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. michael1601

    Christianity is nothing but another pagan religion, with all its tenants and stories borrowed from the pagan religions that came before it. Don't believe me? Do your research – just read some essays on the pagan origins of Christianity. You'll find I'm right. There isn't one original thing about Christianity.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Austin

      satanic mimicry. the angels were created by Jesus Christ, with the plan of salvation revealed as the focal point.

      The Word Became Flesh

      1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Durannie

      Austin apparently has never studied either history or comparative religions.....pity

      June 7, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • robert

      And your point as it relates to this article is? Who cares where Christianity originated?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • sam stone

      but, durannie......austin has PROOF of the god of israel. just ask him......but don't expect to see the data......

      June 7, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Durannie: Austin got drunk one night, drove his car in to a church and took that as a sign that god exists...he further believes that his dreams are evidence for god.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • derp

      if you are correct, then you have no problem winning $1,000, right?


      June 7, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • michael1601

      Austin, you need to study the origins of both your religion and your Bible. You are living a lie.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Michael

      Since I reject your mythology, your proof is moot, your logic flawed. One cannot use the target of a debate as proof. That's akin to your parents saying, "Because I told you so." Sorry, Buckwheat, that dog don't hunt.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  2. Pat

    I didn't read all the comments (1490+) but I have heard that 'as long as there are exams in school, there will be prayers in school.' He spoke of his beliefs. He wasn't attacking anyone else. Funny, you can thank your parents, your teachers, the man on the street, but the moment you thank God, some people take offense. Sad.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Durannie

      He used a tax payer funded event to grandstand on HIS beliefs in front of a captive audience (in defiance of what he was instructed he could do). Would you be so tolerant if a muslim or atheist kid had done that? What if your kid was graduating there and did not share that belief? It was divisive, inconsiderate and wrong.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • sybaris

      which God?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      He defied the rules. His god is not the god everyone believes in. He violated separation of church and state by saying this prayer while representing a publicly funded school.
      Had he of stood there and repeated the following, the christians would have been losing their minds:

      (Dr. Rodrigue TREMBLAY)

      1- Proclaim the natural dignity and inherent worth of all human beings.

      2- Respect the life and property of others.

      3- Practice tolerance and open-mindedness towards the choices and life styles of others.

      4- Share with those who are less fortunate and mutually assist those who are in need of help.

      5- Use neither lies, nor spiritual doctrine, nor temporal power to dominate and exploit others.

      6- Rely on reason, logic and science to understand the Universe and to solve life's problems.

      7- Conserve and improve the Earth's natural environment—land, soil, water, air and space—as humankind's common heritage.

      8- Resolve differences and conflicts cooperatively without resorting to violence or to wars.

      9- Organize public affairs according to individual freedom and responsibility, through political and economic democracy.

      10- Develop one's intelligence and talents through education and effort.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • robert

      @durannie As a christian, I'll answer your question – I couldn't care less if a jewish prayer was offered up, or a muslim prayer for that matter, or a buddhist quote, pick your poison – don't care. It's graduation. That person is being honored for their exceptional work for their school career. Let them thank whomever they want to.

      "he used a tax payer funded event..." good grief. Who cares about that either. So am I to believe that it's ok to spout off about political beliefs or platforms, or gay rights, or abortion (all at least as equally divisive – but probably a little more supported by the mainstream media) but if you bring God into the picture, then suddenly it's offensive? The country needs to collectively make up it's mind, we either have free speech or we don't.

      We don't have free speech so that we can say things that everyone agrees with, Men and women ahven't fought and died to protect this right through the years so that we can all read a newspaper and feel like a loving brother(and sister)hood of like minded drones. We have free speech to express our thoughts and ideas and to voice our disagreements, and even more importantly to call out injustice. An individual saying a prayer at graduation (and remember, I don't care whose prayer it is – go on, push the limit asking about the great hooved one – you'll find my answer the same.) falls neatly into the category of free speech.

      It wasn't the admin forcing students to pray, it was a student thanking the higher power that he believes in, and showing respect for his beliefs. Get over it.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Thank you Truth Prevails. That's a keeper.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • The real Tom

      , "it was a student thanking the higher power that he believes in, and showing respect for his beliefs. Get over it."

