A decision earlier this week by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond over the prayer before evening mess at V.M.I. has had a ripple effect on The Citadel.
The court decided Wednesday to let stand a three-judge panel's decision that the cadet-led non-denominational prayer before evening mess was unconstitutional because attendance at the meal was mandatory. Because The Citadel falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. 4th Circuit, the decision is the law unless it is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, according to The Citadel's legal counsel.
As a consequence, cadets at The Citadel will observe a moment of silence before meals in the mess hall that will allow cadets to pray, meditate or simply be quiet, according to Major General John Grinalds, The Citadel's president.
"This moment of silence will allow you to express your individual beliefs in your own way," Grinalds told a gathering of cadet leaders on Friday morning. "While the 4th Circuit Court ruling will create some changes here, the college will abide by the law."
The president affirmed the college's commitment to spiritual growth as one of the four pillars of a Citadel education. "Spiritual growth is an individual process and The Citadel will continue to provide cadets with an array of religious activities that will allow them to voluntarily practice their religious beliefs."
The college will no longer have spoken prayers at mandatory gatherings but will let cadets know of the wide array of religious activities available to them. Those include voluntary chapel on Sunday mornings, a variety of religious clubs and religious-oriented organizations, and availability of religious officers in each battalion and on the regimental staff.
The Citadel also makes
special accommodations for cadets to practice the tenets of their faith
through such adjustments as special leave for religious holidays and dietary
accommodations for meals.