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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. Yacon

    I am not religious, but all citizens should be able to express their perspectives with freedom of speech–Even high school students at school and at graduation. The government should not impose religion or lack of religion. It should protect the rights of all people to express their points of view. Science classes in school should teach science, but social studies classes should include background facts about all major religions, to improve student's level of knowledge and respect for those different from themselves.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • The real Tom

      The courts disagree with your interpretation of the law. Student led prayers at a school activity are not protected by the first amendment–they violate the Establishment clause, according to the SCOTUS.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • G to the T

      He didn't say "my father, who art in heaven", he said "OUR father...". That is an assumption on the audience and is one of the reasons why it's discouraged.

      And it wouldn't matter if EVERYONE in the town was christian. That's like saying if EVERYONE in town was a bigot, it would be OK for him to express his views on white supremecy...

      Religous freedom is there for EVERYONE's protection, but when either side of a disagreement is CERTAIN of their position, how much room is there really for tolerance and respect?

      June 10, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  2. Durannie

    Imagine the furor if he was muslim and read from the Koran.....or was an atheist and used that time to force his audience to hear about why THEY were wrong.....

    Christians are SO self-serving and never use empathy to see how their actions impact others.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • Lotus

      Do you want cheese with that whine?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Durannie

      Lotus...just remember this when YOU are the minority whose freedom is infringed upon.....this is what I mean about lacking in empathy or consideration for others.....

      June 7, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • zapper45701

      He's right. I don't believe in the Christian god, and I would not have wanted my graduation ruined because of being forced to sit through some chant. By the way, the "lord's prayer" is a chant because it says the same thing over and over, never varying. If it were a real "prayer," it would address different things, instead of the same, over and over and over.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  3. Grumpster

    If I were there I'd have stood up and told him to shut the $FFF$ up.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  4. memememe

    Summary of this “story” is that it’s about a small town of almost no population and a who kid uses his chance to publicly say how he feels at HIS graduation. None of you were there, nor should even care. AND, MOST of the people in the crowd agreed and applauded him!!…… A public school funded by public taxes? Funny, I think most of the people there, who applauded the kid, ARE the tax paying people! Not any of you “scholars” that are writing in complaining. Do you live there and contribute to their taxes?? I highly doubt it. The ONLY people that have ANY right to complain ARE the tax-paying town’s people who didn’t agree. Yea, the small, tiny little majority of them. So all of you posting negative comments here can just go suck and egg and stop whining because you didn’t get your “participation trophies” when you were a kid…….

    June 7, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • The real Tom

      No, they aren't the only ones whose taxes go to the public school. Schools receive money from the federal government, and yes, those ARE my taxes. I don't care if the majority in the audience agreed with this little clown or not-there is this little thing called "the tyranny of the majority," and it's the reason we have laws to protect everyone's civil rights. That's why we now have voting rights for women and African Americans.

      You seem to be quite certain that no one in the audience was offended by this kid's grandstanding. Do you think those who were would be able to say so without repercussions from the bible thumpers that comprise the majority?

      People like you are exactly why this nation must follow the rule of law and not the rule of the majority when it comes to our civil rights. The SCOTUS has already made a ruling on this issue and the kid was in violation of it.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      So basically you're OK with the notion "mob rules". This clearly upset somebody who lives there or we never would have heard about it. Insular small towns with "priveledged christians" think it's OK to ride roughshod over secular policies simply because they disagree. What if society was tipped the other way? Would you be OK with having evolution taught in church by mandate?
      You may applaud this boys actions going up against regulations in the spirit of freedom of speech but don't cry foul the next time you see an atheist billboard or risk looking like a hypocrite.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • ILoveUSA

