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June 6th, 2013
10:37 AM ET

With his speech, valedictorian brings God to graduation

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='JRavitzCNN']

(CNN) - Leading up to Saturday’s ceremony, Roy Costner IV prayed on what he was going to do. Liberty High School’s 2013 valedictorian would soon find himself in front of a microphone. He’d have a pulpit from which he could address his small community tucked away in South Carolina’s mountainous corner.

Only his father and pastor knew what was weighing on his heart and mind. Could he, should he, insert a prayer in his pre-approved graduation speech? He’d been told by the school principal that talk of religion wasn’t allowed, and so far he’d followed the rules.

But as the day approached, the 18-year-old couldn’t deny what he felt he needed to do.

“I wanted to stand up for God,” he explained Wednesday. “This is what God wanted me to do.”

So Costner, in cap and gown, stood behind the podium and ripped up his original speech. Before he gave shout-outs to coaches, cheerleaders and friends, there was something else he wanted to say.

“One thing I am certain of is we’re all a sum of our experiences, both good and bad,” he told his fellow graduates, a class of about 150. “All in all, those experiences, the people who mentored us, that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today. I’m so thankful that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age. And I think most of you will understand when I say, ‘Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …”

The crowd before him began to cheer as he recited the Lord’s Prayer, drowning out a few verses. The school principal, sitting behind him, appeared uncomfortable and peered down at papers on her lap. The school district’s superintendent, a few seats over, couldn’t help but smile.

“I was tearing up,” Costner said, remembering the moment. “I was overwhelmed by the response. … The clapping was so loud I couldn’t hear myself talking into the microphone.”

His father told CNN's Piers Morgan on Thursday night he was overwhelmed with pride for his son. The younger Costner approached his dad a few days before the speech and showed him what he wanted to do.

"I said, 'Look, if you're doing this for political reasons, don't. But if you're doing it because you feel led to do it and you feel this is a part of your speech, then I want you to do it and I'll stand by you,' " Roy Costner III said.

Some who were there heaped on praise when talking to CNN affiliate WYFF. One called it “pretty impressive.” Another student said it “took a lot of courage” and that “people were proud that he stood up for what he believed in.”

What he believes is that Liberty, a town with three stoplights and a population of 3,000, “fully supports prayer.”

He also believes that organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wisconsin, group dedicated to maintaining separation of church and state, should stop meddling in the affairs of the Pickens County School District. The foundation, over this past school year, has leaned on the district to keep Jesus and student-led prayers out of school board meetings.

Other concerns went beyond board meetings. This spring, the foundation’s staff attorney sent a lawyer representing the district a letter about complaints of alleged discriminatory hiring and religious promotion in another county high school and praise music being played in an elementary school classroom. The foundation said it learned of such practices by way of community members who are, in fact, not fully supporting prayer.

Costner said he set out to make a statement, one he hopes will inspire others to stand up, too, for what he sees as the good of this country.

“Taking prayer out of schools is the worst thing we could do,” he said.

If Costner went to a Christian school, there would be no discussion, said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. But in public schools, even in a place where there may be a religious majority, prayers such as his are clearly unconstitutional, she said. What’s more, she added, what he did shows contempt for school district policy and a lack of sensitivity for his audience.

“It’s aggressive. It’s supremely rude,” she said. “This student is old enough to know that not everyone in the audience is Christian.”

But Costner, who was bouncing between interviews and heading to New York for TV appearances, said he counts atheists among his friends. He said that even though he doesn’t agree with their beliefs, he respects them – and that they do the same for him.

The elder Costner said his son had been inundated with messages of support, even from atheists.

He said he thinks the video of the speech resonated with people across the country because many people "really want something to hold onto for hope."

The son said he’s experienced no blowback from the district for what he did. And a district spokesman suggested Costner won’t.

“He’s a graduate now, so there’s nothing we can do about it even if we wanted to,” John Eby told WYFF. “But the bottom line is we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths.”

