University of Alberta Looks at Erasing God from Graduation Ceremony



October 28, 2008

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

EDMONTON, October 27, 2008 ( – The University of Alberta’s Atheists and Agnostics (A &A) society wants to take God off the program when students line up in caps and gowns to get their degrees this. Traditionally the chancellor’s speech to the new graduates urges them to use their knowledge for “the glory of God and the honour of your country.”

Ian Bushfield, head of the university’s A & A association, objects to this and has petitioned the University of Alberta to remove the reference to God in the traditional convocation speech.

Bushfield said the reference is outdated and not reflective of recent national surveys that found about 35 per cent of Canadians under 25 do not believe in a God.

“What they are doing is basically implying that everyone who graduates from the university should be doing certain things with their degree, and this kind of charge requires a belief in something up to one-third of campus might not have,” Bushfield told the Calgary Herald on Friday.

“We want an inclusive convocation where everyone feels welcome and able to participate,” said Bushfield in a Canadian Press report.

“A lot of schools have moved away from these references. We want to have our school match what the University of Toronto and University of Calgary have already done.”

In 2006 a student atheist group at the University of Toronto, the Toronto Secular Alliance, said they were “disgusted” at having to listen to words like “Eternal God” at a public ceremony and campaigned to have all elements of prayer removed from the convocation ceremonies at the University.

Stephen DeSousa, head of U of T public affairs, told the National Post that the prayer used at graduation had been part of the convocation tradition since the university began in 1827.

Today, an executive committee of the U of A General Faculties Council will convene to hear arguments for and against removing the reference to God, with professors, support staff and Christian groups on campus expected to make presentations.

The committee is then expected to make a recommendation on Nov. 3 to the Council who will vote on the issue, but not in time to make any changes to the November convocation.

Andrew Chan, of the group Christians in Action Bible Study, said it’s OK if the line is softened, but he believes the religious theme should remain part of convocation.

“From my standpoint, the line has historical value because the U of A was founded on Christian beliefs,” Chan said in the Calgary Herald report. “Taking that out would take out a part of the university’s history.”

To contact the U of A with your concern:

University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera
Office of the President
Phone: 780-492-3212
Email: [email protected]
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T6G 2H1

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