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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. Jason

    I'd love to see how wonderful they'd all think this was if he praised Allah.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • stingisthetruth

      It would have been his right to do so, should he wish. It is ironic to me how many of these self proclaimed atheists are so eager to restrict a persons freedom of speech on the basis of their religion.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Shodori

      So athiests are allowed to go into a church and preach atheism because its freedom of speech right?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  2. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    Evil is self centered, and foundation of hindu atheism, self center ism, GOD truth absolute did not create evil, denial of truth absolute, man followed his hindu soul. criminal desire by choice and followed hindu evil ism, criminal self center ism, to live a hindu evil, criminal self centered life in defiance of truth absolute GOD.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • NESTLE FOUNDATION OF OVALT INE

      Islam bot hurt in the head ism. Suffering from illiteracy ism and lack of education ism.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Danno

      If Islam is really the truth, you should have no problem showing us why other gods are false and yours is correct.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  3. Colin

    When I graduated from high school, we had to pass a small test. Here it is.

    Q.1 The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the religion of:

    (a) The ancient Celts;

    (b) Bronze Age Egyptians;

    (c) Pre-Colombian Aztecs; or

    (d) Modern Christians

    Q. 2 You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are:

    (a) a reptile handler who has severe mental issues;

    (b) a five year old boy who just read a fairytale;

    (c) a scientific fraud; or

    (d) a Christian

    Q.3 I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am

    (a) A gifted psychologist

    (b) A well respected geneticist

    (c) A highly educated sociologist; or

    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.

    Q4. I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian

    Q5. Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    Q.6 The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    Q.7 What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from Christianity:

    (a) Christianity tells people not only what they should believe, but what they MUST believe under threat of “burning in hell” or other of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Christianity can make a statement, such as “God is comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas Christianity is regional and a person’s Christianity, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than geographical upbringing; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.8 If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    Q.9 The statement “I believe in God because the Bible tells me to and the reason I follow the Bible is because it is the word of God” is:

    (a) Circular reasoning at its most obvious;

    (b) The reason 99% of Christians believe what they do;

    (c) Specific to the Judeo-Christian parts of the World and totally rejected by all other parts of the World; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.10 Probably the most fundamental tenet of Christian faith is that God sent his son Jesus to Earth to die and save us from the original sin of Adam and Eve. We now know that Adam and Eve was a myth. As such, any thinking Christian should:

    (a) Honestly and courageously question this and any other aspects of their faith that don’t make sense.

    (b) Make up some euphemistic nonsense like “well, we didn’t mean that literally” after having done exactly that for the last 1900 years until science comprehensively disproved it.

    (c) Just ignore the blatant contradiction and sweep it under the mat; or

    (d) Hold on to the myth because it makes them feel good.

    Q.11 Please choose your favorite Catholic superst.ition from those below. For the one you choose, please say why it is any more ridiculous than the rest of the garbage Catholics swallow and give an example of a non-Catholic belief which is just as stupid.

    (a) Grocery store bread and wine becomes the flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because a priest does some hocus pocus over it in church of a Sunday morning.

    (b) When I pray for something like “please god help me pass my exam tomorrow,” an invisible being reads my mind and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to meet my request.

    (c) You can pray to a dead person for something. This dead person will then ask God to fulfill your wish. If this happens twice, this dead person becomes a saint.

    (d) A god impregnated a virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself and then sacrifice himself to himself to negate an “original sin” of a couple we now know never existed.

    Q12. If you are worried that your children, who you love very much, will not believe something you tell them, such as "smoking is bad for you," would you:

    (a) have your family doctor explain to them the various ill effects of smoking;

    (b) show them a film produced by the National Insti.tute for Health on the topic;

    (c) set a good example for them by not smoking; or

    (d) refuse to give them any evidence of the ill effects of smoking, insist that they rely entirely on faith and then take them out into the backyard and burn them to death if you ever catch them smoking?

    And, as a bonus question, what would you think of an "all loving Father" who chose option (d)?

