University of Windsor Drops Convocation Prayers Due to Pressure from Campus Atheists

Everyone congratulate Shawna Scott, the president of the Windsor-Essex County Atheist Society at the University of Windsor (in Ontario, Canada).

She (along with her group) led the charge to remove prayers from the school’s convocation ceremonies and the school recently issued a press release agreeing to change the tradition and have a moment of silence instead:

Shawna Scott (Jason Kryk – The Windsor Star)

The institution of a moment of reflection to replace prayer during University of Windsor Convocation ceremonies will create a more inclusive atmosphere, says Kaye Johnson, director of the Office of Human Rights, Equity and Accessibility.

“We operate to make things as inclusive as possible — widening the circle,” she says. “A moment of silent reflection will allow people to use this time as they need to, not as someone else decides.”

Shawna Scott, a psychology student who will receive her master’s degree during the October 13 Fall Convocation, welcomes the secular approach. President of the Windsor-Essex County Atheist Society, a ratified student club, she had petitioned the University this summer to adopt a moment of personal reflection.

“We are ecstatic that the university has made this change so that convocation is more inclusive of all students, both religious and nonreligious,” says Scott. “All students go through a lot of hard work to graduate. No student should be excluded from any part of convocation.”

That’s a wonderful change considering what has happened in the past:

In the fall convocation of 2011, Rev. Mary Templer of the University Community Church led the audience in a prayer that described God as “the source of all goodness, discipline and knowledge.”

“We pray you to bless this assembly, gather to recognize achievement, and celebrate life. Bless this and all universities in their quest for excellence. Be with teachers and students everywhere,” Templer recited, finishing with the traditional “Amen.”

Good riddance. Give the students the credit they deserve instead of giving God credit he never earned.

The next convocation is this coming Saturday. No one will be forced to pray to God against their own wishes, but anyone who wants to do it will have that option.

See? Everyone gets a choice! And that can’t be a bad thing at all, right? (*sigh*)

On Facebook, Scott issued this statement on behalf of the group:

The student members of the Windsor/Essex County Atheist Society and I would like to express our gratitude for this affirmation of the principles of diversity and tolerance. This shows plainly the commitment the University of Windsor makes to cultivating the virtue, discipline and knowledge of its students. When students are allowed to worship with their conscience, we all benefit. Special thanks to Kaye Johnson and others who advocated for this change. We would like to thank the author of the introduction to the moment of silence for composing a truly beautiful and meaningful statement. It will serve as a wonderful garland to the ceremony, enriching it for everyone.

It can be difficult to engage in re-evaluating and changing long-standing traditions, but it is clearer than ever that this commitment to diversity from the university administration will bring about a wonderful addition to an already meaningful ceremony. With our ever-changing, diverse student population, it is imperative that the University of Windsor continue its dedication to celebrating diversity.

The moment of reflection is inclusive of everyone. During the moment of reflection, people can make their own decision as to whether they want to pray, reflect, think about people who helped them along the way, and/or remember their experiences at the University of Windsor. This allows the students to examine the many factors that have helped them in their achievement and consider them in what is a very personal and very meaningful way.

I personally am glad that I will be able to stand with pride and say with all my fellow students, “Yes! I went to Windsor!” I look forward to attending convocation, where we may all join together in honouring the years of hard work that have brought us together. What will I do during the moment of reflection? I will think about the wonderful professors, teaching assistants, and university staff who helped me along the way. I will think about my family. I will think about my classmates and friends. I will think about the University of Windsor, which has been my home since 2007. I am looking forward to the next four years of my educational experience at the University of Windsor.

Shawna Scott and the 170+ members of the Windsor/Essex County Atheist Society.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Jenny

    Good news from my home town! :D

  • Guest

    Dictatorship of the minority. Scary Hitler types.

  • C Peterson

    What exactly is a “convocation ceremony”? Is this what the school calls their graduation ceremony? I ask because “convocation” is almost always a religious gathering of some sort (where you might reasonably expect prayer). In this case the word seems to mean something different than I’ve heard before or can readily find reference to after a casual Internet search.

  • Arclight

    Convocation is what the graduation ceremony at Ontario universities is called. It may be Canada-wide or Commonwealth-wide, but I’ve only ever attended universities in Ontario, so I couldn’t really say. Heck, it may only be called that at certain Ontario universities. It has nothing to do with religion, except when they shoehorn a prayer into it.

  • Joe Zamecki

    Actually this is for the consideration of ALL of the students, and everyone else there. This is better for everyone involved. Many Christians have told me that they don’t like how an out loud prayer can come off as insulting to non-religious folks in attendance. I sure wouldn’t want people thinking that I’m going out of my way to insult them. Even if it’s just ONE person who would be offended. The prayers do that.  

    Plus many Christians just feel that religion should be a personal thing, and that splattering it all over the room among mixed company really cheapens the prayer and the religion it comes from. “Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself.” Carlin

  • C Peterson


  • amycas

    It is considered bad form in these parts to Godwyn the thread with your first comment.

  • A Hangman on Tyre

    Hooray for my alma mater!!!  Glad to hear this news!!  Although it isn’t a surprise it took a while for it to happen.  University of Windsor sprung from Assumption University (yes, a Catholic University).

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    A moment of silence is always better than an earful of prayer. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    Yup. Just because we’re the minority, we should bend over and let our rights be stepped on. 

    Of course, if it was a right of yours being stepped on, you wouldn’t be comparing yourself to Hitler for screaming about it. Fucking hypocrite. 

  • Drakk

     So I can be dictated to by the people who believe in magic zombie jew carpenters, or the ones who don’t? Seems a pretty easy choice.

  • Fake

    An excellent, close to home success story.

  • Baal

     The argument is over used but I can’t but wonder if the “dictatorship” of hte  minority guy would be ok with an islamic prayer in a majority muslim area?  

  • Hamid

    Proud to be part of this group. We will also have a movie night next week to raise more money for “light the night” event.

  • Daniel Schiff

    Great job, Hamid, Shawna, and everyone!

  • Dr.knightmessenger

    Great job Shawna, you and your misguided followers are doing an awesome job in proving God’s Word in His Bible to be true.In  Matt. 24 Jesus spoke of the end times: “You will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other.”
    Every letter of protest about your group’s denial of God and demanding a change to the Convocation has resulted in hate-filled mocking responses laden with fowl language against our faith in God and especially against we Christians. But thisis  what we expected because the Bible tells us so. These are the kind of people who deny God and have brought shame on this once proud institution with its roots founded upon God’s Word and also the values which were the very foundation of our nation
    However, I will keep you in my prayers for you really do need God, for it is a terrible thing to live without His protection and love. Especially now you need His forgiveness for your terrible sin of denial. May His Holy Spirit come upon you to rescue you from evil, for you are presently under the influence of  evil forces, that seek your destruction, which is why you have eyes and do not see and have ears but do not hear. Amen.

  • Pianoman

    Interesting Ms.Johnson intimidated by a student, but apparently has no fear of God. Just what is she afraid of, the atheist society?