Chancellor pushes God to UW grads

Chancellor Bernie Patterson of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point told the approximately 1,425 graduates in the chancellor’s “charge” near the end of their May 17 ceremonies that when confronting an ethical dilemma at some point in their lives, they’ll have to lean on their foundation — “That is, your education and your faith in God. Now go and be servant-leaders. Godspeed.”

A graduate’s family member brought the statement, which Patterson has made at commencements in years past, to FFRF’s attention. In a May 22 letter, Staff Attorney Sam Grover told Patterson such remarks are inappropriate. “Graduation should be an inclusive, unifying event designed to celebrate the accomplishments and prospects of the graduates. Including religious references does exactly the opposite, isolating non-Christian and nonreligious students, cheapening their participation by sending the message that they are outsiders at their own graduation and in their own community.”

Grover added, “The university should be particularly sensitive to respecting the rights and conscience of the nonreligious, given that universities serve the least religious population in the country. One in three college-aged Americans (ages 18-29) are not religious.”

Patterson responded with a letter of thanks July 18. “I understand your concerns and will take them under consideration.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation