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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. Alex

    Totally inappropriate. Not everyone is christian. How dare you make the decision to hold a prayer for a PUBLIC graduation? Even I went to a Catholic school and that would have been totally inappropriate at my school for a graduation speech. Religion and spirituality is a PRIVATE matter. There's just so much wrong with this. Stop trying to force your beliefs on others. I see what kind of son your parents raised. An inconsiderate and rude one.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Jakuho Raikoben

      Hey, he wanted to thank God. It's not illegal to believe in God. Just because you don't doesn't mean that every else doesn't.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You went to a Catholic school where the Lord's prayer was inappropriate?

      June 7, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  2. Ricksteele

    I'm so tired of hearing this rhetoric about Christians being "persecuted" when stuff like this happens. This guy broke the rules to express his faith and was applauded. How is this persecution? Do you even know what the definition of "persecution" is?

    Here's an example of a scenario in which it would be appropriate to complain about unfairness:

    http://newsone.com/2533086/chelsey-ramer-alabama/

    notice, the young lady in the article is NOT christian. This is what unfairness looks like. You have Christians allowed to express their faith freely and the only consequence is that they receive a bit of light criticism along with massive approval. Then you have people of other faiths doing the same, then getting fined and denied a diploma.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • tony

      Worth claiming "Fair use" for quoting the incident:

      Home » Nation » Native American Student Denied Diploma For Wearing Tribal Feather At Graduation
      Native American Student Denied Diploma For Wearing Tribal Feather At Graduation
      Jun 5, 2013
      By Ruth Manuel-Logan
      Share
      498
      ramer

      Chelsey Ramer (pictured) is a proud Native American, but when she attached a tribal eagle feather to her graduation mortarboard, she would reportedly not only be denied her high school diploma and transcripts, but fined $1,000 for her act, according to Salon News.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • lol??

      Eagle feathers, greeksters, and feds are a volatile mix. Science almost killed em off.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  3. Sam yaza

    were not gong to punish students for the religious faith? as long as its christian you mean, then again Liberty is a Christian school. i wonder if some ones payee went like this
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBUC1l4VSAU
    what would they do

    June 7, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Alex

      Isn't that a Magic card?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • JFCanton

      Well, it's a high school in a different state... not Liberty the college. Which I'm sure would have a cow. One of my friends from college joked about going on their campus and taking her clothes off just to irritate them, and she wasn't one of the ones who'd participate in silliness like streaking a normal college's admin building.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Sam yaza

      yes there are magic cards with the name of multiple deities, including Yahweh

      http://www.constructacard.com/images/created_cards/6682/magic/de3e51045986342d535959dc6c3711366ed629e2.jpg

      June 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • TravelSheryl

      How do you know it's a Christian HIGH SCHOOL? This is not Falwell's Liberty University whidh is in Virginia, not South Carolina.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Sam yaza

      JC to
      http://i.imgur.com/DuJCV.png

      June 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Sam yaza

      yeah i'm aware of that know get off my back Sheryl this is literally all i read "Leading up to Saturday’s ceremony, Roy Costner IV prayed on what he was going to do. Liberty ...." and i stopped caring

      June 7, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  4. ellid

    What a spoiled, privileged little brat. I shudder to think of what would happen if he actually had to respect the opinions and beliefs of others instead of breaking the law because he felt like it.

    *rolls eyes*

    June 7, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
  5. John

    Look up the definition of brainwashed and it may get through to you

    June 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Bill

      I made the decision to believe in a higher power. Nobody brainwashed me.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Ken

      ok John

      brainwashed: a forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas.

      They just had to throw 'religious beliefs' in there didn't they. Well I guess that means atheist can also be the instigators don't ya think?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Ken

      oh and here's my source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brainwashed

      June 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  6. Bill

    Why do some on this blog feel that I am unintelligent or brainwashed for believing in God?

    June 7, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • tony

      It's 95% likely that you were first taught about god while still a child. Most children in isolation, or in another country with a different religion, could hardly come up with biblical knowledge on their own.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Because they believe in hindu evil ism, crooked self center ism and they base their faith in hindu atheism, criminal self center ism to be hindus, ignorant s.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • JFCanton

      But the same could be said of ANY abstract knowledge. Counterpoint is CS Lewis.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Colin

      Most believers are neither brainwashed nor unintelligent. They were just taught a particular superst.ition as a fact when they were too young to know any better and have never really questione it ever since. Some lack the education and/or mental gifts to later get above the superst.ition (and others have been convinced it is immoral to question, doubt or think for oneself) but most who do question it as adults end up as agnostics or luke-warm believers at best.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Bill

      I will admit that is true but I still question my beliefs today. Nobody is forcing their beliefs on me. I believe what I choose to.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Sam yaza

      because Christianity is a cult that believes a human named Jesus is a God

      June 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      If you would drop the reward of eternal bliss and the only alternative to it, eternal torment, then it would be more credible that you have freely come to believe.

