At the University of Toronto, a student group has taken significant issue with a prayer said during its school’s convocation.
The Toronto Secular Alliance, composed mostly of atheists, wants the prayer removed from the ceremony because it feels it is unfair to subject students of differing beliefs to a heavily Christian tradition.
The prayer has been included in Toronto’s convocation ceremony since 1827, and the university does not seem open to change. Administrators defend the prayer, saying it is non-denominational.
U of T cannot hide the fact it is a very multicultural school; such a prayer during convocation simply doesn’t resonate with most students in this day and age. Students pay to be at such a prestigious institution and those who value the prayer have plenty of opportunity to worship and pray on their own time.
Some argue the prayer is an important part of the school’s tradition. Indeed, the University of Toronto has strong Christian tradition with such namesakes as Trinity College and St. Michael’s College, and how much harm does listening to a short 30-second prayer really do?
The problem is that U of T no longer advertises itself as a Christian institution. Such a forward-thinking institution aiming to provide a liberal education should be prepared to reform at the pace of our ever-secular society. Sometimes tradition no longer applies. Canada, for example, used to be a British dominion, yet we no longer have to sing “God Save the Queen” in public schools — even though British heritage is part of Canada’s tradition.
Tradition is important for an institution as storied as the University of Toronto. The school can still preserve its proud tradition, though, with its high academic prestige without subjecting students to varying levels of spirituality. Not many students are bothered by this practice, so the burden of proof is on the students who want the prayer removed.
It really doesn’t do much harm having the prayer in the ceremony. It isn’t inherently damaging for anyone to listen to a 30-second prayer, even if they don’t believe in it. Regardless, it shouldn’t be a big deal to remove the prayer, especially if it puts members of the Toronto Secular Alliance at ease and shortens an already long-winded convocation.
Western is also a premier Canadian institution of higher learning, and it does not include a prayer in its convocation ceremonies. Also, Western has not received any complaints from students.
The University of Toronto is not a religious institution; it does not advertise itself as a Christian school like many Ontario Catholic high schools. If you enrol your child in a Catholic high school, you can expect religion to be a part of daily school life. At the University of Toronto, it is wrong to expect such a progressive school to maintain an unimportant, potentially offensive tradition.