      The ONLY people that have ANY right to complain is the abused? It all of our responsibility to speak for the abused. We should admire his strong beliefs but I think Gaylor said it perfectly, he as a lack of sensitivity for his audience. His message was aggressive. And it was rude. The topic was graduation and he should have stuck to that.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Courtney

      so let me get this straight, you think this obviously small school (150 graduates) isn't supported by state funds, which are probably reliant on federal funds as well. What this incident does evidence is the small pockets of small town ultra conservative christians, tea partyesque in nature, that seem to think they have the right to be inconsiderate of the fact that there religion is not the only one, nor is it any more important than the next. Tolerance not bigotry and ethnocentricity

      June 7, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • memememe

      ....agreed, but then, where does the freedom of speech come in to play? If someone is not allowed to talk about "federally controlled topics" then is that STILL considered freedom of speech? We're not talking about speech being used to promote hate or to in act violence. Why don't we just ban speech on every tax paying topic? You know you're gonna offend SOMEONE. This is only about one's beliefs. You are just as much of the problem as you think I am.....

      June 7, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Yacon

      I think that both religious people and atheists should have equal rights to express their perspectives openly and in public, even in the schools. Science classes should teach only objective science, but when students are called upon to speak their minds, they should be free to speak them. They should have the decency to not spout obscenities, but they should be able to express their points of view. This young man was not selected to speak for his religion, he was selected for his academics, thus the school did not favor his religion over another. That fact does not imply that he does not have the right to express his point of view. I disagree with SCOTUS on this issue.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  5. john

    God is mentioned in almost ever such speech. It's when you get into a specific religion–talking about Christ or Mohammad etc–that you needlessly make people uncomfortable.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Alex

      oh, so making non- religious people uncomfortable is perfectly fine in ur bigoted world view?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Yacon

      Why should it make a non religious person uncomfortable for another person to express his point of view? The non religious person can express his point of view. Freedom of expression should go both ways. I am not religious, but I respect the rights of all people to express their perspectives in public venues. The government or the school itself should not favor one religion over another. The school should teach science instead of religion with respect to how it pertains to the natural world, but the school should not silence student expression on religion.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Phil T. Listener

      This is to Alex. Everyday, in everything we say, we have a chance there is someone who may be offended. Personally I believe The Lord's Prayer is generic enough that the sentiment expressed will meet most religion's beliefs. It's not like he recites the Hail Mary. If a few atheist's were offended (if any exist in a town like the one described) then they could express their dismay in a letter to the school admin or local newspaper.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Yacon: No-one is stopping him from having his belief, it is the venue that he used to do it. He was representing a school funded by tax-payers and thus in violation of the rules.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • The real Tom

      Do you think Hindus and Muslims think the lord's prayer is "generic"?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • zapper45701

      At our recent graduation (of even fewer students than this class), our Valedictorian and Salutatorian thanked their god. They did it on personal basis, and that was fine. They did not inflict their religion on others, they merely mentioned that they had one and said thank you. That was enough. Just like parents or teachers, thanking is quite appropriate. Thanking one's god is appropriate, too. Forcing other to listen to you pray/chant to your (supposedly one and only) god, generic or not, at a public ceremony of many different ethnicities and religions, violates the civil rights of others.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Yacon

      Truth-Prevails–The school did not select his religion–He and his experience with his parents selected it. He was not representing the school when he expressed his personal religious preference–he was representing himself. If the school has the right to sensor every statement from every student, we are not training our students to survive in and maintain an open republic.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • G to the T

      Christianity (and most religions) is not a "point of view". A point of view is an opinion and and opinion is open for debate. Religions like christianity claim a CERTAINTY. ONce a person is certain of something, it's nearlly impossible to be respectful of people with the opposing view.

