It Pays to Complain: March 2016

FFRF member Dr. David Schultz reports that the Secular Student Alliance at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., recently got the university to eliminate prayer from commencement ceremonies.

Schultz is on the board of directors of the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association and faculty advisor and sponsor of the SSA at Nicholls State.

Here is the story in his words:

“The SSA recently had a surprising win. Nicholls State University, like all other state universities in Louisiana, has had prayers at its commencement exercises — an invocation and a benediction. The prayers were regular given by a Catholic priest or a Protestant (usually Baptist) minister.

“Last fall, the president of the SSA (Sarah Barrios) sent a letter to the president of Nicholls State asking him to consider broadening the diversity of sectarian prayers given or to eliminate prayer entirely out of respect for those of other faiths and those of no faith.

“We were surprised and very pleased to see that at the commencement exercises last fall there was only a moment of silence. No prayer. On returning to campus in January, Sarah had a letter from the president’s chief of staff thanking her for her suggestion and stating that they planned to remove prayer from the commencement exercises.

“The response of the university was a surprise to everyone. We’re in a very religious area. A large number of our students come from sectarian high schools. We have a St. Thomas Aquinas Center and Baptist Campus Ministry on the university’s property.

“I’ve griped to sympathetic faculty members about the religiosity that has been a part of the campus culture since its beginnings and the common response has been something like ‘You have to realize where we are.’

“We’re excited that the SSA, only in its third semester at Nicholls State University, has already attracted attention and made an impact on the academic culture at the university.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation