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June 6th, 2013
10:37 AM ET

With his speech, valedictorian brings God to graduation

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
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(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. james Pfeiffer

    Just the fact that when this kid, instead of making an all inclusive speech, chose to recite a Christian prayer at a public event payed for by taxpayers and received clapping and cheering is, in a nutshell, why we are such a fearful, myopic and sheeplike society. What blatant insensitivity...What gall and arrogance!

    June 7, 2013 at 6:52 am |
    • Austin

      is it arrogant that God is God, and He is risen? Is God being God, arrogant for being Himself.? Or do you hate what is good and love the absence of salvation?

      June 7, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • HotAirAce

      It is arrogant, not to mention stupid, to repeatedly claim that some god exists, and claim to have evidence of said god, but never, not ever, deliver the evidence.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • Austin

      hot air ace bud, good morning friend. if you want, i do have the file, the data, and the proof. The interesting thing is that this has not happened for almost a year now. The last one i had was a dream that i was down in my basement and there was grimy dirt all over the stairs, and the laundry room was a grimy dirty like vault.

      what happened was that a month ago my sewer backed up, and they had to bust our the floor. they got dirt all over stairs and was exacltly like my dream, they blocked off the door and the laundry room because like a vault like in my dream.

      now another issue here is the concept where you need faith from God, and not from me.

      Lastly , this computer is not a something i can show you my papers through. I dont' have a scanner.

      my email is austoni42@gmail.com if you are really interested i could fly some where and show you the reality of the fact that what i experienced is genuine supernatural revelation.

      Put your faith in Jesus. There is only one source for spiritual light.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • The real Tom

      You ninny, Austintasia. You have dreams every night. Everyone does. Publish them here. Now. Not after some little burp occurs in your mundane little life that you decide MUST be evidence of gawd.

      You don't have proof of anything. You can carry on about the files and the data, but you don't have any idea what you are talking about. If you attempted to use what you think is "data" as evidence in a court of law, you'd lose the case.

      Your anecdotes prove not a single damn thing except that you're desperate to belong to a group that accepts you.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:13 am |
    • Damocles

      @austin

      So your sewer backed up.... and you take this as a sign from a deity..... and what, prey tell, message did the divine sewage impart to you?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • Austin

      i had a dream about the basement being covered in dirt a year ago. the house has been here since 68. my point in this, and yes it may have been one of those dreams, is that it doesn not happen every day.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • Damocles

      @austin

      Right, I get the part about you living in a dirty house, small wonder you dream about dirty homes. What I want to know is why you think these dreams are being sent by a deity.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • The real Tom

      You have dreams all the time, you goose. You only mention those you believe have been followed by some later event that you imagine is related. If you had any real courage, you'd post the contents of the dreams you have every night. That way you can show us all what the dreams are BEFORE there's a related event and we can all be amazed.

      But you won't do that, because you're a ball-less little twerp.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  2. Des Moiner

    So what would the crowd have done if he would have ripped into a few verses of the Quran or Torah. The place would have become a near riot from the self righteous gawd squad. They're fine with religion, as long as it is their religion. Here's a tip, keep your religion to yourself, in your particular venue of worship. What's so hard about that?

    June 7, 2013 at 6:48 am |
    • Austin

      I experienced spiritual revelation. the Holy spirit revealed parts of the bible to me iin dreams the night before i read what i did. it happened with frequency. The Holy Spirit is a sanctifying spirit that bears the truth of God's word on a person's heart. This can simply be when a person truly believes, or in my case a miraculous power.

      John 15
      26“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • The real Tom

      What dreams have you had this past week, Austintasia?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • Damocles

      There aren't too many people I want to smack with a brick.... *cough* au.... *more coughing* st..... *yes, even more coughing* in.....

      June 7, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • Des Moiner

      Austin, all good stuff, however it all comes out of YOUR book. What about the 'other' books? They're not valid? Their believers are all wrong? Did you ever think that maybe you chose the wrong religion and you're just making gawd madder?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:10 am |
    • Austin

      Des Moiner

      i understand the fleshly mind of it. Jehovah Shammah. Our Lord is There.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:29 am |
  3. AndyC1110

    In Liberty SC? No, this wasn't brave, it was arrogant defiance. Christians keep complaining about how people are "discriminating" against them. Yes, because of actions like this. Some day, "these people" will learn respect for those unlike themselves and will stop imposing their religion on others.

    June 7, 2013 at 6:32 am |
    • The real Tom

      Those who think this kid was so brave and courageous are just stupid.

      And those who are just SURE that he violated no rules would be screaming bloody murder if he'd recited a Muslim prayer.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:42 am |
    • Ken

      I agree with you AndyC1110.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:46 am |
    • Austin

      religion? did God impose life on you?

      June 7, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • magnum12

      By preventing people from praying in public atheists are forcing their beliefs on others.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • The real Tom

      Bullshit, magnum.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • Austin

      truth is NEVER IMPOSED. NEVER EVER.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • The real Tom

      Gee, Austintasia, for once we agree. Atheists think the truth is that there's no god. They can't impose that on anyone else. Thanks for proving the point.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:15 am |
  4. Valentijn

    His actions were very disrespectful of his classmates and the audience. The event was about education – if people want to hear about God, they can go to a church or a private christian school.

    June 7, 2013 at 6:31 am |
    • HotAirAce

      It's too bad that the supposed smartest kid in the class insists he needs to publicly demonstrate that he holds beliefs not significantly different than astrology.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • The real Tom

      What's too bad is that he felt the need to show off his belief, as though it were some sign of his superiority to those who don't share it.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:52 am |
  5. Billy bob

    "This is what God wanted me to do." ...... He SHOULD have said, "This is what I THINK God wanted me to do." After all, as the Class Valedictorian, he should be striving for accuracy and truth in his speech.

    June 7, 2013 at 6:28 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Agreed. All honest Babble Humpers would preface their cultish pronouncements with something like "We believe, despite there not being a shred of independent, factual, verifiable or objective evidence to support our alleged god(s) and silly beliefs, that blah, blah, blah."

      June 7, 2013 at 6:58 am |
  6. HotAirAce

    "... he counts Arheists among his friends." He probably counts a couple of blacks as friends too, maybe even a gay or two.

    June 7, 2013 at 6:27 am |
  7. wjmknight

    And if he was a muslin, everyone in that town would have dragged him off the stage and stoned him to death as soon as he thanked Allah.

    June 7, 2013 at 6:16 am |
    • The real Tom

      Or made him into a tablecloth.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:24 am |
    • believer

      Muslim woman,

      You are delusional. I don't know of anyone muslim here in american getting attacked for their faith. In reality – it is anyone who has a Christian faith that is being attacked. You don't here about Christians tying bombs to themselves and blowing people up. You hear about Christians going to disastrous places and helping...So forgive me for not feeling sorry for your radical religious that was started by an army general.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • The real Tom

      believer, to whom is your idiocy directed? Do you have a clue?

      June 7, 2013 at 6:29 am |
  8. wjmknight

    Such a brave guy, make a public prayer in a small town of 3,000 Christians-Wow, I'm SOOOOOO impressed. What's his next trick, preach to the converted. What a putz that kid is.

    June 7, 2013 at 6:15 am |
    • Donna Moran

      Impressed for not respecting the rules and stepping on every students rights.Religion is a person right and I for one will never be impressed with someone who takes my rights away.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:21 am |
  9. George

    Stand up for god? I would imagine god would be able to fight its own battles. These people are a joke. For a valedictorian this guy is dumb. Imaginary people in the sky? Give me a freaking break.

    June 7, 2013 at 6:06 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      Andrei Tarkovsky and Kurt Godel believed in a god, are they dumb?

      June 7, 2013 at 6:12 am |
    • bob

      hal – yup. if not dumb at very least misguides and gullible.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:19 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      There's a difference between misguided and dumb.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:25 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      Kudos for getting the reference also.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • HotAirAce

      The Tsarnaev brothers and their hag mother believed / believes in a god, are they dumb?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      Um... yes.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Sorry, The dumb part here is not believing in a god but believing there is some good caused by not only breaking the rules but doing something to make people feel like outsiders at what was supposed to be an inclusive celebratory event, likely supported by not only local but federal dollars. Believing that and in a god that would support it is what makes this kid stupid...and selfish.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:24 am |
  10. Downwithnazis

    Would my Christian brothers and sisters argue for the rights of a Muslim youth to praise Allah at his graduation ceremony?

    June 7, 2013 at 6:03 am |
    • bob

      ha. they would be calling for his rendition to a third country for torture, indefinite detention at gitmo and eventual execution.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:17 am |
    • The real Tom

      *crickets chirping*

      No, of course not. And I wonder how students and parents who happen not to be christian felt about having this kid recite "his" prayer when he was doing so as a representative of the entire student body. Think they felt included? Piddles thinks it doesn't matter because we should all be "tolerant." The trouble is that such a prayer is NOT showing tolerance or coexistence. It's not inclusive. It's not ecumenical in any way. It excludes those who aren't christian and that is wrong.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:17 am |
  11. FLmom

    HIS graduation, HIS speech, HIS words! Bravo!

    June 7, 2013 at 6:01 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Violation of school rules. Tax-payer dollars, not church dollars...thus no prayer of any form. Don't like it, send your kid to a school paid for by the church.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:12 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      By that definition, you're subjecting students to the same rules as publicly paid officials, which they aren't.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:15 am |
    • The real Tom

      You are sorry, Dave, because you don't know what the law actually says.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:18 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      What law?

      June 7, 2013 at 6:24 am |
    • The real Tom

      The laws that prohibit leading prayers in a publicly funded school as part of a program. Why do you think kids don't recite the lord's prayer at the beginning of the day as they did in the early 60s?

      June 7, 2013 at 6:28 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      Presumably because those prayers were lead/initiated by school officials (which would be a gross violation of the Establishment Clause), which this kid isn't.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:34 am |
    • The real Tom

      Nope. I don't think you know what you're talking about, Sorry.

      Student-led prayers at public school are not permitted when part of a school-wide function.

      Students may form clubs for the study of religion, but they can't lead a prayer to a captive audience at a ceremony anymore than can officials.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:40 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      Could you cite that law please?

      June 7, 2013 at 6:42 am |
    • The real Tom

      So you don't know what you're talking about, then?

      June 7, 2013 at 6:43 am |
    • The real Tom

      http://archive.adl.org/religion_ps_2004/prayer.asp

      June 7, 2013 at 6:45 am |
    • The real Tom

      http://www.civilrights.org/monitor/vol11_no4/art2p1.html

      June 7, 2013 at 6:46 am |
    • NavinJay

      So, if he wanted to talk about the benefits of beating women, that would be okay too? As long as its HIS words, right?

      June 7, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • The real Tom

      A murkier issue is student-initiated, student-led prayer at school-sponsored events. On one side of the debate are those who believe that student religious speech at graduation ceremonies or other school-sponsored events violates the Establishment Clause. They are bolstered by the 2000 Supreme Court case of Santa Fe v. Doe,2 which involved the traditional practice of student-led prayers over the public address system before high school football games.

      According to the district, students would vote each year on whether they would have prayers at home football games. If they decided to do so, they would then select a student to deliver the prayers. To ensure fairness, the school district said it required these prayers to be “non-sectarian [and] non-proselytizing.”

      A 6 to 3 majority of the Supreme Court still found the Santa Fe policy to be unconst itutional. The majority opinion first pointed out that consti tutional rights are not subject to a vote. To the contrary, the judges said the purpose of the Bill of Rights was to place some rights beyond the reach of political majorities. Thus, the Consti tution protects a person’s right to freedom of speech, press, or religion even if no one else agrees with the ideas a person professes.3

      In addition, the Court found that having a student, as opposed to an adult, lead the prayer did not solve the const itutional dilemma. A football game is still a school-sponsored event, they held, and the school was still coercing the students, however subtly, to participate in a religious exercise.4

      Finally, the Court ruled that the requirement that the prayer be “non-sectarian” and “non-proselytizing” not only failed to solve the problems addressed in Lee v. Weisman, it may have aggravated them.5 In other words, while some might like the idea of an inclusive, nonsectarian “civil” religion, others might not. To some people, the idea of nonsectarian prayer is offensive, as though a prayer were being addressed “to whom it may concern.” Moreover, the Supreme Court made clear in Lee v. Weisman that even nondenominational prayers or generic religiosity may not be established by the government at graduation exercises.6

      June 7, 2013 at 6:51 am |
    • Kele

      Exactly. This was not a school-sponsored or mandated prayer. Actually they were being careful to avoid it because of pressure from various organizations and increased scrutiny (very likely for valid issues). The separation of church and state just means the school can't force prayer, they technically also can't block it if a student wishes to partake of it. Freedom OF religion works both ways. I'm not Christian and I have no problems with what this student did as long as it was for the reason his father said "not political". If I could expect to give a speech and not have to mention God in it then he should be able to make a speech that includes God, he as the same rights to his beliefs as I do mine. Freedom of speech (and religion) are there to protect people from being silenced and persecuted for what they believe in because it makes someone else uncomfortable. It's the same reason I find the nutcases out there who claim an attack on their religion whenever someone chooses to state they don't believe in God to be nutcases.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:08 am |
    • The real Tom

      Did you READ the cites? The SCOTUS has said that a student-led prayer at a school event is unconstitutional.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Saraswati

      It wasn't just HIS graduation; that's the point. If he was using his spare time to set up an internet po.rn site would you say it was fine for him to use HIS speech to advertise it? The speech is an invitation to do something for your school on behalf of the community.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:28 am |
  12. NavinJay

    It's called respect. Everyone is there to watch a graduation, not to be proselytize to with a sermon.

    June 7, 2013 at 5:56 am |
  13. Science

    NO god(s) needed ...............praying will not create or did not create the stone we live on.

    'Dust Trap' Around Young Star Solves Long-Standing Planet Formation Mystery

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130606140527.htm

    June 7, 2013 at 5:28 am |
  14. Mandi

    HIS speech...HIS words...

    funny how all of America asks "Where is God?" when a class full of 5 years olds get shot...Where is God? We are kicking him out of our Nation...Stop asking Where is God?...

    June 7, 2013 at 5:27 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      This is a publicly funded school in a secular country. This is in violation of the school's policies and he knew that. No god has a place in education, especially when not everyone shares said god. If he wanted to pray, he should have waited until he was not representing the school. The thing about 'taking god out of schools' is not what has happened...go was never there to begin with. Children can pray to their individual gods, publicly paid for authorities can't lead a prayer.

      June 7, 2013 at 5:51 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "go was" should have read 'god was'

      June 7, 2013 at 5:54 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      Do valedictorians get paid with public money? I don't think they do. I say good luck to the kid, if he wants to mention Yahweh, Buddha, Luke Skywalker or Master Chief, that should be his business.

      June 7, 2013 at 5:57 am |
    • The real Tom

      Where did anyone say valedictorians get paid? He's not paid, but the school he goes to is funded with taxpayer money.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:05 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Not the point, he is representing a school that is publicly funded. He violated the school rules.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:08 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      Truth said publicly paid for authorities can't lead prayers.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:08 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      So? Thousands of churches receive public money, a far more worthy cause for secular watchdogs to fight than picking on some kid who said a prayer at his valedictorian speech.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:11 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      And yet if another kid were to praise Allah from that podium the entire place would have screamed foul. But whatever. This is no different than a kid telling the school administrators to fuck off. Rules and policies be damned...no backlash because he's graduated.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:15 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Churches are tax exempt. Publicly paid for authorities are not tax-exempt. This school gets tax payer dollars, churches don't. Churches are only publicly funded due to the congregation. He violated the school rules. If a Humanist stood up and repeated the Humanist Commandments christians would be losing their minds.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:17 am |
    • bob

      if your god exists and allows a class full of 5 year olds to be shot he does not deserve our prayers nor praise. such a being is nothing less than a monster. your god should be on his knees begging for our forgiveness.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:20 am |
  15. I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

    Good for you, stand up for your First Amendment rights.

    June 7, 2013 at 5:25 am |
    • Thatguy100

      As as speaker to a captive audience at a public school event, he is violating the first amendment by doing this. He isn't standing up for his rights, he his marginalizing other people's rights.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:27 am |
  16. Paradox2u

    It's too bad people don't reflect on this event adn use it as an opportunity ti think 'perhaps God is calling me, through this young man'. Come home to God, She's waiting with open arms.