      Read the SCOTUS decision on student-led prayers at football games.

      Then you get over it.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  3. Take a breath

    Should CNN start silencing people posting here simply because I find their speech makes me uncomfortable? No, unless it is an abuse.

    Similarly, a school district that allows its student with a highest GPA each year to offer a speech about their own personal beliefs should not engage in state-sponsored silencing of free speech simply because that individual wants to discuss their religious beliefs, whether about God, Allah, Vishnu, Zeus, Jesus, a tree, or whatever else. The principle here is freedom of expression, and how it acts as a shield for us all from both the tyranny of the majority AND the tyranny of the minority.

    I concur with a previous post's point about following the rule of law. I also respectfully suggest that the previous poster follow their own advice.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • The real Tom

      I don't know which poster you're talking about, but posters here ARE following the rule of law-you're free to express your beliefs but not in every and any venue. You don't get to decide that it's okay for a kid to say a prayer just because YOU'RE not offended. You aren't the only person in the world. What matters is not whether someone is offended but whether the rule of law is upheld or not.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  4. Simone65

    What I find so darned amusing is that these atheists and organizations want to push their " We don't want God in our schools" belief on everyone, but you are going to tell me or anyone else I shouldn't pray in school? Heck no!! Keep YOUR OWN BELIEFS TO YOURSELVES AND IN YOUR OWN ORGANIZATIONS AND QUIT TRYING TO PUSH THAT ON ME!! Hooray for this young man standing up for WHAT HE BELIEVES IN!

    June 7, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • snowboarder

      you wouldn't say that if it was a different religion than yours that they were pushing.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Margie Gunderson

      I am not an atheist. However when my tax dollars are at work – in my local public school, for example, I strongly resent someone using the resources I am required to pay to advance their own religion. My tax dollars are monies I am requires to spend for the privilege of living in my community. They are monies I no longer have to support my family, save for retirement or give to my church.

      If the valedictorian was a Christian in the way I understand Christianity, God was already there.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Simone: Don't send your children to publicly funded schools if you don't want them learning science (that is what we base our justified beliefs off of...\vasts amount of evidence to support it). Children can pray, children can have their religious groups but no-one who is representing a publicly funded school is allowed under the law to say a prayer like this...it violates the rights of other people but christians are good at doing that, they do it to gays and women every day.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • ThinkRationally

      So your telling others to keep their beliefs to themselves, but to accept you espousing your beliefs whenever and wherever you want. You're not big on equality, are you?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • Michael

      You hypocrite ... On one hand you tell atheists to stop shoving beliefs down your throat (which, by the way, I've never seen one do) and then immediately start shoving your beliefs down mine by SHOUTING. Heg'lu'meH qeq jajvam, P'taQ ...

      June 7, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  5. William

    Is God so weak that we need to stand up for him?

    June 7, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • snowboarder

      in a word, yes. if it weren't for those standing up for gods, they would be totally irrelevant to society.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • snowboarder

      we had a softball team on our league that would try to gather everyone on the field for prayer. they eventually gave up when enough of us turned out backs and walked away.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • sam stone

      and when the believers die off, so will the god

      June 7, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • protected -by-first-amendment


      Good old saying, "if you won't stand up for something, you will fall for anything. "

      God tells us to proclaim HIS goodness, mercy and grace. If not, the rocks will cry out.

      We will tell it on the mountain tops, valley below, school house or out house, classroom, pulpit, street corner, steps of capital buildings, in Congress, in white house, in supreme court, all of America and to the other countries.

      God is Creator of all. Judge of mankind. Forgiver of sins.

      More to share.... later....

      June 7, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Yes; apparently we are the divine equivalent of Viagra.

      June 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  6. Durannie

    I feel sorry for the non-religious students & families and non-Chritian students & families who had to endure this grandstanding at THEIR graduation....especially knowing that THEY would never have received the same response if they had done what the Christian did.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:35 am |

    Lord please forgive those who dont believe on you...

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

      which lord?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • sam stone

      why should anyone be punished for disbelief?

      if god gave us a brain, why would he then punish us for using it?

      is your god that petty?