      June 10, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  6. The real Tom

    I wonder how the audience would have reacted had the kid decided that public schools should have more comprehensive sex education and information about contraception? You can bet that in rural SC, there were a bunch of girls who dropped out of school to have babies. Some of them probably brought their kids along to the ceremony.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:57 am |
  7. fr114

    what a d bag. if he wanted pray he should have done in private and NOT in front of others, who did NOT come to here his political views.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:54 am |
  8. Hello

    He should have been stopped and walked off the stage.. this graduation was not about HIM. His narcissistic game was an insult to all his fellow students. If I or one of my kids were in that class I would sue him for forcing his mythic beliefs on others who were there not to be indoctrinated in his chosen myth but to celebrate a graduation that required 12 yrs of effort.
    His sneaky trick just shows how arrogant people are with it comes to their mythic indoctrination.
    His actions were an insult... to all there and he denied them the freedom to not be forced to listen to theocracy dogma.
    If an Atheist student did the same thing and told those there his or her opinion of being an atheist to the crowd I am sure he she would have been stopped and walked off the stage.
    Graduation is not about the one person who made the top grade.. it is about all of them who achieved the requirements to graduate. If he wanted to flaunt his myth dogma in public he could have done it in his church.. where like minded people would not have been insulted by his blatant disregard to all people. He is a pushy narcissistic fool.. a failure in what it is to be an American... He is no different than muslims who demand that their myth must be believed by everyone or they should die.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • thomas stone

      man,all atheists and libs do is whine and whine and whine,man,is there no end to what these people whine about.He mentioned God,waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! I'm offended waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! get over it God's here to stay,I put up a nativity scene in my yard every Christmas,like I told my neighbors,don't like it,don't look at it,but thankfully all but one of them agree with it and he's my uncle,but he keeps his disagreement civil,he's not a whiner.Oh oh,someone mentioned God,listen you can hear the atheists and libs shhh. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! there they are,they never disappoint.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • memememe

      just like you publicly posting your comment which offends me? Whether you type it or physically say it, should the moderator have pulled the plug on your comment?? Freedom of speech brother....either tolerate it or leave this FREE country and make room for someone who IS tolerable of others....

      June 7, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • The real Tom

      Idiot, do you not get the difference between the yard in front of your trailer and a public space? Get a brick and knock some sense into your skull.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • The real Tom

      memememe, this is a privately run site. It's not funded by taxes. CNN has the right to censor anyone it chooses. And anyone here has a right to make fun of you or disagree with you.

      A school graduation ceremony is not the same as this forum or some ninny's front yard.

      Try to figure it out.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • mike

      You Don't get it Thomas Stone, you just don't get it.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  9. humtake

    Everyone just wants to ramble on about religion. The TRUE problem with this as with everything else like this is that people just like to complain. I'm not Christian, but if I'm somewhere and someone starts saying the Lord's Prayer, I let them go on and when it's over life goes on. To be offended or to be impressed just shows you are placing emotion into something that is a personal choice of someone who shouldn't need your approval or validation of their faith.

    In other words...MOVE ON.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • The real Tom

      What will you say when the same people use their religious beliefs to impose laws on you that restrict your rights?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Damocles

      Humtake won't say anything because his right to complain will have been done away with. Shame.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • scott

      Fumy, Atheists are restriction the right of those of us who are Christians at every turn.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Damocles

      Yes, that is very, um, fumy.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • The real Tom

      Baloney, scott. You are permitted to write incoherent drivel anywhere you wish on the internet.

      How would you feel about it if a kid at your local public school graduation decided to pray to Vishnu or Thor?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      "Fumy, Atheists are restriction the right of those of us who are Christians at every turn."

      Really...care to provide an example?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "Atheists are restriction the right of those of us who are Christians at every turn."

      Really??? Are we telling you who you can and can't marry? Are we telling your wives and daughters not to use birth control? Are we telling gays they are wrong? Are we going door-to-door?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:58 am |
  10. Jesus fan

    Many Christians applaud this young man for "standing up for his own beliefs."

    That's exactly what this young man did wrong.

    Christians are called by Jesus Christ to follow Him, not to lean on their own understandings.

    This graduation incident is a good case in point. By leaning on his own understandings, this young man actually disobeyed Jesus' own teachings about the proper way to pray and His teachings about the Lord's Prayer as found in the gospel of Matthew.