    June 7, 2013 at 5:24 am |
    • Saraswati

      All that will have happened is that ever kid who was questioning Christianity will have decided it really is as pushy and manipulative as he or she thought and a few more atheist will have emerged. Silly ass kid with not enough perspective on the world to know what he's doing.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:31 am |
  17. MOCaseA

    While I can respect this young man for standing up for what he believes in, a graduation speech is not a place to make statements about what in his words "is a major mistake." As of late the religious organizations have been attempting to control the education system, restricting it to teach only what is "acceptable to God." News flash; While you may still be the major population, more than a third of this country is NOT Christian and doesn't need your religious prohibitions hindering their education. You believe the world is only ~6,000 years old? Fine. I believe the world is ~2billion years old. My belief is based in scientific discovery. Your belief is based in religion. Now as my religion doesn't recognize your religions "facts" as valid, whose religion takes precedence? How about NEITHER and we leave religion out of public education. Parents and churches should be responsible for educating the young in their beliefs, not the public education system. Additionally a parents and churches beliefs should not hinder public education to only those things that they believe.

    As for this young man, well he graduated, he met the requirements to graduate at the top of his class, and the graduation speech was his to give. Additionally once he graduated he was no longer under the authority of the school district, so what type of punishment could they hand out? Due to the popular support (mainly because he was rejecting authority I believe) if they had immediately stepped forward and stopped the speech they would have had a major problem on their hands. The administrators did the right thing POLITICALLY by allowing the young man to continue. The lobby group doesn't vote for the superintendent, they don't sit on the school board, and they definitely don't visit with each and every parent of every student.

    June 7, 2013 at 5:12 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      MOCaseA

      My belief is based in scientific discovery. Your belief is based in religion. Now as my religion doesn't recognize your religions "facts" as valid, whose religion takes precedence? How about NEITHER and we leave religion out of public education.

      So, your outcome of your Religion vs his Religion is NEITHER.... but we remove his Religion? Wow, that is some great logic and way to settle a conflict.

      How about something that has been preached to Christians for a long time... co-existance. Chances are that this kid, along with many Christians, Muslims and Jewish children passed and excelled in Science classes. So there is a good chance he has your science, but he is also a person of Faith. Heck, it can not even be called "your" science because science is not exclusive to Atheist. While there were people of Faith saying that the world was flat there were people of Faith who first contemplated it being round.

      . Parents and churches should be responsible for educating the young in their beliefs, not the public education system.
      The child was not teaching a required class that day. He was just thanking a deity that you do not believe in. That's all. Your argument would hold water if he were teaching a required class.

      June 7, 2013 at 5:32 am |
    • The real Tom

      No, he wasn't. He was reciting the lord's prayer and he was doing it because he is dumb enough to think that we've "taken prayer out of the public schools."

      Nobody is prohibited from praying anywhere. Doing so aloud, at a podium, during a speech at a school-sponsored, taxpayer-funded public school event as some political stunt is exactly what Christians are not supposed to do, according the their own book.

      The kid may not have violated any laws, but he made a spectacle out of prayer.

      If your god has to hear your voice to hear your prayers, he's a mighty weak deity.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:13 am |
  18. Hex Angel

    Religion needs to stay out of schools. It's just bad news.

    June 7, 2013 at 5:09 am |
  19. Ave et Vale

    Interesting that this school had a (religious) baccalaureate, with all the trimmins, just a couple of weeks ago... and it was moved from the school grounds because of the religion-in-school controversy.

    Looks like this kid was just getting in a final whack of protest... no matter what the dad said about it.

    http://www.thelibertymonitor.com/2013/05/baccalaureate-service-for-lhs-grads.html

    June 7, 2013 at 4:42 am |
  20. Jose

    I am an atheist but I don't have a problem with it. The kid was just expressing his own personal beliefs. Now if the school itself mandates prayer that is a horse of a different color.

    June 7, 2013 at 4:40 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      The problem is that in doing this he is in violation of school rules and even bigger yet, he violated the freedom of his fellow students who may not share his belief. He should have been stopped and admonished publicly for breaking the rules-you want to break the rules on purpose like some infantile child, you get treated that way.

      June 7, 2013 at 4:52 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.