    June 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Dawn

      Like I want to take a test on a blog spot.... what is your IQ?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • skione13

      While I agree that taking a book that had been largely passed down by word of mouth and then editing constantly once written as literal text is a mistake. You can no more prove that lack of a god like being than you can prove the existence of one. I could easily create a test that could illustrate the absurdity of atheistic beliefs just as you have done with christian ones. And make no mistake about it, atheism is a belief much the same way as various religions are.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • ComeON

      Boy, that doesn't sound biased or smug at all! Thanks for demonstrating you have the understanding of a 5th Grader when it comes to Christianity. You seem to think you know so much better than everyone else. YOU ACT EXACTLY LIKE THE TYPE OF CHRISTIANS YOU PROFESS TO HATE. Wake up and open your eyes, hypocrite.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      No way to be sure on an anonymous blog, but Colin could be

      A. Confused
      B. Misinformed
      C. Lost
      D. All of the above

      June 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Great post, Colin. . One wonders why your naysayers take the time to put you down but not any of your finely-made points. Hmm...

      June 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      @skione

      No you can't make such a list. Atheists don't have common beliefs; we just don't believe in one of the silly things you believe in. If 90% of the population believed in Santa, you'd be an asantaist and would be posting on blogs like this one that all the Santa believers shouldn't be wanting unfair laws that reference Santa and that people are stupid to believe in Santa with so little evidence.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • ComeON

      What an imagination this guy has! And they call fundies delusional.

      What is an atheist version of a Christian fundie? An internet atheist?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Colin

      Great ComON, please tell me what I got wrong. Don't just make a comment then run away. Back it up. Pick something I got wrong.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • ComeON

      Cpt. Obvious

      @ Cpt. Obvious

      @ Great post, Colin. . One wonders why your naysayers take the time to put you down but not any of your finely-made points. Hmm...

      1. He did not take that test to graduate from High School.

      2. It is a joke, none of the questions he wants seriously answered.

      3.

      "Q12. If you are worried that your children, who you love very much, will not believe something you tell them, such as "smoking is bad for you," would you:

      (a) have your family doctor explain to them the various ill effects of smoking;

      (b) show them a film produced by the National Insti.tute for Health on the topic;

      (c) set a good example for them by not smoking; or

      (d) refuse to give them any evidence of the ill effects of smoking, insist that they rely entirely on faith and then take them out into the backyard and burn them to death if you ever catch them smoking?"

      WHAT THE H.LL IS THE POINT?

      I know Christians that do a, b and c. and never would consider d.

      I know athiests that do d.

      Get off your high horses you holier than thou acting little bigots.

      If you hate fundie Chritians, WHY ACT EXACTLY LIKE THEM?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @ComeOn and Skione,

      You have clearly missed what Colin was trying to point out: That faith is a hinderance. It's that simple, it's easy to comprehend. By attacking colin, calling his intellect into question and saying he's wrong without actually trying to discuss a single point shows just the depth of your insecurity that on some level you agree with Colin.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Colin

      ComeON – on Q12, I was talking about the Christian belief that those who reject JEsus and God will go to hell. The belief is God loves me, but expects me to take his existence purely of faith. If I don't he will burn me in hell. It is stupid. Why not just reveal himself to mankind so he doesn't have to burn people who reject Christianity.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • ComeON

      (d) refuse to give them any evidence of the ill effects of smoking, insist that they rely entirely on faith and then take them out into the backyard and burn them to death if you ever catch them smoking?"

      There are 2 parents in my community that were charged with child neglect. They locked up their mentally challenged child in the basement. She had to pee and poop on the floor or buckets. They withheld food.

      They were atheists. Just like you.

      You keep pointing out the flaws of 'others' you don't like – so you don't have to honestly look at yourself. You have more in common with fundie Chrisitians than you can see. We all have blind spots. I just pointed yours out.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • ComeON

      Colin

      Only Christian fundies and internet atheists like you and Chuckles preach the vengeful God that condemns people to hell for not *believing* or *saying* the right things.

      That doesn't sound like a God of Grace, Peace and Mercy.

      I gotta go, but you and the fundies keep preaching hell and fire.

      I got people to go love. Like Jesus asks me to do.