The district, Eby explained to CNN Friday morning, is in a “nearly impossible position.” He said federal law, under the Establishment Clause, is clear that public schools cannot “approve in advance a student’s prayer” or “carve out time specifically for religious expression.” But, under the Free Exercise Clause, he added, “we can’t punish students who do pray.”

Gaylor doesn’t expect there to be any punishment. But without issuing some sort of statement expressing disappointment and reiterating school policy, she said, the district is making a mistake.

“It’s one thing if a school doesn’t have a policy,” she said. “But when they do, they really need to enforce their policy because otherwise it’s just a wink and a nod.”

Eby has an answer to this.

“I do want to reiterate that we don’t approve rule breaking,” he said. “But we are very serious about protecting our students’ rights to express themselves religiously – or refuse to.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (5,383 Responses)
  1. Joe

    wonder how people would feel if he made a graduation speech about allah, or buddha, or vishnu, or zeus?

    June 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • maria

      They would have been mad as hell, of course. But they can't look at it objectively, can they? It's their religion or nothing at all.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
  2. NSA is listening but whatever

    Courage?....I'll show you courage. Speak up for the Flying Spaghetti Monster at an event like this. Lets see what happens then. Pal, take your religion down the street to the CHURCH. This was just plain disrespectful.

    June 6, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • America

      You are a nobody who has no courage nor much of an education.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @America,
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

      June 6, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      @NSA: The Flying Spaghetti Monster is not a legitimate faith. But if it were, I would respect it. @America: Your name-calling is showing your hatred and intolerance to others! Why does a belief that is not in agreement with your own bring out such hatred? Probably because on this forum we are anonymous and can unleash the beast within.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • maria

      America, you most likely have no education. He was right. It was disrespectful, as not everyone is a Christian. If had given a Muslim prayer, would you all be singing his praises? I doubt it.

      By the way, I am an atheist with a Bachelors degree in Biology. I specialized in Medical Sciences and for kicks minored in Chemistry. I worked in the Neuroanatomy lab at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, dissecting and mapping neurons in brains. I'm pretty uneducated, huh? You will find that the majority of scientists are atheists, yet you have no problems getting on a computer (invented by and atheist) and using the internet (invented by an atheist as well). Without the atheists, what would you have? Not much. No computer, no internet, no vaccines or progressive medical treatments. Without atheists, people would just be sitting around praying for things to get better.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • JustJosh

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing... "Courage"? How much "courage" does it really take to say you're a Christian in a nation that's over 70% Christian? It's like the 'bravery' of all those women who wear burkhas in Pakistan... Give me a break.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "You are a nobody who has no courage nor much of an education"

      America, do you think you're a "somebody"? I have news for you. You are unique-just like everyone else. Think about it, honey.

      I would bet money that just about every poster who's responded to you has more education than you do. And since you're not likely anything more than a high school grad, if that, I'm pretty sure I'd win.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  3. America

    The stupidity of atheists always astounds me. They think they are intelligent but there is no evidence of it in their comments.

    There is a reason that the best colleges have religious foundations. I don't see any atheist based college competing with Harvard, Yale, Oxford or Cambridge.

    Comment away you ignorant pieces of trash 🙂

    June 6, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • OOO

      All I can say is WOW!

      June 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • snowboarder

      colleges got their religious roots in the theists hopes that they could control knowledge.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • Observer

      America,

      "you ignorant pieces of trash"

      What would Jesus say? Keep up with the HYPOCRISY.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • NavinJay

      Who said this was about atheists? My mother-in-law is Jehovah Witness and they agree that religion shouldn't be in public like that. At they have respect for others.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • maria

      I am an atheist. And you automatically assume I am an "ignorant piece of trash". How loving, accepting and so typically Christian of you. For a Christian, you sure are exemplifying the virtures your religion preaches against.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • America

      @snowboarder- No they didn't. They were away to teach the clergy and then when they started admitting non-clerically minded students they were designed to help us understand God's design. Read the founding papers of most of the Ivy League universities.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • America

      @maria- I am not a Christian. How ignorant of you to assume that I am. You truly are ignorant trash.