      June 7, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • sam stone

      seriously, amarpreet, answer my question, please. it was a sincere question. should you be punished for disbelief in any of the other tens of thousands of gods man has worshipped with sincerity equal to yours?

      June 7, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Yeah, and Santa, please bring me presents even though I don't believe "on" you, either.

      June 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  8. Primewonk

    So all the kids can say a christian prayer are a public school event. I just wonder how many of those praying fundiot nutters can calculate the area under the curve, or explain the significance of ERVs in the DNA of humans and chimps. I wonder how many of those cute little godbots can explain the significance of Cosmic Background Radiation and explain how we know the earth is 4.54 billion years old.

    I guess some mean folks snuck in and boarded up all the churches in town, preventing these kids from praying there. And I guess the police go from home to home preventing them from praying here too.

    And somehow, someone took all the bibles from this town and removed Matthew 6:5-6. You know, the part that says, "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 others. Truly 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 8:32 am |
    • Margie Gunderson

      Well, it is South Carolina, so I see your point about their intellectual abilities. South Carolina has a monument at the north side of their capitol with a confederate battle flag on top of it. ALEC recently ranked South Carolina 51st in K-12 education.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  9. akismet-44a8ca8105e8092b4b1a0af75fa4f58d

    If the kid would have conveyed how Jesus impacted his life and communicated it with an honest passion that elicited a visceral response from the audience, I could get behind that...even as an athiest. Yet, time and time again, Christians in these situations waste their opportunity on self-righteous, pious and trite comments most Americans hear every day of their lives. He did nothing but preach to the choir and I feel that this is one of the reasons so many non-religious people have a problem with religious talk. Most of the time, it's all so generic. 'Jesus died for my sins?' Really? Tell me how his sacrifice has truly made affected you. This kid probably meant well but to people outside the club, he comes across as another boring, off-putting christian unable to express how his faith relates to his personal life. Without an honest expression of how his religion relates to his personal life, the kid's decision to say 'The lord's prayer' suggests he was politically-motivated.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:31 am |
  10. Robin

    Not political at all!

    June 7, 2013 at 8:29 am |
  11. P. R.

    " I’m so thankful that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age." That just sounds creepy, doesn't it? "Led me to the Lord" - like a sacrifice? Weird.

    It would appear his childhood indoctrination and brainwashing were summarily completed, much to the chagrin of his forming Human soul.

    HIs actions, "courageous"? I suppose to some small degree. About as courageous as leading a chorus of Rudolf instead...


    June 7, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Diana

      But being gay or trans fu*ked up is sane?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Eric

      I find it repulsive that all of the "atheist" in our country are trying to keep those of us that do believe from expressing our religious beliefs. You have the right to be an atheist and insult us, but HEAVEN forbid we say anything about you or your soul. The boy didn't force ANYONE to pray with him, nor join in the belief. He only EXPRESSED what he believed. He has FREEDOM of religion; just like you. If you don't believe and you are in the crowd; shut up and chalk it up to another moronic Christian spouting off. BUT NO! You have to silence him and his beliefs; belittling his life and childhood upbringing. I'll be honest I feel sorry that you have so little a mind that you can't accept something bigger than YOU. Oh, wait! I forgot! You believe that 1 micron exploded to form an entire universe. Show me PROOF of that and then we'll talk. Until then get better grades and then you can be the valedictorian and prevent us from believing in a theory.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • P. R.

      Wow, Eric. There is more whimsy and delusion in there than I could possibly refute in one comment.

      It would appear that your own indoctrination into the cult of the "Sky Father" was complete as well.

      How hilarious that YOU, a Xtian, ask me for the scientific proof to back up The Big Bang Theory...hate to tell you, chief, but, UNLIKE your "God", the proof ACTUALLY IS ALL AROUND US!! What do YOU have? A thousands of years old book of mythology and Jewish history written by fallible Iron Age mystics and frauds filled with dogma, fear, contradictions, and lies. And yet YOU have the AUDACITY to ask ME for proof? WHERE is the PROOF of your "God"? Where are the burning bushes NOW? Where are all the prophets and miracles?