      Peace.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Colin

      ComeON – See above. I was talking about the Christian faith, not the behavior of individual Christians. You missed the point. I do not point out flaws in people. There are many smarter, better people than me who believe in God. I point out flaws in beliefs.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Oh, come on, Comeon. You're not so stupid as to miss the points Colin raised or to misunderstand the analogy at work. I have faith that you're not quite that dumb.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @ComeOn

      The case you wrote:

      1. Please look up with atheism means.

      2. The child neglect was not done because the parents said "In the name of atheism I punish thee!". They were just bad parents who also didn't believe in a god. Hardly an indictment on the idea of atheism as a whole.

      3. For every one story like that you can find 10 more about parents drowning, stabbing, and bludgeoning their children to death because they want their children to go to heaven. Hell, just look at an article a couple of days back about parents allowing their child to die by trying to faith heal him.

      4. You still ignored all of Colins points and are now trying to bring atheism down to christianities level, as if to make it a fair fight. You are aware that christianity is bad, has bad things baked into the religion itself and has followers doing horrible things in name of christianity so you want to find an atheist here or there that's done a bad thing (note, not a bad thing in the name of atheism, just a bad thing) and try and make it so if on equal footing, christianity would be the lesser of two evils.... it's got to be tough being you.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • South Carolina Atheist

      Most excellent! I see that the fundies' heads are exploding. Well-played, very well-played!

      June 7, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      No Colin. What you do is misconstrue believes, either through ignorance or malfeasance, then use that to malign.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      No need to explain yourself more than that, Bill. Nice job, there.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      No need to explain yourself more than that, Bill. Nice job, there. .

      June 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Colin

      Oh come on Bill. I post 12 points about christianity I find absurd. You say I am wrong. Pick one and argue your position. It can't be hard, given how stupid I apparently am.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • ComeON

      I'm a Christian. I know more about my faith than you do.

      You have not faith in Jesus Christ. So you can make assumptions or imagine. But you can't know what my faith truly looks like unless you ask me.

      I do not believe in a completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the religion of.

      I do not believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake.

      I have not convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges.

      I do not believe honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me.

      etc. etc. etc.

      What you are posting says a lot more about you than it does about me.

      An actual Christian.

      What makes more logical sense: to listen to a guy who has noticeable resentment issues against a group of people, or a guy who belongs to that group of people and can say – that is not me.

      And I am one.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • ComeON

      Can you prove that I *do* believe those things? I know that is what you *imagine* I believe – but what you posted is wrong.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • ComeON

      Q4. I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

      (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

      (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

      (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

      (d) your average Christian

      (e) describing some internet Atheists' poor understanding of what a Chrisitain believes prayer is.

      See! There can be other answers, too.

      This test is lame. This biased and ignorant exam determined whehter you graduated or not?

      June 7, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  4. TexasCentrist

    It boggles the mind. You have someone smart enough to excel in school, but can't even use that intelligence to debunk his religious tendencies. Hey guy, leave the "thought" switch turned on and seriously scrutinize beliefs that I doubt you have really ever questioned before. I think you'll find that they do not hold water.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Agreed

      The purpose of education is to overcome ignorance, not to validate it.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Some educated people might find that commitment to self-centeredness rather contemptible, in principle.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  5. Anon

    After reciting the prayer Costner crossed himself, genuflected, Tebowed, and exorcised a demon from the principal.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      You forgot "spanked one out for jesus"

      June 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  6. Bostontola

    Logic must have been a creation of god for humans as part of our limitations, because Judeo-Christian scriptures and creeds are rife with illogic. If god is omniscient and omnipotent and created satan, god either knew satan would be evil or could be evil. So god is an accomplice of evil. Just one of the many illogical inconsistencies in the Judeo-Christian system. So I guess god gave man logic to screw with our heads and show us how limited we are.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  7. Dawn

    What is wrong with you people. Why is it that Christians are attacked all of the time, maybe if there were actually freedom of religion and freedom of speech in this country (meaning if you are not agreeing with a democrat) we would not be having this discussion. When is taking all morals, values, civility and positive thinking wrong? That is why there is so much violence in the first place, you can be teach kids to be thankful with or without God.... just saying to all of you who think religion has no use in your life...what does, how are your children behaving, what are your family ways doing to influence positive behavior? Perhaps we should be discussing the issue in a different way rather then slamming someone's beliefs.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Ah the persecution card...

