For years now, the graduation ceremony at Muskegon Community College has included a religious invocation that is explicitly Christian. It was delivered this past May by longtime MCC Trustee Ann Oakes, who made frequent reference to “God,” the “Lord,” and “Jesus” in her prayer.
Let us pray. Gracious Lord we thank you, that you are with us. We thank you for your loving kindness, family, friends. We thank you for all those that have helped us come to this present time. We thank you for all things. For we know that all things work together for good. To them that love the Lord, those who are the called, according to His purpose, for this purpose tonight, we say thank you. Thank you for this very moment. Thank you God, for the wonderful, the joys. We thank you Oh God, for the tears that may be shed, but tears of joy. God we say [thank] you for this moment. God, we don’t know what the future holds, but we know you hold our future, so we ask for a special blessing upon the class of 2018. Open special doors for them. Do miraculous things for them. God bless them in a special way as they continue their educational journey. We ask Oh God, for the wisdom of Solomon. We ask Oh God, for the inner strength of Sampson. But above all we ask for a heart of love like you. In Jesus Name, we pray. Amen.
All of that belongs in a church service, not a public school with a captive audience being told to pray along with the speaker.
Good thing the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists is on the case. Group leader Mitch Kahle sent a letter to MCC President Dale Nesbary calling on him to end this religious tradition before a court has to force the school to do it.
“I have 100 percent confidence that this will never happen again,” said Mitch Kahle of MACRA, adding that the prohibition of invocations at public school and college events, including graduation ceremonies, is “settled law.”
“These things fly under the radar,” Kahle said of the commencement invocation. “Unless you’re there, you don’t know. This is completely prohibited.“
Kahle clearly knows the law far better than the people running this school. While MCC hasn’t said invocations will end, it would be irresponsible of the administrators there to do anything else. They owe to their students to offer a graduation ceremony that doesn’t cater only to one religious group — and even more specifically, the members of that group who don’t give a damn about church/state separation.