      As for an education, sir, that is the problem. Once people find religion, they tend to turn off the logic and ration centers of their brains in favor of blind faith. I did get an education...one that led me as far away from the small-mindedness and oppressive nature of religions and the deities to which they enslave themselves...not to mention their time, free thought, money, AND CHILDREN in the process... Sad.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  12. Smarter than U

    If god is so important to these folks, how is it they can't just pray at home before graduation. The reason is it is not god that is so important it is showing the world how much the love god that is the real importance. God can't hear you pray alone at home?

    June 7, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • The real Tom

      No kidding. Why can't they say a silent prayer during the ceremony? Do they think god is deaf unless 100 people are reciting a prayer in unison?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Just Me

      Religious beliefs is what this country was founded on. Funny how the God rejecting fools forget that. Stay you @sses at home if you don't want God mentioned.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • snowboarder

      @just me, this country was founded on individual liberty. not on any particular religious belief.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • The real Tom

      "Religious beliefs is what this country was founded on."

      Is your children learning?

      June 7, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  13. There. Are. No. Gods.

    I like reading fiction also, doesn't mean I expect to find a magical ring that I must take to Mordor to dispose of someday. Or that some rebel alliance needs my help in defeating imperials. Oh, and big surprise. . . someone from South Carolina decided to do something religious. Never heard of that before. There are no gods, and you know it!

    June 7, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      No, they don't "know it". A lot of atheists seem to think that these people know deep down that they are deluded. Not the case. A lot of xtians also seem to think that atheists are closet believers. Also not the case. They believe, we don't. It's that simple.

      June 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  14. Smarter than U

    “I wanted to stand up for God,” he explained Wednesday. “This is what God wanted me to do.” These guys always KNOW what god wants. Astonishing.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  15. The real Tom

    Do all of you who are applauding this kid's "courage" think it's okay for a gay student to use the podium to urge equal rights for gays who want to marry?

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

      They probably don't, but while I am a big proponent of gay rights, I don't mind him giving a speech which included prayer. I'm an atheist, but, if that's what he wanted to speak about, I'm sure there are no first amendment issues in this regard. The school was not promotiong the talk of religion, it was an individual. He wasn't forcing it on anyone else. No big deal from this end.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • The real Tom

      The courts say otherwise.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • G to the T

      Him saying a personal prayer would be one thing, him trying to lead the room in the Lord's prayer is quite a different thing...

      June 10, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  16. kjnowak

    Every person who is AGAINST religion speaks out freely and uses "freedom of speech" to justify it. So why should it be any different for someone who loves God and wants to give HIM glory??? If freedom of speech is for one, it is for all. I am so sick and tired of hearing "separation of church and state." This country was founded on Godly principles, and if it hadn't been founded upon and built that way, we would not enjoy the life we do today. Think about it ... there were never school shootings BEFORE they kicked God out! School prayer was a way of life, but once God was kicked out the door, these horrible things start happening. I'm tired of being muzzled while the atheists and agnostics are allowed to spout their beliefs.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • midwest rail

      " there were never school shootings BEFORE they kicked God out! School "
      False. Would you like to see the links to school shootings from before they supposedly kicked God out ? Btw, that never happened.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • The real Tom

      More drivel. Schools have never banned anyone from praying, and when you claim they have, your entire argument dissolves. I grew up in a day when the lord's prayer was recited first thing in the morning. If you think "these horrible things started happening" because that's no longer the case, then your god must be a puny, petty, powerless little twerp. Can't your god hear your thoughts?

      What you think and what "the majority" thinks are not relevant when the case involves the civil rights we are guaranteed under law. The majority doesn't get to decide that the minority should be forced to obey a religion just because most people follow it. That is why we have a democratic republic and not a theocracy. That is why we have laws.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • There. Are. No. Gods.

      Because you are talking about a practice that has involved killing of innocent people, segregation of people, hating of one group or another, belief in fables that will NEVER come true, and on and on. If you had one shred of actual physical proof that your god or another existed, I would be interested in learning more about your "god". But you and others like you have nothing but your "faith". Have you looked up the word faith in the dictionary and read it's definition lately? You should. There are no gods and you know it!

      June 7, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • Tom

      Sorry, that's just silly. There was school violence, and shootings prior to ORGANIZED prayer being removed from schools (rightfully I might add). Anyone and everyone who wants to can pray in school. It's just that you can't make it mandatory for everyone. And what is the issue with that if anything?

