home
RSS
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. Culuriel

    Yeah, he "respects" his atheist "friends" so much he decided to lead a prayer at their graduation. This kid has a funny idea of what respect means, and the rights of others he's allowed to violate. What rights of others will he violate next to please his god?

    June 7, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • A Conversation

      Culuriel...I'm a little lost here. Can you please list the rights that this individual person, not employed by the state, violated and where those rights are granted? Thanks.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • JFCanton

      In particular, where's the right to not be subjected *at all* to the values of whatever the majority happens to be? Religion in a certain part of our country tends to not be real well thought out; but hammer on that, not on public expression of religion merely because it is public.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  2. ted

    What's the matter CNN, there wasn't enough gay themed graduations for you?
    Sounds like this kid has a great brite future, unlike the majority of the posters in this thread.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • JRNY

      @ted, "brite?" Yeah, you have a really BRIGHT future ahead of you, it's obvious. LOL!

      June 7, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • JRNY

      Oh, and if you don't like CNN why are you reading this article? Go back to Faux news, where you can't make comments at all. And stop being so jealous that you're not gay. Or are you?

      June 7, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • Science

      Hey ted

      What do you mean the school has its head up its ass maybe ................what about physics ?

      No god(s) or horn-y beast needed !

      June 7, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Teddy, are you still mad about getting the short end of the evolutionary stick? I mean your low IQ and general repulsiveness, of course. Do you still dream of riding a unicorn to school with a leprechaun on your shoulders? Are you still angry with the Tooth Fairy for calling you a weenie? And now the smart, good-looking, talented atheists are ganging up on you again. We're here to help.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Miss Demeanor

      The kid could have prayed as Jesus instructed: quietly in private without making a public show of it, but he ignored Christ's clear wishes. He also ignored the enshrined rights that our founders insisted on: the tyranny of the majority that arise in pure democracies is a serious flaw. In the US, your rights end when they trample the rights of others. Your ignorance of our most important laws and the teachings of the one you claim to worship are astonishing. It's like you could care less about the people around you. What a revolting cult dogma you follow.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Do you have "ignorant" tattooed on one leg and "stupid" on the other? Those are the only legs you have to stand on.

      June 10, 2013 at 12:58 am |
  3. bryan

    I wonder if he would have been so welcomed if his speech dealt with Allah instead of God? What is he read passages from the Koran instead of the bible? What if as an Athiest he had made a speech about there being no God and this false being deserves no credit for his accomplishments?

    This is what people don't seem to get. Just because you believe it, doesn't mean everyone else believes it. If god got him through school and guided him into working hard, that's great, but leave that speech for your church.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  4. Lamb of dog

    Who cares what some punk kid did in a little town of 3000 people.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • The real Tom

      They seemed to care when some punk kid shot up a school full of kids.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  5. mk

    “This is what God wanted me to do.”

    And he knew this how???

    June 7, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Jesus freaker

      That's what Adrea Yates said.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Jesus freaker

      Andrea Yates.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • JRNY

      Well, most schizophrenics "hear" god on a daily basis. Perhaps he's mentally ill?

      June 7, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  6. Rev. Rick

    There are multiple sides to what happened here, and it depends on how you approach it as to whether this young man "did the right thing". But it would seem to boil down to this: If school officials picked this young man out of respect for his academic and personal achievements, and if they made clear to him the rules of his presentation, then he violated their agreement. If he felt like he could not abide by those rules, then he should have notified the school officials that his Christian principles would be violated by not including God in his speech, then he should have had the courtesy to say so, and declined to speak. That alone would have sent a message. Instead he chose to disrespect the school officials and ambush them with his own self-centered piety. While it's obvious he had a majority of support from the audience, the majority is not always right. His speech was not an "election", it was an honor that was bestowed on him and he failed to uphold his end of the agreement. Shame on him.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • thewiz71

      As a Christian, and as a pastor, I have to say that I agree whole-heartedly with your statement. Yes, we ought to evangelize by words, but mostly by actions (caring for the poor, standing up for justice in society). Considering the fact that he knew the rules and expectations, and had agreed to abide by them, it showed bad faith (so to speak) on his part, clear disrespect for those in authority, and yes, imposed his beliefs in a self-centered, self-serving way on others who were not there to take part in worship, but to participate in a secular graduation ceremony. You are absolutely correct to say that he could have sent an even more powerful message by refusing to act as valedictorian, as clearly it would have violated his conscience to do so under the agreed upon conditions.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • G to the T

      Thanks to both of you. It's nice to see that some christians do "get it" and that all most of the people complaining about what he did are trying to do will ulitmately PROTECT relgious freedom, not take away from it.