      Ben Franklin (while in London–from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):

      If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • Taroya

      Because you are the first one that would have an issue with a pagan doing the same thing.
      Keep your god at home and in church. Practice those principles that your church teached in your speech and behaviour.
      I am not Christian, I am not Muslim, I am not Jewish, and I will not participate in any of those. Stop shoving it in my face with your nativity scenes on the courthouse lawn, with the In God We Trust on my money, your aversion to my choice whether I have a kid or not, and so on.
      Christians are not persecuted in this country, by any stretch of the imagination!

      June 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      That's funny

      Hey I'm going for ChikFilA later, you wanna come?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      Funny but i am raising my boy to be a decent kid and not once have i had to mention a diety in order to reinforce any rules.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • iheartyou

      The "christians are always being attacked" mantra is old and tired. Let it go already. Historically it has been christians that have been attacking everyone else. It's been christians that have consistently pushed their views onto others. There's references to god on our money, in the pledge of allegiance, in political ceremonies, and I could go on ad nauseam. The rest of us are busy just trying to deflect the onslaught of christianity being thrown at us on a daily basis. Now kids can't even go to a college graduation without having to be doused with a good dose of jesus. Come on! Listen, I'm all for this kid giving the speech he gave. He worked hard to become the valedictorian and I feel he should be allowed to give the speech that is a reflection of his views and his hopes. What I DO have a problem with is that it never works the other way around. If this kid was muslim and praised allah all you christians would be clutching your pearls right about now. Or if he was atheist and thanked the flying spaghetti monster there would be a public outcry that would dominate CNN's front page for weeks. That's the problem most of us have with you so-called christians..... you can dish it out but you can't take it.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  8. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    Founding fathers were believers of truth absolute GOD, none others, so is stated in their writings and deeds, they realized no one has power over universe, but truth absolute, and rightly called HIM GOD, and mad HIM foundation of American consti tution, truth absolute, without a form or any matter. not an idea of a man, but fact, having authority to fullest extent.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • NESTLE FOUNDATION OF OVALT INE

      Islam bot is hurting in head over Hindu ism. Lacking educationism.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • heh

      freak

      June 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
  9. Reality

    And for the next graduation's prayer:

    Only for the new members who will be in attendance

    The Apostles' / Agnostics’ Creed 2013 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (References used are available upon request.)

    June 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Kristi

      I am proud of Costner for speaking up for Christians. It offends me to have non-Christian people trying to tell us we have no right to thank God! And if you look up the defination of a Church it is any four walls where people gather together and talk about the Lord. I think he covered that. And this was not about publicity – this is about standing up for what is in your heart. I am thankful for people like him who refuse to be told we can't talk about God.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Reality

      Talk all you want to and or/about your god just don't do it with taxpayers' dollars i.e. this is a public school getting local, state and federal funding. I am sure there are some private Christian schools in the area this kid could have went to.

      June 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • G to the T

      Thanking god and leading the room in prayer are 2 different things. No one would argue against someone thanking god for their success. But then deciding to say the lord's prayer AS A SELF-CONFESSED POLITICAL move means he knew WHY it was wrong and did it anyways.

      June 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Reality blabbers: this kid could have went to.

      You write as if you went to one of them.

      June 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • fred

      Reality
      Private Christian schools run about 12,000 a year in my area. In Christian schools you can talk about Dawkins and atheists because in Christ is where you find true freedom. Amazing that atheist are so afraid of the Word of God.
      The Word of God is the living word and has power. The Bible says my word will not return empty.. To the atheists it exposes their fears and the effect of godlessness on their lives. Christians see atheists speak as the testing of their faith. To the extent that my faith is based on that which can be seen the atheist will prove that to be a false foundation.
      I say thanks to God for allowing atheists to weed out the evil in our Christian hearts.

      June 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • The real Tom

      fred, you are a moron. Public schools are not filled only with Christians, you ass. It's not that anyone is "afraid". It's that they're not insensitive clods like you and they respect the fact that others have differing beliefs and customs. Public schools aren't "afraid" of discussing religion, as some of you nut-cases claim. Students DO discuss the tenets of different religions and beliefs; schools simply don't endorse YOUR particular version over another as you wish they would.

