Fox News reports:
Officials at East Carolina University are telling students to disregard instructions from a chemistry professor who told them they were prohibited from mentioning God during a departmental graduation ceremony.
In an email obtained by Campus Reform, Assistant Professor Eli Hvastkovs told his students to prepare "family friendly" statements for the chemistry department's recognition event. He said the remarks should refrain from mentioning God.
"University officials told WNCT-TV the email was not authorized by the school and that the incident is being used to boost awareness of students' free speech rights," Fox continues.
"In a separate email to chemistry students this week, ECU Provost Dr. Marilyn Sheerer said that religious references 'of any type' will not be restricted," according to Fox.
"These statements can be your personal expressions and as such the University will only limit these expressions, as permitted by applicable First Amendment law," Sheerer is quoted as saying.
"In an interview with Campus Reform last week, Hvastkovs defended the e-mail, which he said was necessary because too many students recognized religious figures during last year's ceremony," Fox reports.
"It's not a religious ceremony," Hvastkovs is quoted as saying. "It's purely educational."
Comment: Officials at East Carolina University are correct in their decision to tell students to disregard instructions that prohibit the mention of God during a chemistry department graduation ceremony.
For one thing, there is nothing in chemical science that prohibits the Creator. In fact, it's the other way around, for God is a science-starter, not a science-stopper. Chemists or professors of chemistry who believe in materialism or naturalistic philosophy may reject the concept of a Creator, but this is their philosophy talking, not their science talking. And it is poor philosophy at that.
Second, there is nothing in the First Amendment that prohibits science students, or any student of any academic discipline in the United States, from thanking God during graduation. Again, it's quite the other way around. What the First Amendment places limits upon is Congress (not students) -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Needless to say, students of East Carolina University are not Congress. And whether such students decide to thank God or not, this is a matter of no Constitutional concern to the federal government.
Regarding the professor's comment that graduation is an "educational" ceremony, not a "religious" one, I should point out the Judeo-Christian worldview is in no way "religious" in the manner that the professor seems to have in view. This worldview is profoundly pro-education.
The Judeo-Christian worldview is open to verification, for example, to questioning and critical thinking, and does not ask for commitment divorced from facts, empirical evidence, or solid reasoning. That view of "faith" is sub-Biblical and speaks more of a dumbed-down secularism or age-old gnosticism that no thinking, creative person serious about the basic questions of life ought to embrace.
The thought-forms expressed in the data of the Judeo-Christian worldview encourage science, encourage the life of the mind, and encourage the wholistic, non-hypocritical application of truth across all of life.
It is the sort of thing that if true, ought to be affirmed but that, if false, ought to be rejected. I must say, as a free-thinker, this is a mentality I greatly appreciate.
The whole point is that of verifiable and knowable truth that sets human beings free -- across the whole of life and in the depths of human existence.
For what reason? So that human beings might experience substantial healing in relationship to the Creator, to our fellow man, and to the cosmos.
Nothing could be more natural than that students and professors of chemistry (and even chemistry itself) express the thankfulness that arises in response to the verifiable Ultimate Person who embedded the possibility of chemistry in the natural order in the first place.
Education is doxology. It leaves religion far behind.