      June 10, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  7. Brian

    People today have their undies wound way to tight and need to lighten up. Everyone is to opinionated and people get upset at the slightest thing. I blame this because as a society have lost the will to communicate with each other and are very self centered. People don't lookout for each other anymore because they have the mentality of it's all about me.
    Also, If you see something you don't like just turn a blind eye to it it's as simple as that instead of getting bent out of shape and all. Now I am not saying you should turn a blind eye to everything. I mean if you see a person in distress don't ignore that but if you see someone praying at a table during his meal don't go up to them and say that offends you. Get over it and just move on already. The main rule here is just respect each other and use common sense.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • The real Tom

      Why should anyone ignore it when their taxes are paying for this kid's school and that means that the school cannot endorse or sponsor a specific faith? Why should people ignore it when the law is flouted by a lying child and his behavior is being applauded by ignoramuses who are so clueless they think this is just about 'being offended'?

      June 7, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Terminal Velocity Religion...

      " but if you see someone praying at a table during his meal don't go up to them and say that offends you."

      There are no atheists who are offended by a person having a private moment of prayer to themselves. Don't try and obfuscate the issue here. I am only offended when Christians abuse their public speaking moments such as graduations, public school functions, local government meetings or even so far as the congress and senate floors. These are meant for all, not just a few, and when you have some zealot shout their message during public moments they are not trying to just tell their fellow Christians "I'm with you, hang in there!" but is an attempt to preach to those of little or no faith turning these public speaking events into pulpits in a Church against the audiences will (though in SC you can hear how 80% were Christian and were fine with it, preaching to the choir as it were).

      June 7, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • step lightly now

      I know, right??? I mean, what's a little stepping on the rights of others when a law was violated? That law, meant to keep the tyranny of the majority from stepping on the rights of the 'others' doesn't matter to me. I'm a member of the cult-of-westboro. To us, religion is like sports. Second place is first loser, am I right? I say, screw these minoritiy religions. Might makes right... I'm sure jeeeeezus said that somewhere. Clearly this kids town is run by the cult-of-westboro... as evidenced by the superintendent's grin... wink, wink, nod, nod. If others don't like the town cult... they are free to leave. Team Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezus fer tha wee-yun. Yay Jeeezus. (Irony alert)

      June 7, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  8. Jeff Brockway

    If he "respected" his atheist friends (or jewish, muslim, etc) he would have kept his mouth shut. Go gather your christian buddies over in a corner of the gym and do your praying there. You had a chance to inspire all with a great speech. Instead you took the opputunity to inspire some while alienating others. You sir, are a selfish d1ck.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • philipjbaker1952

      The only people who are upset over this are some atheists because they are so easily offended by anything religious . Their need to control and speak for others is obsessive and the name calling shows they really don't care about offending anyone .Its just all talk.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • The real Tom

      No, it isn't "just talk." And it isn't about "being offended."

      How is it you defend a lying little brat who wasn't honest enough to tell his administrators what he really planned to say? Why are you in awe of a kid who didn't have the integrity to say, as another poster mentioned, that he couldn't abide by the rules and would have to decline the honor?

      June 7, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • whut dew uew think Cletus

      RE: "The only people who are upset over this are some atheists ..."
      You're starting with a childishly naïve over-reaching assumption. That is as foolish as claiming the only people supporting this kid are fellow members of his westboro-like cult. Most Christians, except Blabtists, are well aware that Jesus gave instructions for how all Christians should pray. He said to do it quietly, in private and not to make a public show of it. Why don't you tell us how you think this fits in with what the kid did. **Crickets**

      June 7, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  9. Ikickedassforthelordthenazombiegotme

    This is illegal, straight up sorry folks this act should not be cheered since this kid obviously did not care about anyone of differing beliefs in his audience and was actually breaking on of his "holy book's" own rules.

