R 275
99-S 1054
Enacted 6/17/99

S E N A T E    R E S O L U T I O N


Introduced By: Senators Cote, Goodwin, Coderre T., Walaska and Gallo

Date Introduced : June 2, 1999

WHEREAS, The formation of our state government in 1636 was uniquely noted for its fundamental law permitting unlimited toleration of religious, establishing a community where no one could be punished for following the dictates of conscience; and

WHEREAS, Recent news reports have chronicled the systematic elimination of invocations and other forms of nonsectarian prayer at University of Rhode Island commencement ceremonies; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Governors for Higher Education has no policy concerning prayer at commencement ceremonies, and both Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island have continued to have nonsectarian prayers at their ceremonies; and

WHEREAS, The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decided on January 16, 1997, in the case Tanford vs. Brand, that Indiana State University could have nonsectarian invocation and benediction prayer at its commencement ceremonies; and

WHEREAS, That court observed that the practice of having prayers at university commencements is widespread throughout the nation, and ruled that the practice does not violate the Establishment Clause but is "simply a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country"; and

WHEREAS, The slow and systematic secularization of our public schools and institutions in recent decades has coincided with an increase in violence, and a deterioration of civility, tolerance and respect in our society; now therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the Senate of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby requests that the Board of Governors for Higher Education establish a policy governing the inclusion of nonsectarian clergy-led invocations and benedictions at commencement ceremonies at the state's colleges and university; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State be and he is hereby authorized and directed to transmit a duly certified copy of this resolution to the Board of Governors for Higher Education.

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