Secular GraduationI am a graduating senior in computer...


April 28, 1993

Secular Graduation

I am a graduating senior in computer science and philosophy at the University of Maryland College Park. I recently discovered that the University of Maryland has invocations and benedictions at commencement ceremonies.

Many students don't realize this until they are sitting at commencement, when it is too late to protest.

I was surprised that the administration still has a policy instructing chaplains to give non-denominational (i.e., monotheistic) speeches, while the university has tried to create an atmosphere welcome to everyone.

First, religious benedictions and invocations often alienate those people who are not Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Though I was brought up with Judaism, I have since decided that given my beliefs about the world, I would be dishonest convincing myself there exists a god.

There are enough pressures to believe in a god, that I should be free of them at commencement, when I celebrate earning my college degree at a public institution. The First Amendment does call for a separation of church and state.

Non-religious universities should try to provide an open-minded and tolerant attitude. By open-minded, I mean that they should not put forth during a commencement for everyone, any speeches about god(s).

There are private religious ceremonies that students and family can choose to attend. The University of Maryland should tolerate a diversity of religious views, and not show favor to any (as it does to monotheism).

I speak for myself, as an atheist, but I also realize that there are Buddhist, Taoists, and agnostics who don't want monotheism at commencement -- a ceremony that should be personally meaningful.

Many people will be offended and feel excluded if we must listen to a chaplain give non-denominational benedictions and invocations at the public commencement ceremonies.

Everyone who earns a degree at the University of Maryland should be able to celebrate this accomplishment at the public commencement without feeling pressure to believe in a monotheistic god.

And those who are religious should be able to attend private religious services before and after commencement.

I hope that the university will re-evaluate its current policy and realize that a commencement that recognizes the constitutional separation of church and state and includes everyone is the appropriate thing to do.

William J. La Cholter


Field of Ashes

Although I truly agree with Gary Perlman's letter of April 16 entitled "Level Field," I have to laugh at his concerns about poor kids' baseball field conditions.

During the fifties when we played baseball every day from May to September, we never played on a field with grass, never had adult supervision and never ever dreamed of having umpires. Our fields were composed of cinder or asphalt. Usually when there was a clump of grass we dug it out so that a ground ball would not hit it.

We were raised in a solid, blue-collar, middle-class, neighborhood, but we never dreamed or even desired such luxuries as lights, fences, baselines, new balls and bats, etc. Our main field was located on an ash dump landfill which we leveled ourselves and dug and hauled dirt from the nearby woods to make base paths.

I don't feel bad because the poor kids today don't have an equal opportunity to play on good fields, I feel bad because they lack the desire to play under any conditions and lack the initiative to improve those conditions on their own.

Jim Zitzer


Holocaust Toll

I believe that six million Jews were massacred and I believe that another six million people were also put to death. Priests, nuns, Catholics, Protestants, gays and lesbians, French, German and Italian.

We have somehow forgotten the other six million. The Holocaust is not just a Jewish thing, it encompasses all of us.

Bob Longo


Feeding Trough

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas and his Republican wrecking crew are determined that President Clinton's jobs bill goes down in flames.

Senate Republicans denounce the jobs bill as one containing too many ''pork barrel'' spending projects.

Where were those Republicans when, during the Reagan and Bush administrations, the Agriculture Department enriched McDonald's with $465,000 for ads, paper tray liners and counter displays to promote chicken nuggets to customers around the world?

Where was Bob Dole when Republican presidents were doling out $450,000 to the Campbell Soup Company to promote its V-8 Juice around the world? Where was Rep. Robert K. Dornan of California when Pillsbury got $2.9 million to promote processed corn?

Where was Rep. Dick Armey of Texas when Sunkist Growers were given nearly $10 million to promote citrus? Or when the Gallo winery was handed nearly $5 million?

Other large corporations fared as well. When Republican leaders strive to convince us that the economy needs no governmentintervention and demand less government interference in our lives, they are invariably not referring to welfare for the wealthy.

Leon Peace Ried


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