    Besides I doubt he has read the entire thing in it's unedited glory, if he had he would back slowly away from it and then run for the hills. There is a whole section condoning debauchery, another condoning murder, then it turns around and says no you can't do this.
    I could go on but I got a meeting at 9:30 with a zombie.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Puh-lease

      Illegal? First amendment, son.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  10. Laila

    I'm sure if he was Muslim and started preaching about Prophet Mohammed we will be having another discussion. Preaching is preaching. It just seems more acceptable when you preach about Jesus since we live in a Christian society. School is not the place for religious preaching. That's why you go to church.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • thewiz71

      The thing is, he was not preaching, he was praying – two different things. Besides, when one stops to consider the actual text of "The Lord's Prayer" while it is a Christian prayer, having originated with Jesus, there is nothing specifically Christian about it (except, perhaps, the referencing of God as "Father" – as the other two Abrahamic faiths do not usually reference God in such a personal way). On the whole, though, in terms of the ideas, wishes, and hopes expressed, it is a prayer that any theist could speak.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Good point, Laila!

      June 7, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • G to the T

      "OUR Father" – Lord's prayer is intended to be spoken in a group, in unison, as a sign of religous unity.

      It was quite possibly the WORST example he could have picked. He could have done the exact same thing and said a personal prayer and no one would have cared...

      June 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  11. Jack Hernandez

    An Native American girl wheres an eagle feather to her graduation to support her spiritual beliefs and gets a $1k fine and her diploma withheld, a Christian graduate breaks the rules in front of the whole assembly and gets kudos.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  12. Cliff

    Why is it when a person of faith does something like this kid did, atheists have a fit and say were not respecting them, yet isn't not allowing someone of faith to say something about their beliefs disrespecting them? Seems like a double standard by far. If you don't like what's being said, don't listen.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • The real Tom

      Why is it you think the law and the Constitution can be flouted when it suits you?

      June 7, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • tallulah13

      Cliff, I'm sorry but when it comes to secular laws, christians don't get a special pass. This kid lied and broke a rule. He sought attention for himself on a day when others were graduating, too. He could have practiced humility, but chose to "rebel" by doing something locally desirable but legally forbidden. He will probably get more praise than punishment because he was preaching to the choir. I wonder what the consequences would be if he stood up and praised Buddha.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • mk

      So you'd be okay if he was a satan worshipper and said a satanic prayer, Cliff?

      June 7, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Cleft, it was a graduation from school, not a prayer breakfast.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • mouthpiece of the lord

      First, the kid could have prayed in school the way Jesus instructs all Christians to do (quietly and in private... NOT by making it a public spectacle. Santimonious, self-righteous behavior like this is typical of the cult-of-westboro.
      Second, the kid chose to pray in a public, gubmint-run organization's event in a country that has made it illegal to subject others (who may worship any religion they want) to any specific religious dogma.
      So the kid defied the instructions of the one he proudly claims to represent and was a jerk for subjecting others to his un-Christly rant. Only a blabtist would be proud of that.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • EdwardTr

      If he spoke about his personal experience and how his beliefs his god helped him succeed that would have been one thing but this was a prayer that I am sure many joined in.

      "He believes the town of Liberty, a town with three stoplights and a population of 3,000, “fully supports prayer.”, DO YOU THINK ANYONE IN THAT TOWN WOULD DARE TO CRITISIZE THE PRAYER. THAT PERSON WOULD BE OSTRASIZED. It is intimidation like being on a high school team that prays.

      Roy Costner, the student took freedom from others to full fill his religious quest. He selfish, unpatriotic, without honor and he does not believe in America.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Why is it you think the law and the Const'itution can be flouted when it suits you?

      The right of free speech is in the Consti'tution and rebellion has also been a part of American history. In the over two hundred years of people rebelling and being dragged off stages and courtyard steps we have always had some stopping them and some declaring that they will not be silenced.

      If history is a lesson, then this kid is just following the same examples of so many in America's past. If you are trying to silence him, then you find yourself on the same side as the 700 Club types of our side.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Religious kooks unite

      He wasn't courageous. You want courage? The mother in Oklahoma who declared she was an atheist in response to Wolf Blitzer's question about thanking a lord. That took courage.

      Think of the venom she is receiving from the purportedly "all loving, saintly, love-thy-neighbor" residents of that town.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Because by "someone of faith" you mean "A Christian", and it's you Christians that want to hijack our government and turn it into a Theocracy and we will NOT stand for it. Period.

      June 10, 2013 at 1:02 am |
    • G to the T

      Mark – those people did what they did will full knowledge that they would pay the consequences. That's VERY different then trying to get away with something...

