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From The Back Pew

June 19, 2010|Michael J. Arvizu

This week I was honored to attend the baccalaureate service at St. Bede's Church, which saw students from La Cañada High School and elsewhere attend.

It had to be held in a church, because from what I have been told, you can't have it at school because of that whole separation-of-church-and-state thing.

My baccalaureate was held at Crescenta Valley High School in 1999, complete with prayers and all. No one complained. It was a lovely service. All of my classmates wore their caps and gowns. It was traditional. It worked.

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For some reason, school districts have frowned over having baccalaureates in their school auditoriums. Although I have yet to research the timeline of events, I know my high school ceased to have their baccalaureate in the auditorium several years ago, much to the chagrin of parents. The school's annual baccalaureate represents, what, .01% of the time students will ever spend at school. And you can bet that one-tenth of a percent will be spent in prayer at their school. (And what student doesn't pray at school anyway, hoping they didn't flunk their algebra final?) The other 99.99% will be spent in nonreligious activities.

From what Levent Akbarut, one of the organizers of Tuesday's event, tells me, the service was begun out of a response to schools' refusals to have religious services on their property. What resulted was the interfaith service, began as such in 2007. While I am not against such services, I wish students would be able to experience a more prayerful connection to their school while at least at the school, inside the walls of the institution they have worked in for four years. Could it be an interfaith service? Of course! Invite other schools to participate? Definitely!

But have it in the school.

This argument is far from over. And I get the feeling that our local schools have compensated by holding their baccalaureates elsewhere. But hopefully, one day, we can put aside what we must obey and bring back our tradition.

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