      June 11, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  10. God

    Christians may want to consider that they themselves have created Atheists and Agnostics. Don't you christians think that perhaps your hypocrisy, ignorance and constant changing of what is right and what is wrong (according to whatever crazy christian is in power at the time) MIGHT be chasing your own children away??? So one dumb kid prayed in school. That doesn't mean you're empowered by his civil disobedience, it means that you teach to go against the law of the land. Naughty!

    June 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • lol??

      Crazy man, very hip.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  11. mama k

    Vic says: "What drove Roy Costner IV over the edge was the Freedom From Religion Foundation meddling his school's religious affairs over the past year and restricting student-led prayers at the school's board meetings"

    In the U.S., someone has always had to help keep the wall of separation in place. Other posters here are quick to cite a ceremonial address by Washington or Lincoln, but consider this:

    As Deist Christians, the first five presidents including John Adams, James Madison & Thomas Jefferson were likely to have quite a different notion of God than the Christian God of today. Deist Christians may have followed Christ's teachings, but usually refuted the divinity of Christ. They were always ready to call out on the dark side of organized religion:

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history. "

    (John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816)

    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    Obviously Deism played an important part in the lives of the key framers who wrote the Constitution and its initial set of Amendments that we live by in the U.S.

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (James Madison, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights – from A Memorial and Remonstrance as delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785.)

    But what was Madison's reflections on his handiwork in the Constitution and 1st Amendment? These quotes are from two Madison letters later in life:

    Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

    The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

    John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law.

    John Tyler, the 10th POTUS was a Deist Christian.

    Many believe Abraham Lincoln was a Deist.
    John Remsburg, in his book Six Historic Americans (1906), cites several of Lincoln's close associates:

    After his assassination Mrs. Lincoln said: "Mr. Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual acceptance of these words." His lifelong friend and executor, Judge David Davis, affirmed the same: "He had no faith in the Christian sense of the term." His biographer, Colonel Lamon, intimately acquainted with him in Illinois, and with him during all the years that he lived in Washington, says: "Never in all that time did he let fall from his lips or his pen an expression which remotely implied the slightest faith in Jesus as the son of God and the Savior of men."

    Theodore Roosevelt did not take the oath of office on a Bible in 1901.

    William Howard Taft, the only U.S. President to also hold the office of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court:

    I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.

    ========

    The Deistic side of John Adams comes out strong in these paragraphs A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787-1788)

    The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

    Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • lol??

      Mama Konflict, try helping out the Beast gubmint in their conflicted views and quit pickin' on the bride.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  12. palintwit

    Historians now agree that the south lost the civil war because generations of inbreeding resulted in an abnormally high number of mentally challenged soldiers in the confederate army. Also, physical deformaties such as webbed feet prevented the confederates from running from the northern army, thus insuring their capture and defeat. One has only to take a casual drive south of the Mason-Dixon line to see the descendants of the confederate forces, easily recognizable by their lack of teeth, sloping foreheads and beany copter hats.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Self-satire?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  13. boredofceleb

    Of all beliefs, the Atheists and the Christians are the most intolerant and vociferous of all. Do you see any Buddhists, for instance, name-calling or proclaiming their faith/belief as the absolute truth? Think about it. Why are they both so intolerant and disrespectful? At least the ones I read posting here appear to be so.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      How is non-belief a belief?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      @Truth: It's a belief that there is no existence of a deity.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      i can have a belief that the sun will come up tomorrow but that doesnt make it a religious belief.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      @Cedar: True, but sunrising believers aren't posting angrily on a FAITH blog.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @boredofceleb

      Dude, go to Asia and say this comment again. There's a reason why Buddhism is one of the biggest religions in the world today. It's because they proseltyze just as much as Christianity and Islam. We just happen to live in a society where Christianity is the dominant religion, but I would reccomend you actually do a little research before psoting stupid in the internet.