      June 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  13. beth

    I think he had the right to include a prayer in his speech but he should have gotten approval for it first. He could have mentioned his faith in his speech to make a point. I am Christian but I have a problem with people who disrupt events for publicity or attention – just like the heckler at Michelle Obama's event. There is a time and a place and a way to do things to implement change.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Jerry

      Good point, beth

      June 7, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  14. Jim

    The fact is when you are the valedictorian you earn the right to the speech. Its not a gift that you should be thankful for, you achieved the highest GPA and therefore have earned the right to talk about religion if you so choose. If you don't want to hear about religion, be the valedictorian and write a different speech.

    June 7, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • JRNY

      Wow Jim, you christians write your own laws daily! Who says that the Valedictorian gets to say a prayer just because they got the best grades? REALLY????

      June 7, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Jim

      The statement was absolutely not related to religion at all. If you are the valedictorian you have earned the right to talk about things that inspired you to achieve your accomplishments and will continue to inspire you in the future. Regardless of what that may be, you earn the right to say it. Your the one talking about laws – there isn't even a law being broken by the kid, separation of church and state is not specifically legislated in a criminal sense, the kid broke zero laws.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • The real Tom

      Yes, he did. Read the court case on prayer before a football game at a public school. The courts have clearly stated that a student-led prayer is a violation of the Constitution.

      Had this kid acknowledged simply that his faith in god was an important factor in his success, it would have been perfectly fine. It is NOT fine to lead a public prayer in a public school. If you don't grasp the difference, I don't know what to say to you except that you need to think a little more and pray a little less.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Jim

      Last I checked no one can be arrested for "violation of church and state".

      June 7, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  15. Thoth

    We should all thank the good Christian innovators of history for:

    Punishing Shoes, Heretic's Fork, Dunking Stool, The Boots, Water Torture, Cat's Paw, The Rack, Quartering by Horse, The Pear, Cleansing, Hanging Cage, Head Crusher, Stake Burning, Judas Cradle, The Cradle, Iron Maiden, Interrogation Chair, Impailment, The Saw, The Breaking Wheel, Tar and Feather, Oiled and Roasted.....the list goes on.

    A big thank you to Christians for your great contribution to humanity....

    June 7, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Peteyroo

      W should also thank Christians for the world's biggest commercialized holiday–Christmas!

      June 7, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Thoth

      You would have to go back much further. WInter Solstice celebrations predate Christianity. Those good Christians just hijacked it so that 'their' day would be accepted among the Pagans at the time.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  16. DJ

    This young man should be commended for his brave effort of speaking the truth and following his faith. As a Catholic Christian we are all compelled to evangelize and the Church exist to evangelize. This young man is following his Christian faith that he was taught to live. We are taught to practice our faith daily, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, not just on Sunday in church. Many Athiest and non-believers just don't comprehend that. This country was founded on Judao-Christian principles. Our forefathers intended it that way and used prayer at their meetings as well. Too many misinterpret what the intentions of our forefathers were. It wasn't to eliminate prayer or worship in public places.
    Athiest practice there non faith the same way 365 days a week, so Christians, we should be able to practice our faith as our faith teaches us to do. If you don't like it, don't listen than. Nobody is forcing Athiest to pray in public but, they want to stop Christians from our public prayer.
    I wonder if Thorth understands the huge contributions of the Church to the arts, medicine, science, music, littiature, philosophy, history, education, government, etc? Thorth needs to do a little research before sounding off.

    June 7, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Evangelize=annoy

      June 7, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Martin

      "we are all compelled to evangelize "

      In a most hideously aggressive fashion. And that's why we have the wall of separation.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • JRNY

      DJ, so there IS a difference between Their, They're and There. Please look it up, go back to your post and consider how illiteracy proves how ignorant religious people truly are.
      Second. Separation of Church and State. Look that up. Third, the boy is in a tax-paid school where school prayer is not allowed and he broke the law. But breaking the law is alright if it's done under your god???

      June 7, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • The real Tom

      Evangelize on your own property. You don't get to do it in a tax-funded venue. And it's your version of "truth," not mine.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Peteyroo

      DJ, the country was founded on slavery as well. Are you proud of that, too? Are you saying that whatever the forefathers did should still be done?

