no prayer this year, "it made the ceremony so empty." While she respects Caccia, the issue of shortening the ceremony did not seem to be a very good one, McLaughlin said.

Plymouth State University's commencement this Saturday also won't include a prayer. Bruce Lyndes, spokesman for the state-run university, said there has not been a prayer offered for several years.

Robin Dutcher, spokesman for Keene State College, said it did not offer a prayer at May 8's commencement and has not for the five years she has been there.

McLaughlin said two major rulings in 1997 allowing prayer at graduations still stand today: Tanford v. Brand (104 F.3d 982), a decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declining to forbid prayers at public university graduation ceremonies; and Chaudhuri v. State of Tennessee (130 F.3d 232), a decision by the 6th Circuit upholding a graduation prayer at Tennessee State University.

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