      The worst part is, Buddhism is just as bad, maybe worse, than Christianity. They believe that action is a bad thing. In some cases (like violance) it creates bad karma and we as Americans like to hop on board with that. The issue is, they also believe giving to charity (good karma) is just as harmful to the world. They would rather you do nothing.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      @ Chuckles: "The worst part is, Buddhism is just as bad, maybe worse, than Christianity." YOUR quote. So is there any faith you don't have a problem with or do you believe they ALL need to be abolished and everyone should be forced to embrace no spirituality in their lives? Because Buddhists (and I am not one BTW) do nothing, they are "bad"? As I stated before the only faith I personally have a problem with is one which promotes violence.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • James Delles

      Atheism is a belief like bald is a hair color.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      @James: If what you say is true–that atheism is not a belief, then why are they posting on a Belief Blog?(Scroll to top of this page). It is a belief that there is no deity. Who can argue that?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'boredofceleb @Cedar: True, but sunrising believers aren't posting angrily on a FAITH blog'

      but to be opposing a religious belief doesnt require a religious belief.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • James Delles

      @boredofceleb if I go post on a racist site on how bad racism is, does that make me a racist?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @boredofceleb

      As you might have guessed, I don't think religion, in any form, is good.

      Yes, that was my quote, that's why I said it. The fact that buddhists think that helping someone else will give them karma that stops them from breaking samsara (which is their end goal) seems pretty outrageous. At least christians want to believe that helping people is a good thing. Buddhism dictates that actions, any action, has a bad result.

      I also never mentioned anything about abolishing religion and forcing people to embrace secularism. Those are your words. I would hope that a person like you would be able to use your brain and look at a story like, say, The Noah's Ark story and realize that on it's face it sounds utterly rediculous and that it obviously didn't happen. I would hope that by allowing logic and reason to be taught in schools, most people would understand that religion is pure escapism and not an actual real thing with a real god. That's what I hope but I am keenly aware you can't force someone to stop believing in something or start believing in another (contrary to christian history which is full of forced conversion).

      If you really want to not support a faith that promotes violence, I reccomend stop believing in christianity, one of the more deadly and violent religions of today.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      @ Chuckles: "I would hope that by allowing logic and reason to be taught in schools, most people would understand that religion is pure escapism and not an actual real thing with a real god. That's what I hope but I am keenly aware you can't force someone to stop believing in something or start believing in another (contrary to christian history which is full of forced conversion)." Very well put. I would add that my motto regarding the existence of different faiths is "live and let live", as long as there is no violence. As I said before, if you believed in "the Flying Spaghetti Monster", Chuckles, I would respect your belief even if I inwardly "chuckled" at it.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @boredofceleb

      Then I can respect that. As long as it doesn't effect me, you can believe in your jesus, I'll believe in a teapot, or a flying spaghetti monster or whatever nonesense I choose to believe in. I would hope that you can also stand with me against lawmakers of all faiths on enacting laws when it comes to religion or lack there of. I would never want to stop someone from expressing their faith in a house of worship, or their homes, however I'm sure you understand that keeping religion out of the public square makes sure no one gets special treatment.

      Fair?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      @Chuckles: Just for the record, I am an agnostic. But I am in firm agreement that I am against any Theocracy. Yet I will respect and tolerate with every breath in me anyone's faith and their right to express it verbally, even if I am not in agreement. I am also against childish namecalling, ranting and raving with someone whose faith I may feel is "irrational".

      June 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @boredofceleb

      Well here's where it gets tricky. You see, I have a healthy respect for the law and I also respect the idea that anyone is allowed to say whatever they want (for the most part), but why on earth should I respect what they have to say? Seriously, why should I have to respect another persons belief when it sounds so patently silly? I respect that they have the right to believe in something and I respect that if they choose to devote their life to one silly cause or another, it's their business but why should I for a second think that what they believe should be respected and treated as rational when it clearly isn't?

      Now, the childish name calling, or ranting at another person telling them they're dumb is counter productive to the degree that it obvious hinders the point I'm trying to make, but I won't stop engaging someone in what they believe and try to get them to see reason.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • fred

      Chuckles
      Have you no respect for your family that has an eternal hope based upon generations that have made it through hard times because of their faith? If you cannot respect them then at least acknowledge it was faith that produced the hope they needed when it was needed.

      June 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  14. Bostontola

    What the kid did was wrong, not egregious, but wrong. When you agree not to do something and then do it you have violated a trust. Christians justifying that because they agree with the underlying act fall victim to group relative morality. I don't blame them, it is a common human trait.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      God cannot hear us properly unless we bray like donkeys and make fools of ourselves in front of crowds.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • Adam

      You also need necklaces. Shiny necklaces.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      He might have made a bolder statement if he had declined to speak as valediictorian unless they gave approval for his comments.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • G to the T

      Good point Bill. 🙂

      June 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Bill Deacon

      You said, "He might have made a bolder statement if he had declined to speak as valediictorian unless they gave approval for his comments."
      Oh right, blackmail. As if condescension, deceit and deception aren't enough as christian values.