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

      Tom,
      Why is that? I do believe in those afterlives b/c the people who do no good get what they deserve.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Bill

      The universe does not exist to conform to your idea of justice. While that may be a nice thought, it just is not true.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Bill, it's because these are presented as the only alternatives, there is no way to show they are actually possible, and they could be use to reinforce acceptance of almost anything. Take them off the table, then what reasons do you have for continuing in your belief. Sufficient reasons?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @bill, it is almost universally true that your alleged decision to accept your religion is nothing more than a factor of the time and place of your life and no decision at all. it is no coincidence that america is overwhelming christian and iran overwhelmingly islamic.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Bill
      Tom,
      Why is that? I do believe in those afterlives b/c the people who do no good get what they deserve.'

      couple of points.....
      1) apparently to a lot of christians, the people that meet that criteria of 'do no good' include those that do not believe in god and people that are gay. You think thats deserving of endless torment?
      2) get what they deserve? deserve in whose eyes? god? why would a supreme all powerful being have a desire to give people 'what they deserve' once dead? what would be the point? (and dont forget this is apparently the same deity that wiped out the planet, and had no issue with his followers killing every man, woman and child in jericho)

      June 7, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Alex

      Colin nailed it on the head. I was raised Catholic, even went to Catholic school. I respect the faith, but over time I learned that religion is man made, and not through the influence of god but rather corruptible men who have their own agendas. No one can truly understand the true meaning of a god or creator. I don't believe it's possible to understand god's intentions therefore I feel as if I align closer with Agnostics. Overall I guess I just believe spirituality should be a personal and private matter.

      Just curious: you don't truly believe you're confessing to god when you tell a priest during confession right?

      June 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bill

      “Bill, it's because these are presented as the only alternatives, there is no way to show they are actually possible, and they could be use to reinforce acceptance of almost anything.”

      Who knows what lies for us after we pass? Of course there is no way to show they’re real as this is a belief and not fact. However, if one would believe evil people will be punished after death then it would only make sense to believe in a higher power.

      “Take them off the table, then what reasons do you have for continuing in your belief. Sufficient reasons?”

      Even though I do believe, I have no facts to back anything up. I do believe in miracles such as the one in Fatima but of course I cannot prove this to be real.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • JFCanton

      It's really not a high bar to drop those two things, given that the idea of paradise is not understandable in this life and the idea of the other as usually presented doesn't make sense. The Hindu idea of a lifelong jerk having to start again from the rodent stage is much more relatable.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Bill

      Snowboarder,
      I agree. What’s your point?

      cedar rapids,
      I obviously do not know who will be there in the afterlife but when there are some people that deserve to be punished I believe they will be. Again, I of course cant prove this.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  7. John

    Brainwashed , brainwashed , and more brainwashed

    June 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  8. Dyan S

    My response to this would be simple I'd get up and leave. I suggest every other atheist out there does the same thing and leave these individuals to believe in w/ever they want to believe in. For the time being I'm perfectly content with getting up and leaving as a show of disapproval.

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

      I think it's also fair to bring some rotten fruit...just in case.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Leaving is perfectly appropriate. Assault, not so much.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Dyan

      Sure, we could just getting up and leaving, I mean your son/daughter graduation isn't nearly as important as showing disapproval. Maybe at one point lawmwakers start passing laws asking for prayers to begin meetings or events. Just get up and leave right? Then they start asking for people of faith to start doing more, maybe aggresively quoting the lords prayer at your childrens school, or at a public playground. Maybe they start mandating that people of a certain age must become missionaries or witnesses to walk around and start converting others.