      How would you feel if there were school sanctioned calls to Muslim prayer? I'm sure you'd have a freakin' fit.

      Kids can pray. I was brought up very religious. I was always told that prayer, was between the individual, and God.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Liberty Resident

      Amen! Well said!

      June 7, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      I was going to respond, but midwest rail has already said it.

      June 9, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  17. It's Me

    This is great news. Whether you believe or not is irrelevant. This man did what he should have the right to do.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      No. It was inappropriate. Just as it would have been inappropriate for an atheist to use that podium to bash religion.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Durannie

      He had a right to grandstand and use a publicly funded event to force his beliefs on a captive audience? IF he had that right,why did he have to stoop to lying to do it?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  18. Dan

    It's incredible that some otherwise intelligent people still believe in absurd magical religious nonsense.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  19. zapper45701

    I'm happy that he followed his heart. I'm pleased that had the courage to do what he felt right. HOWEVER, what would have happened to the Muslim who came after him, rolled out a prayer rug, and thanked Allah for the same thing? What about the Wiccan who dance across the stage and thank the goddess for all of the wonders of the world? What about the Buddhist who would approach the podium and recite "Ommmmm."? What about the atheist who would stand before them and say, "There is no god."? Would the same crowd have booed and hissed? Would they have applauded and cheered? The problem comes when one takes precedent over the other, and one is favored more than the other. It takes courage to stand in front of the podium and deliver an address. It takes respect and love to accept everyone. Had this young man also thanked others and recognized them for their strength of character and belief and not be forced to be included in his remarks to his god, I wouldn't have a problem at all. The problem is, he didn't, and that's why it should never be allowed.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  20. Congratulations, Roy Costner!

    Well done! Cheers! Fantastic speech!
    “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 which art in heaven,
    Hallowed be thy name.
    Thy kingdom come.
    Thy will be done in earth,
    as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive those
    who trespass against us.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil:
    For thine is the kingdom,
    and the power, and the glory,
    forever and ever.

    June 7, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      So you applaud defiance? How very christard of you! He had no right to do what he did and like any child who defies the rules he should have been admonished for it.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • Resident of Liberty

      We applaud Roy for showing great wisdom!

      June 7, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • Durannie

      And....if you'd been there and he grandstanded in a way in which you did NOT approve?

      Would it still be OK with you then to be forced to listen to an atheist rant about why religious people are wrong or be forced to listen to a muslim read from the koran?

      What about the OTHER kids there? Not all of them are Christian yet they had to put up with that at THEIR graduations.

      You religious lot lack empathy and consideration for others.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Resident of Liberty

      Our town has a population of ~3K people, we have no problem with prayer as residents of this town and fully support prayer.What is your problem?

      June 7, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • zapper45701

      "Most" but probably not "All." That's why it should never be allowed. If he had included ALL, it would have been okay. As it was he forced others to accept his religion. That's why it's wrong.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Resident of Liberty

      We "fully" and whole heartedly support prayer!

      June 7, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • zapper45701

      Resident of Liberty.– Prayer is for those who believe in some sort of religion. Many do not. Many pray to different gods and goddesses. Your god is not the only one, no matter what you've been told. Many do not embrace any religion at all, and it's wrong to force yours (or theirs) on anyone else. That's the difference. In all the years of education this young man had, he never learned the difference between right and wrong –by forcing his beliefs on others in a public ceremony that is supposed to celebrate ALL of the graduates, not just some. That's why he should have never spoken.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • The real Tom

      Resident, you don't get to speak for everyone. There's no "we" in your comment-just you.

      June 7, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Resident of Liberty: What wisdom is there in being a defiant, disrespectful little brat?? If anything this showed his lack of respect for authority and for others who may not follow his belief. Pure idiocy at best!

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

      Resident of Liberty
      "We applaud Roy for showing great wisdom!"

      Ok, *you* go ahead and hire him for your company (and keep him there, please). Er, don't be surprised if he flouts your company rules, even after signing an agreement to abide by them...

      June 10, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Another Resident of Liberty

      I thought what he did was completely uncalled for, but I can't say anything about it anywhere or my fellow citizens would tar and feather me.

      June 10, 2013 at 2:57 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.