      Thank you for proving my point. Now go get some sleep, you have a paycheck to paycheck existence to keep up.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Observer

      America,

      "they were designed to help us understand God's design."

      Do you mean supporting slavery and discrimination against women and the handicapped?

      Have you read a Bible?

      June 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @america, they were a way to control knowledge. they only allowed what was allowed within their dogma and ostracized all else.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • The real Tom

      My word, America. Your ignorance is astounding. The colleges and universities to which you refer are NOT religious inst intuitions. They were founded by religious people, you nit, but they're not bible colleges and your silly reference to them as such is just laughable.

      Of course, it's not like you're ever going to get into one of them, so...

      June 6, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • maria

      America, (the commenter) you are the ignorant troll. Sadly for you, I don't even have to work, nor do I have a paycheck to paycheck existence. Whatever your belief system, assuming atheists are ignorant trash proves that it is you who makes the assumptions.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
    • tallulah13

      blah, blah, blah trollcakes.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
    • Practice what you preach

      I'm sure your God would be real proud of that statement. Are you one of those people that goes to church on Sunday to make up for being an as shole the rest of the week?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:01 am |
  4. boredofceleb

    Good for him! I must say that took balls for him to do that in a public secular arena, but I wouldn't have minded had I been in the audience. Why? Not because of my faith or lack of it, but that we should ALL be allowed to express our views. Where the evil in people comes out is in the bigotry and intoleration of views that are not in agreement with our own. The only faith I have a problem with is one which espouses harm or killing to those who are nonbelievers. I am open-minded enough to embrace all beliefs or non-beliefs with respect.

    June 6, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @bored, not really, considering the overwhelmingly christian affiliation of the south. panding to the majority is hardly brave.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • toothtime

      If there are any so called 'atheists' or self-described 'freethinkers' at his school that act anything like the posters on here...
      ...he is very brave.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Right, so if he started citing prayers from a religion that though one race superior and the others should be enslaved you'd be all right with that? 30 minutes on promoting his political party in the next election OK? A speech on how the US should remove the vote from women? It's just all OK to ask people who want to see their kid graduate to sit through and pay tax dollars for anything I guess.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      He recited a prayer that a black woman who descended from slaves respected.

      "In 1999, Rosa Parks, the civil-rights heroine, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that can be given to a civilian. Parks received the award because nearly half a century ago, she changed the course of American history when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.

      Most people know the story of the seamstress who helped ignite the civil-rights movement, but many people don't know that Rosa Parks [was] a devout Christian, and that it was her faith that gave her the strength to do what she did that day in 1955."

      June 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Water_on_Mars, What on earth does Rosa Parks religion have to do with anything? Did she fight for the right to say prayers at high school graducations? Do you plan on listing every respected Christian as evidence of your point?

      June 6, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      What does what you have to say do with anything?

      He spoke for 30 seconds on his HONEST beliefs. Not 30 minutes.

      And he shares beliefs with a religion that freed a race of people. That is inspiring.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Praying in front of an audience comprised of citizens of a small southern town? That's about as courageous as riding the Merry Go Round at Disneyland.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
  5. snowboarder

    imagine how much support there would be on these forums for an atheist child making his own declarations.

    June 6, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
  6. Yep69

    Good for you young man! Never conform to the lunatic left or your right to freedom of speech.

    June 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
  7. Raven

    Nothing unusual at all about that in Tennessee. In fact in every graduation ceremony I've been to, the Valedictorian has ALWAYS given God the credit for that years blessing on the graduating class.

    June 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Saraswati

      It is very different to list a thank you to god next to "mom and dad" and to ask a whole audience to listen to a prayer of your personal belief. Pray at home on your own time and not on the taxpayers time.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
    • Reverend Hard Right

      If a kids family worships ganja, is it ok if everybody in the audience has to breathe the smoke? I want me a purty little Tennersee gal to share religious experiences with. Lets hook up sometime.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • tpr2c

      Oh how funny. I live in Tennessee as well and that never happened at my graduation or any of my friends. Quit assuming everyone in this state is exactly like you. It's embarrassing.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
    • Doc

      Actually, in the 1980s we were told we could not mention God in our speeches at graduation. We did anyway. It was the rural South. Just saying, it's not a new thing to be told you can't do that.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
  8. tallulah13

    It's not at all surprising that this young man in a small community in the bible belt did what he did. In fact, it would probably be a bigger surprise if he hadn't. It really doesn't take much courage to pray in front of an audience of people who are happy to pray with you.