      When should you stand up Dyan? After it's too late?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Not sure where you're going with this Chuckles but wouldn't she have to stand up before she walked out?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Bill

      My, admittedly garbled point is that simply standing up and leaving doesn't work. Give them an inch and they'll take a mile. Sure, walking out is one way to show you disapprove of somehting, but what will it change? The only thing that would have happened if a parent had gotten up and left would have been to disappoint their child who was graduating seeing their parent get up and leave in the middle of the ceremony. It's important to take a stand about something like this and do more than just choose not to listen.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Sjh

      To Martin:

      What's that: "I don't like what you have to say, so I'll throw something at you"? I'll bet you see yourself as the height ot tolerance, don't you?

      June 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  9. TODO

    Free speech. Aren't we all granted that freedom? By restricting his you will only restrict your own further down the road. One will disagree with the other leading to a war of words used for ammunition. Civil rights will disappear leaving no one allowed to speak his mind.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Roger

      All rights in this country come with restrictions that are agreed upon in law – often from the same law that gives such rights.

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

      on the other hand, if the speaker had climbed up there and said "God doesn't exist, you need to take accountability for your own life and its path...", the nuts would have thrown a fit. So where do you draw the line?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Barber, you draw the line in the same place for both. People get to speak their minds. Others can throw a fit or not.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • derp

      @Bill Deacon. You managed to slink off like a coward rather than respond to this. I'm not letting you off the hook.

      I will keep trolling you until you respond.

      "it cuts both ways derp. When HBC accuses someone of mental illness, it's up to her to make the case. Not the other way around"

      So you are saying that there is no god?

      Or are you saying you are not sure whether there is a god or not?

      Because you have certainly never ever offered a shred of proof of any god.

      By your own logic, you have failed to fulfill "proof is required by he who states".

      Thanks, you have just proven the complete invalidity of anyone who has ever asserted that there is a higher power. I appreciate you backing me up like that

      June 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Since you're persistent if not civil, I'll re-post, correcting my spelling errors:

      Sorry derp, didn't realize you were trying to be cogent. In HBDC's case yesterday she claims the boy should have his rights removed until he can prove his mental stability. This is a classic violation of the premise of proof of innocence. I quoted the Latin, since it is the root logic under girding our system of justice that says the state cannot remove rights from a citizen prior to the proof of guilt. The burden is not on the citizen to establish proof of innocence in order to obtain rights. HBDC is perpetuating a train of thought which would describe religious belief as either a mental illness or a crime, at which point the state would have a duty to censure Christianity as well as other religions. So, claiming Christianity is a mentally illness is more than an insult. It is the seed germinating in liberal atheism to criminalize religion.

      Conversely, you are correct and we are in agreement, he who makes the claim must provide the evidence. This seems to show that when I say to you "There is a God", I would be required to prove it. And you would be right to expect that proof before conversion to my belief. But I don't say there is a God. What I say is "I believe there is a God" for that, I incur no debt of proof to you. This is called freedom of religion. You and I are both free to believe the creeds we choose without proof or coersion, and without criminalization or diagnosis. I have often said that if one truly desires proof of the existence of God, one merely need seek him with all the zeal he can muster. Most agnostics are not disposed to that level of zeal or exertion. What they really mean is "Give me a believable report/argument".

      I will claim this to you. An encounter with Jesus is never something that you should accept from someone else's report. Seek Him yourself though and don't be surprised when your disbelief turns into faith.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
    • Clarence

      Bill, why should anyone have to seek a god?

      June 7, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  10. Melanie

    Good for him!! We need more people to follow in his footsteps and stand up for what we believe in. Since when has it become a crime to be a Christian???

    June 7, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • lol??

      Since forever.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • midwest rail

      " Since forever."
      Absolutely false. But you already knew that, and lied anyway. What a shock.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Ricksteele

      A crime to be a Christian? This guy was applauded and celebrated. Unlike what happened to this young lady who also tried to express her beliefs at graduation:

      http://newsone.com/2533086/chelsey-ramer-alabama/

      Seems to me that the only "crime" here is being non-christian.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Ricksteele
      I've tried drawing the same parallel as you with the Native American girl, but so far all I've got in response is the sound of crickets......

      June 7, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • ellid

      Since when is being told to refrain from shoving one's religious beliefs in the face of others persecution?????

      June 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      A cursory reading of Chelsey Ramer's story shows she was probably restricted from freedom of speech, which Roy would have incurred, if the school board had the opportunity. It's likely that she has a case but only because the school failed to obtain a signature on the contract she was supposed to sign preventing changes in wardrobe. I can't immediately tell if she had the legal right to possess an eagle feather or not, but it is illegal in some states unless there is a pre-existing exemption in place.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • lol??

      "1Cr 15:5 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption."

