June 6th, 2011
04:07 PM ET

Following court ruling, Texas student prays at graduation

(CNN) - With the backing of a federal appeals court, a Texas student prayed from the podium of her high school graduation on Saturday.

"Whether you would like to join me or not, feel free to do as you see best," Angela Hildenbrand said shortly before she prayed at the Medina Valley High School graduation in Castroville, according to CNN San Antonio affiliate KSAT.

“God, I thank you for the support of the entire community through this case hearing," she said.

On Wednesday, a federal judge issued a ruling that would have banned Hildenbrand from delivering prayers at the graduation ceremony.

The ban, imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery, caught the attention of Gov. Rick Perry and state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who supported an emergency appeal filed by the Medina Valley Independent School District on Thursday.

The original lawsuit was filed last week by an agnostic family whose son attends the school, about 30 miles west of San Antonio. The Schultz family said their son would suffer "irreparable harm" if anyone prayed at the graduation ceremony.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling on Friday, saying the family had not persuaded the three-judge panel "that the individual prayers or other remarks to be given by students at graduation are, in fact, school-sponsored."

In a statement Saturday, the Schultz family said it did not attend the graduation ceremony.

"Our family chose not to attend the ceremony this evening because we did not feel welcome at the event and we even feared for our safety in light of how hostile some of the public comments have been,” the family said in a statement released by the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

“Graduation is a significant rite of passage for a young person,” the statement continued, “and we regret that our son will not be able to enjoy this special day with his peers.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Church and state • Schools • Texas

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