We give our hearty support to the petition which is to be circulated asking for the abolition of compulsory prayers. In taking this stand we are not influenced by disrespect for the system of daily prayer, nor by dissatisfaction with the manner in which they are conducted. We simply hold that compulsion in any religious observance renders the effect nugatory, and at the same time tends to prevent that spontaneity of motive for a religious life which alone is productive of good. The discussion in regard to compulsory prayers that has been carried on in the papers of the day, as far as reason is concerned, has been of but one tenor. The compulsory element has been shown to be inconsistent with Harvard's stand on other matters, and of very doubtful policy. To these arguments, those who uphold the present order have simply replied that compulsory prayers are, must be, and have been. The petition of last year was not granted, doubtless after careful consideration. The presentation of a second petition signed by nearly every undergraduate, will call for reconsideration and, if due respect is given to the signers, must either be granted, or substantial reasons given for the refusal to grant it.
As an example of two sources of religious influence in our midst, we would mention the morning compulsory prayers, and the weekly meetings of the Christian Brethren. Without fear of contradiction, we think that we can say that the comparatively few meetings of the Christian Brethren attended perhaps but by a small number, exert a more potent influence throughout the entire college, than the daily prayers. The general religious standing of the college is raised by these meetings attended voluntarily from sincere Christian motives, but the compulsory attendance at daily prayers affects this religious standing adversely if at all. With profound respect for religion, we earnestly call for a recognition of its proper sphere, and an observance of it, which is based on sincerity and not on half-hearted indifference, or positive mockery.