      June 7, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @DJ
      As a Catholic, you must be familiar with St. Augustine's doctrine of "Cognite intrare" that Christians used for centuries to justify all manner of atrocities in order to convert heathens.
      "Compel them to enter" – even if it means a visit to the local Inquisitor's Judas Cradle.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • JRNY

      DJ, the catholic christian (and what does that mean?) seems to have "left the building..."

      June 7, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • BillyD

      It it you that misinterprets our forefathers. A majority of them were Christian, but they weren't setting up the state to be religious. They were setting it up to protect people from its own government. They just had enough common sense not to bully people who didn't pray into praying or practicing in some other way. And what principles are you trying to claim as only Judeo-Christian? Morality is not exclusive to those sects of religion. It isn't even exclusive to religion itself. Lastly, I will agree with you that many sects of Christianity pick up on the evangelize passages (although ignoring some others dealing with private practice); however, just make sure it doesn't become harassment. I don't mind someone knocking on my door to ask if I want to hear about God, but it should be the end of the discussion when I politely decline and ask that they not bring it up with me again.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'DJ
      This young man should be commended for his brave effort of speaking the truth and following his faith. As a Catholic Christian we are all compelled to evangelize and the Church exist to evangelize. This young man is following his Christian faith that he was taught to live. We are taught to practice our faith daily, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, not just on Sunday in church. Many Athiest and non-believers just don't comprehend that. This country was founded on Judao-Christian principles. Our forefathers intended it that way and used prayer at their meetings as well. Too many misinterpret what the intentions of our forefathers were. It wasn't to eliminate prayer or worship in public places.
      Athiest practice there non faith the same way 365 days a week, so Christians, we should be able to practice our faith as our faith teaches us to do. If you don't like it, don't listen than. Nobody is forcing Athiest to pray in public but, they want to stop Christians from our public prayer.
      I wonder if Thorth understands the huge contributions of the Church to the arts, medicine, science, music, littiature, philosophy, history, education, government, etc? Thorth needs to do a little research before sounding off.'

      When did 'practice your faith' mean say a prayer at a graduation? You and I both know that is not required to 'practice your faith' and its nonsense to claim otherwise.

      'Too many misinterpret what the intentions of our forefathers were. It wasn't to eliminate prayer or worship in public places.' – The Supreme Court disagrees with your interpretation of what they did or did not intend.

      ' If you don't like it, don't listen than' – That’s too simple an argument, wonder if you would be saying the same thing if a Muslim call to prayer was being broadcast from a mosque nearby.

      'Nobody is forcing Atheist to pray in public but, they want to stop Christians from our public prayer.'
      Because it has no place in a public school. Why is this so difficult a concept? And heck if an atheist got up and started talking about how god is a lie and its all a load of nonsense, we both know the response that would have gotten but i guess 'if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it' would have sufficed as a response.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Julie

      Atheism isn't a faith and atheist don't try too ram their non-belief down everyone else's throats 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Why do you lie? When will you and the rest of you so called believers stop lying? Its so tiresome to listen to meat heads who think they have all the answers based on NOTHING. Just because you were programmed from birth to believe this nonsense doesn't make it true. Open your feeble mind and try to comprehend reality.

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

      "This country was founded on Judao-Christian principles." How many times do you people have to be told that this country was NOT, repeat, NOT founded on Judeo-Christian principles and advised to open a book other than your bible – oh, say a HISTORY book – and validate that as a statement of FACT. Your ignorance is astounding!

      June 10, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • fred

      Arthur Bryant
      Sorry but facts are facts. You cannot escape the faith of the founders. They were all under the influence of the God of Abraham and were schooled in the Christian way. They may well later on appeared more theist but they were influenced. I understand your need to lie and pretend these men acted like secularists but they did not. Take a look at the declaration of independence and you will see clear reference to the God of Abraham and in the close (signed unanimously by all 56) a prayer of blessing before signing off.

      June 10, 2013 at 1:16 am |
  17. Peteyroo

    If this brave, confused soul had stood up and claimed the earth was flat, would he have been such a hero? If he said he had ridden to the graduation ceremony on a unicorn, would he have been so brave? If he proudly stood before the audience and said the Tooth Fairy and Tinker Bell had ridden in a magic pumpkin with him to graduation, would he be heralded on CNN? Yet something as ridiculous as God and Jesus has people clapping him on the back and saying what a wonderful young man he is. It's all nonsense!

