By Gudrun Schultz

TORONTO, Ontario, March 15, 2006 ( – A student atheist group at the University of Toronto is campaigning to have all elements of prayer removed from the convocation ceremonies at the University.

Members of the Toronto Secular Alliance say they are “disgusted” at having to listen to words like “Eternal God” at a public ceremony. The government-funded student group is demanding that all religious elements should be banned from any public ceremony on campus.

Stephen DeSousa, U of T public affairs, told the National Post that basic prayer has been part of the convocation tradition since the university began in 1827. The traditional 14-line prayer in use today was already “sanitized” in 1990, when “Eternal Father” was changed to read “Eternal God.”

Ralph Wushke is campus chaplain for the university. He told the Post he has never received any complaints from students about the use of the prayer.

“The prayer had a lovely sentiment of wisdom and understanding—nothing particular to Christianity,” he said.

“It gives thanks to wisdom and learning. I always found it very meaningful. It was a blessing for all learning, the search for knowledge, research and the desire for creativity. That desire to create is in part an activity in spirit.”

Mr. Wushke referred to the alliance as an “active bunch” saying, “Only absolute atheists would have objected.”

The convocation committee’s report on the issue is due out mid April.

The text of the prayer appears below.

To contact the University of Toronto Department of Public Affairs and express concern:

Department of Public Affairs
  University of Toronto
  21 King’s College Circle
  Toronto, ON
  Canada M5S 3J3
  Tel: (416) 978-8638

University of Toronto convocation prayer:

Eternal god, from whom alone come wisdom and understanding, we pray that you will bless and preserve our Universities, Colleges and Schools. In particular, we pray that you will look with favour upon this University and all its sons and daughters. Let knowledge be increased among us and all good learning flourish and abound. Bless all who teach and all who learn, and grant that we may always look to you, the source of light and ground of truth, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.