    In Matthew chapter 6, as Jesus is sharing the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explicitly taught his followers not to grandstand or show off in public with their prayers. In fact, he instructs his disciples to find a quiet, secluded place so they won't be tempted to show off in front of others. This is the Biblical guideline for prayer, from Jesus Himself.

    No doubt his intentions were good. But this young man disobeyed Jesus' very clear Biblical instructions for prayer. By doing so, the young man lied and was deceptive to his school district leaders by deceiving them into thinking he was going to say something else. As the article shows, the young man plotted for days to disregard the rules and guidelines.

    Also, the young man hijaked the graduation ceremony from non-Christians in order to grandstand his own beliefs. What an incredibly rude and selfish thing for this young man to do! People were there to celebrate their kids achievements, not have somebody's personal faith beliefs pushed at them.

    Jesus does not call his followers to go around saying "Hooray for Our Side!" But many Christians today simply disregard Jesus' teaching and behave as they personally see fit, standing up for what they personally believe is OK rather than truly following the instructions of Christ as they say they do....but then don't really do.

    The young man and those who support him are encouraged to return to a Bible-based faith, and to apologize for their bad behaviors that were the result of them disobeying the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the gospel of Matthew.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • The real Tom

      Thank you. "Grandstanding" is a perfect description of what he did.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Hello

      Someone needs to give him a copy of the book Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill so he can really know the truth about his myth... there are no gods... they were created as political tools.. to control the masses. and their wealth.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:56 am |
  11. JustTheFax

    Awesome!!!

    June 7, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Defiance of the rules is 'awesome'?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      That would depend entirely on the rule.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • The real Tom

      Dave, I already posted several cites as to the ruling by the SCOTUS. Go read them.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      I think we clarified this earlier but in case it didn't sink in the first 5 or 6 times, he was representing his school that is funded by public tax-payer dollar. He knew that he was not to invoke religion in to his speech and yet he did so. He defied the rules like a 5 year old defies their parents. He was in the wrong and he knew it but he didn't care. If he's defying authority now, I feel sorry for him once he is in the real world...not many bosses will tolerate defiance.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Plato

      Lick bag

      June 7, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      I did Tom, thank you. It seems that what this kid did probably was in some way a church/state violation, but it would seem that some instances of student lead prayer at school-sponsored events is still, as you said, murky, in a legal context.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  12. paulronco

    My respect for this valedictorian began to wane as soon as he used the phrase, "All in all" to start a sentence. Clearly he never learned how to respect English, just as he never learned how to respect those who hold different faiths.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that.

      Is colloquial language really so abhorrent?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Mike

      He's from rural South Carolina. I think you should have started with lower expectations.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • paulronco

      If "All in all" qualifies as a colloquialism, then it sure is as filler as it gets.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  13. Chafin Rhyne

    Arogent religilist . Thanks for insulting all other faiths !

    June 7, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • Saraswati

      He just reminded anyone who still had an open mind that much of Christianity has the same goals of establishing an exclusive religious state the Taliban. This kind of kid does more fore secularism than any atheist can.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:34 am |
  14. Austin

    When life is truth and God is life, the truth is never something that has even a .0001% chance of being imposed. The truth reigns, like the world turns. God and the resurrection are truth, therefore there is no possibility that one could impose this upon another person. the only possibility is that one could deprive an individual of the truth, but not impose the truth. that is absolutely impossible in all truth and reality.

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

      Proof positive that what you're attempting to impose is not "truth."

      June 7, 2013 at 7:16 am |
    • Austin

      yes it is, He is risen. and I have experienced the power of the living, supernatural God and Holy Spirit. God is life.

      Im sorry, i hope you dont think im joking around or trying to argue. I understand how the flesh is at enmity with God, and how the fallen flesh desires to bring an offence between thee and God. until one comes to faith, this is reality.

      seek Him.