    June 7, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Barney

      I'm not a brain surgeon, which is why I don't comment on brain surgery. If you haven't not read the gospel of Jesus Christ (1st 4 books of the New Testament) and actually given Christ an honest chance in your life, then you should not be commenting on it. If you don't want to claim the free gift offered by God through His son, that's your choice. But please, don't bash something you know nothing about.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      And you have to read and truly understand Mein Kampf to know the truth about Nazis. Give Hitler a chance!

      June 7, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Blarney, I have read the Bible many times. It was pounded into my head as a youth. God does not exist. Neither are there unicorns and leprechauns. Sorry, but wishing it were so doesn't make it so.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • cedar rapids

      I havent murdered anyone either Barney, can I still get to talk about how murder is wrong?
      You put forward a poor argument as just as many use their own interpretation of the bible to justify their actions. And the fact that are so many christian denominations, some actually fighting each other, suggests that you are not in a position to make a claim as whether someone has the right to comment on the contents.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • tallulah13

      Barney, most atheists began as good christians. Just a thought.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Alias

      I was raised catholic.
      I had questions, I studied the bible looking for answers.
      I realized why the catholics didn't want you to read the book without supervision ... I mean 'guidance'.
      The bible is so flawed that there are thousands of christian churches with different ideas as to what it means.
      I have seen the light, and it comes from a star our planet orbits around.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • BillyD

      Barney, someone believing in God or not isn't directly tied to reading the Bible. You can read the Bible and not believe in the Christian God. You can also (like many do) never read it, accept what you're told by your parents and religious leader, and blindly believe. My point is that it isn't a reading means believing and not reading means not believing.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Terry

      You know why he was applauded? Because many people who have for years practiced Christian faith are now told to shut up while other faiths are allowed. Atheists (a faith) can and often do "preach" about there being no God in many public forums. Equal footing is a great concept but somehow Atheists, Agnostics, and others can be talked about in school but mention Jesus in something other than historical text and suddenly its a court case. Atheists were at one time criticized and ridiculed because of their opinion, now its the other way around with Christians on the receiving end, they will fight back just as atheists have fought back over the years. It is starting to happen more and more each day and will continue to happen. Kudos to this young man for standing for up for his faith when so many of all faiths remain sitting.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • cedar rapids

      'Terry – Because many people who have for years practiced Christian faith are now told to shut up while other faiths are allowed. Atheists (a faith) can and often do "preach" about there being no God in many public forums'

      That is a total and absolute lie, and you know it. Show me one place where an atheist is allowed so 'preach' in a public place but christians arent? Show me one place where christians arent allowed to preach but other faiths are?

      June 7, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  18. Peteyroo

    God wanted him to be stupid. Mission accomplished!

    June 7, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Ken

      People like you just love to throw in the word 'stupid' or 'retarded'. It's funny to see how politically incorrect and inept you are. Please don't breed for humanity's sake.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • JRNY

      @ ken, and christians like you show VERY WELL how hateful, maligned and cruel you really are. Why attack people so ruthlessly? Doesn't your own religion teach you to "turn the other cheek?" I guess the bible is useful only when it applies to your own personal feelings right?

      June 7, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Ken, you're a bed-wetting moron. I could easily have said that you and the graduation speaker were retarded. I didn't. Stupid–yes. You can't help being born with a low IQ and a small intellect. It's not your fault.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Barney

      Give Christ a chance dude. That's all. Read the Bible. Learn about the history of it. Give it a chance. You might find that God does something strangely miraculous in your life. Like give you peace and a higher knowledge of how God views things....which is pretty much the exact opposite of the way man views them. Don't put your trust in man...you'll always be disappointed. We are all flawed. Christians do stupid things. But if you judge Christianity on the fact that someone in church sinned them you are missing the entire thing and that's sad.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Blarney, give evolution a chance. Give science a chance. But most of all, give unicorns a chance!

      June 7, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • JRNY

      Yeah Barney, read the bible, was even a missionary. Being an Agnostic suits me just fine...especially after reading the Old Testament. NIce god to kill every man woman and child..oh AND beast when it suited him. Super.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • jeff

      Valedictorian = stupid in the athiest mind. Athiests are all butt hurt that this kid called them out, and proved to the country that the Athiest movement is a paper tiger.

      June 7, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • JRNY

      jeff are you speaking English? I don't understand a word you're saying...

      June 7, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Ken

      @JRNY

      Cruel? No, cruel would be asking him to breed uncontrollably and let his offspring walk the earth with his attitude.