    Young people are often very passionate and want to make a showy statement. What they often fail to recognize is that their conviction that theirs is the only way can infringe on the rights of others. I doubt anyone at this graduation ceremony was offended.However, I find it sad that so many people are okay with breaking the law as long as it's done in the name of something you like.

    June 6, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • Robin

      Yeah, if this student had been a practicing Hindu of Indian descent and offered a prayer to Krishna, now that would have been courageous (and probably offensive to those Christians who so readily support this student's "right" to his prayer).

      June 6, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • America

      It is not illegal to speak about God. We have a first amendment right to speak without fear of government reprisal.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • Observer

      America,

      Skip the HYPOCRISY. If he had spoken about "Why God is Dead", you'd NEVER be talking free speech.

      Get serious.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • Robin

      It's not always appropriate.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • OOO

      OK America,
      Go ahead and yell fire in a dark crowded theater.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @ America,
      "It is not illegal to speak about God"
      To clarify, you mean it's not illegal to speak favorably about god. America has a history of "blasphemy laws". So where is your freedom of speech now?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law_in_the_United_States

      June 6, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  9. America

    What a brave kid. He will be a great leader one day!! You go Roy!!!

    June 6, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Observer

      America,

      A kid who doesn't listen to what his boss tells him to do has a dim future. Having no respect for authority doesn't work to well in business. Making your own rules doesn't work well in society.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • America

      You sound like you have issues if you can't recognize courage. This is a nation which was founded on standing up for your beliefs. The ignorance which drips from your comment is the kind of thing we should teach our children to avoid.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • Observer

      America,

      Speaking of dripping ignorance, tell us how successful most people are who ignore what their bosses tell them to do.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Again I will ask, how is he "brave?"

      93% of S. Carolina is christian.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • The real Tom

      It doesn't take any courage to yap your beliefs into a microphone when you don't have anything to lose by doing so, America.

      Get back to me when you stand up to your boss, your mother-in-law and your dad.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • America

      Just ask Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg how successful you can be by ignoring your bosses and doing what you think is right. I hope you don't use facebook or microsoft products. You are really not intelligent.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • America

      It is courageous because his principal told him not to. He is a high school senior. He has more guts than you people. You are pathetic. He is news and you are just nobodies who hate on a young kid.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      Brave? his dad is a pastor...more like 'programed drone' ....expected is more accurate.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • Observer

      America,

      How "courageous" would it be if everyone ignored authorities and did what they felt like?

      Think things through next time.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
    • tallulah13

      It sounds like "America" learned everything he/she knows about courage from a movie. In real life, bosses don't applaud people who "stand up for what they believe in" instead of doing their job, . They fire them.

      This boy did nothing great or brave. He preached to the choir. Real courage would have been someone speaking out against the status quo.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • The real Tom

      America yaps: It is courageous because his principal told him not to. He is a high school senior. He has more guts than you people. You are pathetic. He is news and you are just nobodies who hate on a young kid.

      Oh, bushwa. Doing something you were told not to do isn't courageous, you ass. What are you, 15? Only a stupid kid thinks that courage is shown by disobeying simply for the sake of being rebellious, and that's all this kid did. He didn't have a thing to lose by bloviating about his beliefs. That's not courage; that's just being an ass.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • rude but maybe not brave

      If he is not a member of the cult-of-westboro that dominates his little (red)-neck -of-the-woods, maybe he was brave. Otherwise, not at all. But he was rude and disrespectful of others in the audience who have different religions and did not want to hear his cult baloney... you know, say non-cult-of-westboro Christian denominations...