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

      I sometimes wonder why I stick up for religious people when they come out which such drivel.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Damocles

      @austin

      You are mistaking opinion for truth, a common malady that inflicts believers.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • The real Tom

      Austin, why don't you get a decent education and actually learn something?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • BR

      Would you be saying the same, if he read verses from the Koran?

      Seriously, is your god so weak that he needs you to stand up for him?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • paulronco

      My respect for this valedictorian began to wane as soon as he used the phrase, "All in all" to start a sentence. Clearly he never learned how to respect English, just as he never learned how to respect those who hold different faiths.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      No Austin,

      Reality is reality. Meaning REAL stuff. There is no real with regard to your god. All you propse is unreal, unnatural and not manifested in any form whatsoever in reality. It's precisely because your god is NOT obvious that makes it possible to dismiss the idea out of hand. If god WAS obvious, as you continue to claim, then we wouldn't be arguing about it. We would all point to the thing that shows god and say "look...there is evidence of god". But that thing doesn't exist except in your mind, your faith and your belief. The rest of us not exposed to what you claim are not convinced. And it would be so easy to change our minds. Your god would know EXACTLY what I require to believe. Hint: the Bible isn't it. and it shouldn't be for you either. If the Bible is the best your god can do to promote his message then he fails utterly. The Bible comes across exactly as it seems...a book written by primitive Middle East clerics with an agenda to promote their religion. Not as the words of a god.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      The Real Tom: I think Austin might have received brain damage the night he got so stupidly drunk, lost control of his car and drove it into a church, his IQ level dropped that night.

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

      Maybe Austin should wear a helmet next time.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Hello

      The christian myth was written by the Roman Flavian family as a means to save Rome. It was rooted in the Jewish myth because of the long and difficult battle they were having with controlling the Jews. Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill for the details... check out his web site Caesar's Messiah.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:01 am |
  15. Tom

    I suggest he should have read the verse that immediately precedes the Lord's prayer. Matthew 6:5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

    June 7, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • Cindy

      Believe me, his Father in heaven will reward him for standing up for Him. (God)

      June 7, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • Austin

      in the old testament, the Israel had a banner they would put up on the battle ground with the name of God. and there is a name Jehovah Nicee (sp?) that means "the Lord our Banner" because He is the cause and reason they would engage.

      There is zero situations in life where we do no proclaim His mercy and forgiveness. again, the secular arena is a satanic worship of the god of this world. sad but true. your synthetic hybrid mind frame without God, is dead.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • The real Tom

      Austin the Deluded: "synthetic hybrid mind frame".

      You're starting down the LionlyLamby path toward "brain yards."

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

      Cindy: Considering his father is the man who impregnated his Mother and then helped brainwash him, the only father who will reward him is the only one he has-the man he is named after.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Mike

      Tom, that is the best comment I have seen.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Hello

      There are no gods... that is just a mythic lie.... Read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill on how the christian myth was created , by whom and why.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:03 am |
  16. Seth

    Thanks for doing the right thing Roy! Very few people have the courage you have shown by standing up for your beliefs. May God and Peace forever be with you.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • Cindy

      Amen Randy!

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

      Oh, please. How much courage did it take? What risk did this entail? It's like cheering for the Cowboys when you live in Dallas!

      June 7, 2013 at 7:28 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Seth: So defying the rules is the right thing?

      June 7, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Since when does it take courage to stand in front of a room full of Christians and preach Christianity?

      June 9, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  17. Fred Appl

    The forum that this young man chose to express his personal views was inappropriate. I don't have a problem with the Lords Prayer and I certainly don't have a problem with people of different faiths and idiologies (sp) speaking or sharing their thoughts. However, this was a commencement exercise, not a pulpit opportunity.

    Sorry son, wrong venue. Your father blew it. He knowingly allowed and supported his son that's called aiding and abetting. I don't care what your religious beliefs are, I don't care if you have a religious predisposition or not, that's your choice, that's why this country is what it is. But whatever your passions are, keep them between yourself and whomever you happen to worship.