      @Peteyroo

      "Ken, you're a bed-wetting moron."
      "You can't help being born with a low IQ and a small intellect."

      Yes, your resort to name calling clearly shows inability to reason. Such a trait of one with high IQ and expansive intellect. 😉

      June 7, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  19. Science

    No god(s) needed..........but physics is required......so the school fails too !

    Quantum Teleportation Between Atomic Systems Over Long Distances...................and it works every time.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130606140844.htm

    June 7, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • scranton

      Schools used to have God in them and they were a hell of a lot better than what the products the schools are producing today.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Science

      Hey scranton

      Bullsh-it.................this particular school might have its head up its ass.

      26 states (majority) have created new science standards for schools for 2013 and beyond !

      It is called Stem

      June 7, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • G to the T

      Scranton – maybe they'd have more time to teach properly if they weren't having to defend themselves against religous ideas trying to be injected into education...

      June 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  20. EJ

    This selfish, narcissistic brat failed to realize that the graduation wasn't his personal show. It was disrespectful and aggressive of him to decide that his personal beliefs define the experience for everyone. He owes the whole class an apology. Christians do want their views forced on others and he has proved that.

    June 7, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • TCC

      AMEN to that. What he did was prove PRECISELY why people f***ing hate Christians.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:53 am |
    • Bob

      Christians owe the world many apologies, for the violence, discrimination, and hatred that their religion has incited in its followers, and for perpetuating their god fraud that takes human effort and resources away from time better spent on activities such as the arts and on advancing science.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • EJ

      Imagine an atheist valedictorian opening with a quote from Christopher Hitchens. Think the evangelicals would be applauding free speech then?

      June 7, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Johan Christensen

      I am secular but attended Catholic High Schools. Of course Christians and Catholics want to spread their faith. It is part of their doctrine – spreading The Good News and trying to save your soul. The Muslims are required to do it as well btw.

      June 7, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Snopes.com

      Claim: Christians do want their views forced on others

      – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

      :mrgreen:        True

      June 7, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • Michael

      First of all, nobody is saying that the entire graduation was his show.

      Secondly, however, it was his speech that he prepared. It was also his voice and in this country we have freedom of speech which allows us to freely speak even if it isn't agreeable by everyone present. If the only way we could speak in a public forum is that everyone in attendence agreed with our opinion, stance or thought, then we will have become a nation of robots who cannot learn, because we wouldn't be allowed to challenge what is accepted. I think we can both agree that is not the right direction for our country to go in.

      He also earned the right to give the speech through excelling in his academics. He was not randomly picked. Not everyone becomes valedictorian. He was the top of his class! So for you to start your statement by calling him names right of the bat, considering you do not know this guy personally is obsurd.

      As apart of him excelling in his academics, this graduate believes that God contributed to Him having success, whether you agree with him or not is irrelevant. He believes it and since he was the one that earned the honor of being class valedictorian.

      I personally am a Christian and I attended a graduation where the valedictorian made a speech were you thanked some weird deity that I had no idea what he was talking about, but I did not get all up in arms about it. I did not go to the school district or an attorney saying that my feelings got hurt and I was offended, because he didn't mentioned some other god. I didn't even blog or write about it on social media. I think my wife and I mentioned it privately to each other and that was it. I don't know why athesists take it upon themselves to try to scare every teenager across the country who gives a speech at their graduation or every student that prays at a ballgame from speaking what especially here in the south is apart of our everyday lives. Why don't you pick on somebody your own size and stop bullying kids into being little robots that are afraid to speak as something may be ruled offensive. Ridiculous!

      June 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • derp

      " It was also his voice and in this country we have freedom of speech which allows us to freely speak even if it isn't agreeable by everyone present"

      The supreme court has repeatedly ruled that 1st amendment rights, as well as search and seizure protections, do not extend to public school, and school functions.

      June 7, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • G to the T

      Michael – if he had just acknolwedge that God was a factor in his life I don't think anyone would have cared. What he did instaed was lie to the school admin and then starting reciting (what is traditionally a group prayer). And he specifically stated that he did so because he thinks "prayer has been taken out of school". That makes it a political statement and not appropriate for the venue.

      It's the difference between saying "... and I'd like to thank God" and saying "Now let's all pray together". Even if that wasn't what he meant, that's what reciting the lord's prayer in that context basically amounted to.

      June 10, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48
Advertisement
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.