As the first decade of the new millennium comes to a close, the irony of the board’s legal situation is remarkable. Here we are with a bankrupt state and an American Public that’s not too far behind it and we’re caught up in a debate over prayer at state funded institution. Without even going into situations outside our boarders, it is a bit of a disappointment that legislation has to be spent on such a seemingly clear-cut matter of keeping religion separate from government.
Granted that our great nation was founded, in significant part, on the principles of a group of people that were heavily entrenched in the Christian faith. Also granted is that Christians and folks not opposed to prayer do, in fact, make up a significant portion of the American population. The bottom line, however, is that those who laid the foundation for this Union did so in a way that maintains a wall between the church and the state.
Thomas Jefferson, author of The Declaration of Independence and the 3rd president of the United States believed that a fundamental of this separation was that “religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god.” Since our population is comprised of such an array of doctrine, even within the Christian faith, it is impossible for an individual to maintain a personal belief structure if the state or any public institution endorses any one faith system, on any level. Being that Saddleback College is a state funded institution, it is ethically inappropriate to include any sort of theological invocation with public meetings and ceremonies.
Compounding the frustration involved with debating such a long-established standard is that there is a plethora of alternatives to delivering a Christian-themed prayer. The easy way out, of course, is observing a moment of silence in the time that normally be spent in prayer but this option tends to lack the panache of carefully selected words, delivered my a senior member of the community.
We have to remember that the reason we came to this fine college is muster whatever it is within ourselves that we muster to better our lives in whatever ways that we see fit. In many circles this mustering may be identified as faith, weather it be in god, science or otherwise. Aside from evoking the religious, Wagner’s prayers also remind us to look inside ourselves to find whatever it takes to fight the great fight.
Perhaps the answer to this conundrum is not to remove to words themselves via a moment of silence but to simply remove God from the words. Perhaps at next spring’s graduation ceremony, Trustee Wagner may offer passages from the great educators from our past that shed light on the commitment to education, rather than matters of religious docterine.