    Yep, this young man made a splash in the pool and eventually the ripples will all fade away and people will eventually pay little attention to his 30 seconds of fame and then he can go on to live in a world of reality.

    June 7, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • Austin

      the only venue not suitable for God is hell.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Austin: And venues paid for by tax payers. Oh yeah, where is the evidence for this thing you call hell??

      June 7, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Saraswati

      Precisely...it was the forum that was the problem and the disrespect he showed anyone who may disagree. If this is who Christians has trying to stem the outflow from their faith they will be fighting a losing battle.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:37 am |
  18. Reality

    This cure is for all new members of this blog to include the valedictorian:

    Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in religion and this case Christianity. The first and easiest of the available cures for all the variations of this Syndrome:

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc.) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

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

      This kid did was Americans always do, he stood up for his beliefs. If you disagree with those beliefs, you have that right. You even have a right to express your own opinion. However, you can do that without sounding like a complete jerk. Attempting to undermine every major religion with a single post only shows that you are as unwilling to accept others as you claim they are to accept you. This young man spoke for a group that was silenced by a minority of individuals. What he did took courage and conviction. Those are two things that are often missing from Americans of all ages. Agree or disagree, that is fine. However, do it in a mature and respectful manner.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • The real Tom

      He did not have the right to subject the audience, no matter what the majority opinion was, to a public prayer in a school setting.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Randy, the problem is that your argument is not sincere. You would not have accepted any belief spouted at graduation. You would have been outraged had he taken this time to promote an agebda of racial superiority or to promote free access to drugs for teenagers or even pray for Islamic domination. You have no choice now but to say you would welcome that with open arms, but not one of us believe you would.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  19. magnum12

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

    June 7, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • HotAirAce

      It was the US courts, loaded with believers (not a single non-believer on the Supreme Court) that determined what the law should be, not atheists.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:03 am |
    • The real Tom

      magnum, are you stupid? Nobody's "preventing people from praying in public." If you want to go stand on the corner and bray your prayers, you're free to do so unless your behavior starts impeding traffic or disturbing the peace. What you cannot do is subject an audience at a publicly funded event to your beliefs.

      What "beliefs" would atheists impose on others? Can they force you to stop believing? Stop praying? No, you doofus, they can't. You're free to believe whatever you want.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • ThinkRationally

      Get over your persecution complex. Atheists are not forcing any beliefs on anyone. They are seeking equality for all, instead of the current dominance of Christian beliefs. If you can't see that things are currently very slanted in favor of Christian beliefs, then you have no objectivity in the matter.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • NavinJay

      Who is stopping people from praying in public?? Do you mean "out loud" in public? You need to mean what you say. No one can stop anyone from praying at any time in any place even in a school. Out loud is something else.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Atheists are not preventing people from praying anywhere. It's the law. Atheism is not a belief it's a LACK of belief. Like most Christians these days you're sooooo hoping that the "end times" are really really really here this time.....unlike the thousands of times in the last 2,000 years that they've failed to show......that you're inventing instances of persecution (Christians claiming to be persecuted by atheists...there's a laugh!) so you can point to them and say "See! See! The Bible says that in the End Times Christians will be persecuted! That proves that the End Times are here!! Yay Jesus! Come back and throw the unbelievers into the lake of fire so they can burn forever! Because you love them!"

      You're an idiot.

      June 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  20. Me

    That's so great, good for him. It was a great way to honor God and thumb his nose at the atheist plague.

    June 7, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • Austin

      There is only one WAY.

      June 7, 2013 at 6:58 am |
    • The real Tom

      Says you, Austintasia. Doesn't make it true.

      June 7, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • Thatguy100

      Plague?? Really??
      And they accuse us of being mean and offensive....

      June 7, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Now if we could only do something about the Christian plague. Maybe a giant can of raid?

      June 9, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
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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.