      June 6, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Yes, leading you and all your fellow morons of the edge of a cliff.

      June 9, 2013 at 2:31 am |
  10. Laura

    So very proud of this young man. I hope that it will open the door for many more to follow and speak their hearts without fear.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • OOO

      He can "Speak his truth" in a church, but not in a public school. Sorry Laura.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Robin

      Good grief, do you really think people can't speak their hearts without fear? What this student was missing was the idea of decorum and appropriateness.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
    • G_Edwards

      @OOO, I didn't realize the 1st Amendment freedoms where not allowed to be exercised in public. Silly me.

      .

      June 6, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • OOO

      @G_Edwards,
      Well, you just learned that there are limitations to that right. And this is one of them.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • so this is banned in school

      My kids and ALL kids can pray in school if they do it the way Jesus instructed: NOT as a public show. Nobody in any US school is being prevented from praying in this manner... it is not an issue. Who pretends it is an issue? Political cults like the cult-of-Westboro. That is how they drum up new recruits. This kid, the son of a cult preacher did this to draw attention. Now that he is a regional martyr for his cult, he has a job for life as a cult preacher. It's shrewd. He'll make lots of money as a snake oil salesman. Open your eyes and don't buy snake oil. They are lying to you.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
  11. Too stupid for science?

    Try church.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • maria

      I like your name and comment!

      June 6, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
  12. Charles Darwin

    Another "in your face brainwashed " jesus freak" who doesn't give a crab about anyone else's beliefs but his own selfish one.
    Totally Disgusting!

    June 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • G_Edwards

      The hypocrisy of your post escapes you, doesn't it?

      .

      June 6, 2013 at 11:00 pm |
  13. aallen333

    To deny God can be likened to a person who looks in the mirror and not recognize who they are. Whether you believe it or not, you were created in the image of God. All that you are was created with God in mind. Your thoughts – your words – your emotions – these were all created to have intimate companionship with their Creator. Like the ballerina to the orchestra – an autumn breeze to a flowing meadow – the song bird to the morning sun. One would be incomplete without the other. The same holds true for you and I – we will never be complete so long as we deny the one we were created to join in making the world more glorious.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • Charles Darwin

      Oh puleeeze !

      June 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • Observer

      It's good to hear a Christian admit that gays were created in God's image.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • Robin

      What makes you so sure your religion, out of all the possible religions, is the correct one? How many others have you investigated?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • lol

      Holy cats you're a brainwashed moron. kill yourself, you religious freak

      June 6, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      This, I can assure you is self-delusion. I understand why you want it to be true, but as person who once suffered from the same self-delusion and found my way free of the slavery, I can say personally, you can be complete and at peace without a god idea.

      It requires letting go of the ego and all of the things you define as yourself and connecting to what is really you, then accepting it. God, like drugs or alcohol, is just another distraction that will further your separation from the truth and lasting peace.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • tallulah13

      That may be enough to convince you, aallen333, but people who seek real knowledge aren't appeased by silly platitudes.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • NavinJay

      Atheists don't deny God. We don't deny something that does not exist. To deny it says we know it exists but we don't want it. If you're weak mind needs an afterlife...fueled by fear...then by all means, have your God.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • Athy

      aallen, it's "you and me," not "you and I." The content of your comment is even more erroneous. Unfortunately, you probably will never realize just how erroneous.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
  14. David

    Meh.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
  15. OOO

    Agree (Stinky). He is too young to realize that there may be someone out there who is not christian and was made to feel very uncomfortable at a ceremony that was just as much for him/her as for this dude. Like body odor, he should keep his religious views to himself.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • America

      People have criticized the government at graduations. You need to find a point.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • zhanx

      I disagree, as antheist who cares. I belive you belive what you belive. If you don't belive there is some mythical creature in the "sky" who cares. How can you hurt me with some B.S. words. This whole make everyone like me cause I am right doesn't work with everyone. Let them do their thing. Ain't hurt me none. But hopefully the wise up someday and realize seriously get over it.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • OOO

      Z,, we are not talking about adults here. If it is OK to do this in school, you are making children feel very uncomfortable about who they are when they are in the minority.

