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Letters: The Dentist's Prayer

March 16, 2020

I commend the ADA’s decision to take a neutral policy stance with respect to religion; rescinding The Dentist’s Prayer and permitting a moment of silence at the start of meetings to accommodate prayer or personal reflection (“House Rescinds The Dentist’s Prayer, Amends Recognition of Religious Diversity Policy to be More Inclusive,” Feb. 3 ADA News). Unfortunately, judging from his letter to the editor (Feb. 3 ADA News), Dr. Joseph Kalil, the author of “The Dentist’s Prayer,” remains unconvinced that religion should not be endorsed by a secular, science-based organization like the ADA.

In hopes of combating this and with the hope of convincing my colleagues who hold strong convictions of faith to remain ADA members, I offer my version of “The Dentist’s Prayer”: Thank you, O ADA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, for the privilege of being a member of a professional organization that remains neutral with respect to the religious beliefs or lack thereof of its members. May I always be treated with no more and no less reverence than every other dues-paying human life that upholds the ethical principles of the ADA. Deepen my love for my fellow members who lean on their religious beliefs to foster their professional ethics and compassion while taking care to avoid making colleagues feel unwelcome if they do not believe in the supernatural. Help me and each member understand that what unites us as an organization must be stronger than what divides us or surely we shall perish. Teach me to tolerate my colleagues’ need to engage in silent prayer during ADA functions by reminding me to use that time as a moment of personal professional reflection, to be a better dentist, and colleague, with empathy as well as intellect. I am proud to be a member of a professional health care organization that does not accommodate any member at the expense of another. I am thankful that the ADA understands that the best way to herd cats is to politely, but firmly, guard its secularity in the interest of inclusivity. We can certainly remain respectful of the religious beliefs of each member while barring religious endorsement or favoritism. As H. L. Mencken put it, “We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”

Frank A. Cornella, D.D.S., M.D.
Springfield, Missouri