Editors Note: A previous version of this story erroneously read that public nondenominational prayer is perfectly legal in a public university. The Tropolitan apologizes for the error and the section has been removed from the story. Keep out for an analysis on the legality of the issue by legal experts that we will be putting out soon..
The Troy University Student Government Association (SGA) voted down the “Prayer at University Events” resolution 18-14 at its meeting Tuesday night.
The bill introduced last week by Carter Ray, a senior geomatics and land surveying major from Troy, allowed for the establishment of a habit of prayer at Troy University sponsored events.
Resolution 2019-006 stated that according to the spirit of tradition, the SGA finds it appropriate to allow and encourage students to pray at university events.
While the resolution did clearly state that all-participation in community prayer was not mandatory, the student body’s reaction did not fit the expectations that Ray had for the bill.
“The tradition of prayer before athletic events, graduation ceremonies, it’s just a very well-known, popular thing that takes place, especially more so in the South,” Ray said. “Prayer provides students with relief and can be a very neutral way to provide hope, peace and comfort for students. I was a little surprised (at the reaction) because in the past it’s always been unanimous. We’ve never had a dissenting vote.”
Many students believe that it is wrong to hold prayers at the opening of university-sponsored events considering that Troy is a federally funded school. The question of constitutionality is raised, as well as the idea of a separation of church and state.
Others were less concerned by the legality of the bill but rather the appropriateness.
“Troy University as a public college and just claiming to be friendly to international students and have a wonderful international program, we should not be advocating for a certain religion’s prayer on a constitutional level,” said Emmie Haas, a junior international business major art minor from Panama City, Florida.
“I think we should all consider the implications of Troy seemingly excluding our otherwise (non-Christian) international students.”
Some students felt there was an establishment, however, in the sense that the prayers would likely always fall into the Christian faith category.
“As a country, we don’t have an official religion, and Troy is a public university,” said Ginny Tilley, a sophomore social work major from Wetumpka. “To pray only one type of prayer is obviously choosing one religion over the other.”
The international community being excluded was a concern that many students agreed with Haas on.
“We pride ourselves on being an international university,” said Angelina Kitts, a junior nursing major from Headland. “It feels wrong to associate a specific religion with the university when we have such a myriad of cultures here.”
Sarah Gillis, a junior communications major from Wetumpka and SGA senator, expressed interest in working on a bill that allowed for openness in what kind of prayer was said.
“Even though I am a practicing Christian, I want to see equality for everyone,” Gillis said.
With this initiative, any student of any religion would be free to lead their form of prayer without discrimination at a Troy-sponsored event should they approach the persons organizing said event.
Senators also brought up ideas to replace prayer.
Smit Shrestha, a senior computer sciences major from Chitwan, Nepal, and SGA senator suggested that there be a motion to include a moment of silence at the beginning of these events in order to be respectful of all religions and keeping it un-established as to what higher power the community should pray to.
“I am very grateful that our senate decided to vote how the students reacted,” said Molly Grace Womack, a junior accounting major from Trussville and executive vice president of the SGA. “They embodied their vote based on how the students felt. I appreciate everyone (the students) giving their thoughts on it because that’s what we’re here for, to be a voice for them.”
The SGA has made no mention of drafting a new resolution yet.