First, a little background:
I’m a junior at a San Antonio, Texas high school. Every year, when the seniors graduate, an invocation is said at the beginning of the ceremony. This is done by the Chaplain of the Senior (graduating) Class.
Now, my comment:
Partially because I don’t want some yahoo going up there and saying a prayer that would offend Muslims/Atheists/Wiccans/whoever, I decided to throw my hat into the ring. Now, it seems I stand a good chance of winning.
Assuming I do win, how should I go about this invocation at graduation, while still, maintaining the integrity of the prayer? Do I say invoke “Our Creator” instead of directly mentioning Jesus? (I am A Christian.)
The decision allowing school prayer in these particular circumstances is very specific. The key is that it is entirely up to the student to decide what to say. It may be a prayer but could equally be a poem or any other inspirational message.
The situation you describe doesn’t sound like it meets this criteria at all. At best it is a sham disrespectful of the law and the principles of your own religious beliefs that presumably place some value on honesty. What a great way to start your senior year.
If you can get away with it consider actually living up to the spirit of the decision and give a non religious message. Otherwise pick what you want, your inevitably going to offend someone by forcing them to sit through your religious exercise.
Why not take the time to find out all the different religions represented in the graduating class (don’t forget the non-religious) and make a short statement about how remarkable it is that students from such a wide variety of beliefs can co-exist without violence.
In a small group I once worked with in high tech we had
atheists, jews, moslems, hindus, roman catholics, protestants, buddhists, and mormons.
Here’s the $64 question: Do you attend a public school or a private school. If it’s private, then all the SOCAS issues are moot and you’re left with the simple question of what type of invocation to use.
First off, I am of the opinion that a prayer at a high school graduation ceremony should be flatly disallowed. I consider such a prayer to be a blatant violation of SOCAS. Such a prayer is certain to offend or disenfranchise someone at a ceremony that is supposed to honor them.
That said, the fact remains that most schools sneak around the rules by doing the “student chaplain elected by the senior class” thing and declaring it all “free speech.” So, Soup du jour, I consider your approach to be a sort of damage control – by getting yourself elected, you assure that the prayer won’t be delivered by some christian-elitist who really doesn’t care about disenfranchising non-christians because “this is a christian country” and “outsiders” should just learn to deal with it. So, good on you, kiddo. I commend your sensitivity
Several people have suggested that you inject a certain militacy into your “prayer.” I think that’s a great idea if you want to go that route. Personally, I loved jr8’s second suggestion. However, I won’t blame you one bit if you want to avoid controversy in what is supposed to be a festive ceremony honoring your, and your classmate’s, achievement. So, I’m suggesting the good ol’ Desiderada. Sure, it’s hokey, but hokeyness is the nature of the beast at a graduation ceremony. And, although it sounds prayer-ish, it is extremely non-denominational. God is only mentioned once (“Be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be”) and the truth of his existance is left open – I, for instance, “conceive him to be” a myth. Also, the advise in the poem is highly appropriate to a graduation ceremony. IMO.
Okay, I have the feeling I’m missing something here.
Right now (March 2001) you are a junior. In May, the seniors will be graduating. At the graduation, the current chaplain of the senior class (whoever it is) will say a prayer for the 2001 graduation.
What you are talking about is running for election to be next year’s chaplain, is that it? For the graduating class of 2002?
So, if you win the election, you’ll have a whole year to think about what you’re going to say?
Is this a private school or a public school? A public school that has a “chaplain”? Eh, guys, I think it’s a little bit late to tell him, “It’s against the law to give a prayer”, if this is the kind of school that already has a chaplain. You’re wasting your breath.
Let’s face it–and I really don’t need Merriam-Webster to cite this, but here it is anyway:
–a “chaplain” is a specifically Christian office. His school is probably going to be expecting a Christian prayer, not a liberal “Father/Mother God” sort of thing. But the “Desiderata” is good, although I’ll bet a nickel that most everybody will think it’s from Ecclesiastes.
If you’re really uncomfortable about what to say, don’t run for office. Let the “yahoo” get up there and spout off however he likes. Are you speaking from experience? Did this happen in previous years?
I’m concerned you’ll find yourself in the center of a firestorm by trying, and failing, to please everybody. It’s not up to you to singlehandedly change the school policy.
And if your school is anything like my school was (downstate Illinois, early 1970s), the principal is going to want you to give him some idea of what you’re going to say before you actually get up there.