      Public schools are for everybody, not just the majority.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
  16. sunshine63

    I have no problem with God, any God, I was born and raised Catholic but not exactly practicing. I have no problem with Atheists either. I have a problem that someone who believes in any God cannot mention him in from of people who don't. If someone is praying and you don't believe, then don't pray with them, but don't tell them that they can't. Isn't that how this country was founded and why!!! Part of the problem of these times is that people have lost a belief in anything but themselves and their rights. When you try to discipline your child, people are told how horrible they are. I was in line just last week at the grocery and in the next line there was a child putting up a fuss. The mom, corrected her and slapped her hand. a woman in the next line immediately called 911 to report her and the cops showed up. Of course if later in life your child does something wrong, people immediately blame the parents!!!

    June 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • lol

      Ok. I'm going to tell my children at their speech to say religion is all garbage and for brainwashed fµck-heads who dont know anything and that to deny science is pure idiocy. lets see how many religious brainwashed l0sers cry

      June 6, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
    • Charles Darwin

      Perhaps the un godly are sick and tired of listening to all the preaching and going on about something that doesn't exist but in your mind.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
  17. Ave et Vale

    Nobody is mentioning his ripping up the approved speech. A quite aggressive action. He could've deviated from the approved text if he wanted to without making a hostile F.U. show of it. (Of course he would've had to specify that he was off-approval to be fair to the officials - IF he had any integrity, that is...)

    June 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
  18. Milana

    The story warmed my heart. I am so proud of this young man.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Why "proud?"

      June 6, 2013 at 10:45 pm |
    • Stinky Pinky

      I'm sorry for him. Going through life believing there's a god without actually doing any research.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • Athy

      How can you be proud of someone who believes in silly fairy tales?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      I just don't get it. This article makes this guy sound like he was facing down a tank in Tiananmen Square. It's more like shouting "I love chocolate cake" at a Weight Watchers meeting.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      " This article makes this guy sound like he was facing down a tank in Tiananmen Square."

      Why is 'Freedom from Religion" getting involved?

      June 6, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
  19. Lynn

    The day valedictorians are allowed to praise Allah and also deny the holy spirit in their speeches is the day I'll support this Christian dude's speech.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • Kevin

      "Deny the holy spirit"

      Maybe if you stopped using that vernacular we could actually get along. Unbeknownst to you, that line is utterly dripping with self-righteousness.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • Lynn

      It's completely beknownst to me that it's dripping with self-righteousness. They're nonsense words that mean nothing to me but get others' panties in a bunch. Case in point.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • Humanist11

      @Kevin. Self-righteousness is when Christians tell non-Christians they are going to h e l l for not believing in what they believe. Shoving Christian beliefs down our throats at every opportunity is accepted and protected, but when we atheists react to the offensive assertions, we are labeled as haters.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Lynn

      It's completely beknownst to me that it's "dripping with self-righteousness" from a Christian POV. They're nonsense words that mean nothing to me but get Christian panties in a bunch, much as having to sit through the lord's prayer in a secular setting gets me worked up. We can talk when the insistence on public praying stops. The very point is that I would never stand up in front of people and deny the holy spirit – it would be rude and I don't want to offend, regardless of the fact that I do deny. Get it?

      June 6, 2013 at 11:01 pm |
    • Humanist11

      Lynn. He will never get it because he thinks he has god on his side. It is the same thing that will make him happily risk his life for his god. For the religious, facts don't matter.......only beliefs.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  20. Dude

    I'd be thanking the Jeezus too if I was from South Carolina and made it all the way to the 12th grade.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:43 pm |
    • Edweird69

      Bhahaha... now that's good!

      June 6, 2013 at 10:44 pm |
    • Athy

      Do very many students make it to the 12th grade in South Carolina?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:47 pm |
    • Joey

      Heck yeah. Mark Sanford made it to the 12th grade and then some.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:53 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      LOL

      June 9, 2013 at 2:18 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.