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The University of California, Davis, has launched a new program called “Blessing in the Schools that recognizes the efforts of individual campus members in advancing religious liberty, including prayer at commencement,” according to an article by the Sacramento Bee. These students are chosen for their commitment to campus diversity and have achieved national recognition for their advocacy of religious freedom.
The paper goes on to detail how the school has developed a policy that requires that all commencement speakers offer either a prayer or a short message before their speeches. The paper concludes that, as a result, “A significant number of speakers on campus have expressed willingness to speak or lead a student group without a prayer during their speeches. And a few groups have formed to ensure these invitations will be honored, a practice that they say puts an inclusive focus on campus, instead of an exclusive one.”
The article highlights that the program, the first of its kind at UC Davis, is intended to encourage students to engage “in prayer and Bible study, teach scripture while they’re home studying or while on campus. It’s a chance to hear other voices, to learn about what makes our community stronger.”
I am very grateful to be working with UC Davis on this issue, and am thrilled to see our campus leading the way. The student groups who participated are strong, and their stories are inspiring. I have heard from many of them personally and am committed to continuing to work with them to develop policy that respects the rights of all to participate openly, and that allows all to participate in worship together with fellow students.
The paper notes how the program does not specifically address religious freedom issues. But the Bee article points out that the program represents a significant victory for First Amendment religious freedom laws.
“It’s not often that a college does something like this, but there are a huge number of groups out there that have started to take action against religion and the beliefs of other students.” Professor Daniel Blomberg, a UC Davis law professor, who specializes in religious law, adds: “Blessing in the Schools is a significant step in the right direction for students. And I hope
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