      June 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  15. Scott

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH [emphasis added for the komrade libs]

    Scott

    June 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You can use all the caps you want, dude, but it won't make any difference. The SCOTUS interprets the Const itution and it has already ruled on this issue-student-led prayers in public schools at events that are all-inclusive are in violation. Maybe you should read some law.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      you still trying to claim you are a christian scott?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • God

      Oh my Me! Where did you get that little quote Scott? Are you saying that the law prohibiting prayer in school is illegal and NOBODY knew it?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Scott,
      Should we have libel and slander laws?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • mary

      Fuck off with your backhanded insults, Scott, you coward. Many liberals are staunch capitalists.

      Now go back to playing with your tiny member.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Scott

      Yup, I've irritated the komrade left. Seems that mary is especially irritated. 🙂 But then the Beliefs section of CNN is a magnet for the religion haters or more precisely the Christian haters 🙂

      Scott

      June 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      it ssems it attracts a lot more than that

      June 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      Scott you are harming God by angering others with His Word. You will face His wrath.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  16. Ed

    It's high time for Christians to stop shoving their religion at the rest of humanity. That's how their god meme propagates. Push back.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • JFCanton

      How? By whining about something that can't be prevented?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  17. JanetMermaid

    Wrong on so many levels:

    1. Totally flouted authority by throwing away the approved speech. Yeah, that'll work well in the private sector of working people.

    2. Rude and disrespectful to all those who DON'T believe the same thing but were celebrating graduation that day.

    3. Inappropriate on ALL levels as a "today we graduate" send off speech.

    June 7, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  18. Vic

    What drove Roy Costner IV over the edge was the Freedom From Religion Foundation meddling his school's religious affairs over the past year and restricting student-led prayers at the school's board meetings (Read the 12th paragraph of the article.)

    Standing up for student-led prayers in school, which the community of Liberty, SC fully supports, is what's applauded here and construed as courage!

    [
    "My son has been inundated with phone calls and well wishers, including messages from atheists who say 'you know what, don't agree with you, but good for you for standing up for what you believe in.'"

    http://piersmorgan.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/06/valedictorian-breaks-school-rule-recites-lords-prayer-during-graduation-speech/?hpt=pm_mid
    ]

    June 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • mary

      Selling religion using a graduation speech is a waste of an opportunity to say something useful. Vic, you suck.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      A public school has no business with any religious affairs.
      Telling one religion they cannot be the sole represented religion in a school is not 'meddling'

      June 7, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Science

      But did you post a comment VIcky on that link ?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • ME II

      @Vic,
      As a governmental insti.tution, the school board should not have prayers, student-led or otherwise, unless they don't favor one religion over others or none.

      I would take Mr. Costner's comment with a grain of salt. Confirmation bias would be likely in this case.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Who cares how many nuts congratulate the little lying jerk? He's still flouting the law. Vicky, when will you figure out that your use of italics looks silly unless there's a good reason for using them?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • lol??

      Tech will solve it with prerecorded "messages". I vote for the previous years senior kegger party and unedited. That will slow everybody down in their jumping to conclusions.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  19. Adam

    The problem with saying “this is what God wanted me to do,” is that the moment you grant that your subjective consciousness can divine the proper course of action, you have granted that that phrase can be used by ANYONE else in support of ANY ACTION.

    You have ceded ground in our fight against evil actions. Can't you imagine some people's subjective consciousness that you wouldn't want to arm with the weaponry of complete self-assurance and self-righteousness? Using this phrase is harmful to civilization. Stop it.

    June 7, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • lol??

      What civilization?? Are you new to the blog??

      June 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • meifumado

      A very dangerous thing, you are right sir!

      June 7, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  20. darknesscrown

    *face palm* Way to make a statement, kid. You really showed them. Virtually 100% of the people in that auditorium believed the same thing you do, how courageous. LOL Try that in Ramadi (and manage to live) and maybe I'll respect the act.

    June 7, 2013 at 11:57 am |
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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.