      "1Cr 15:56 The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law."

      June 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Alex

      When you say a prayer at a public graduation for starters. If tax dollars are supporting it, I don't want any man made religion around it. In fact I would have been supportive if they cut his mic at that very moment he started the prayer, and I went to a Catholic school where we had to say a prayer every morning and sometimes in every class! He has no right to proselytize at a public graduation. Those people were not attending a religion event, they were attending their daughter or son's graduation which absolutely should be secular.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  11. Michael J.

    I can just hear all the atheists now, beginning to spew their slimy rhetoric.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Roger

      I can just hear all the Xtians now, spewing all their slimy, conflicted rhetoric.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Adam

      ?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Chuckles

      First, only now? You should probably get your ears/eyes checked. I mean there's been some 2,000+ comments so you're a little late to the party

      Second, rhetoric? What is that exactly? Oh yeah, the sh.it that comes out of your pastors mouth framed as, "atheists believe xyz...." and "atheists hate us because they're jealous"

      Am I in the ballpark?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Good. I'm glad you're expecting it. Our comments are becoming harder and harder to ignore and we appreciate it that you notice it to such a degree that you expect it and consider them "slimy"–as in "unable to shake off." Yes, our logic is that good; you can't shake it off.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • ellid

      I'm an an atheist, and I would have been deeply angered by this. Prayers have no place at a SECULAR, TAXPAYER-SUPPORTED graduation.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • ellid

      Make that "I'm NOT an atheist" – and I wonder if this spoiled little brat would have gotten the same rapturous reception if he'd worn a yarmulke and recited a Jewish prayer? Or a Unitarian and quoted William Ellery Channing?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Commenter

      Michael J.

      You want to see "slimy"? How about turning in one speech, getting approval, and then breaking your (tacit) promise and saying what you know to be unapproved comments, knowing that you will slither out of there with no punishment...?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      'Michael J.

      I can just hear all the atheists now, beginning to spew their slimy rhetoric.'

      uh oh, looks like theres another hater that ignores his own bible and is condemned to hell. such a pity.

      June 7, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  12. Colin

    Poor kid. The education system has totally failed him. After 12 years of schooling, he still believes in Greco-Roman Jewish mythology as a fact. It's not his fault that he believes such nonsense. He is the valedictorian, so he is clearly bright on some level. It is our education system that is choked to the neck with political correctness.

    I expect that future generations will look back at the fact that Christianity survived into the 21st Century as one of the greatest paradoxes in the history of the USA. One can imagine a future history book:

    "The most remarkable thing about the early 21st Century USA was how widely held the religo-superst.itions still were. While the country led the World in many branches of science, medicine and technology, and benefitted from one of the best university systems in the World, a whopping 90% of the population still believed in a Greco-Roman Jewish sky-god.

    A massive 40% of them still believed the entire Universe was less than 10,000 years old and started with one man, one woman and a talking snake! Modern historians attribute this paradox to a failure of their education system that, for generations, did not confront religo-supersti.tions out of political cowardice."

    June 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • lol??

      You're the creative type. You like to make your own mythology.

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

      One can only hope. Either that, or we're headed to a Theocracy where ignorance is the rule of law.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • PapaG

      Yes, indeed; and not only in the 21st Century will history record that a whopping this percentage and a whopping that percentage believe in the Greco-Roman Jewish Myth or "sky god" as you put it, it will also be recorded in the 22nd, 23rd, 24th until the end of time. For, the truth, the light and the way are not subject to the whims of popular belief or the trendiness of popular culture. God is alive and well, Nietzsche and will remain so regardless of whether one accepts it or not. Belief, after all, is in the eyes of the beholder and the overwhelming majority of Americans, not to mention human beings throughout this blessed, glorious and beautiful planet, still believe in God regardless of how they name Him/Her or It. So, when that young man began to say, "Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name...", he spoke for all who believe in the Deity; he simply did so in the way that was familiar to him. God Bless you all.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • MJL

      I agree, but I wonder how far out that is?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Alex

      "he spoke for all who believe in the Deity"

      HIS Deity. There is no "the" Deity unless you have some conclusive proof that's been elusive since I dunno...try forever. Not everyone believes in 1 god or the christian god. Your beliefs are your private matter, why don't you keep them that way?

      June 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  13. norman

    silly religious kookery-why do christians insist on throwing their god down our throats??

    June 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • lol??

      Why do the educratists threaten to take your stuff if you don't support them??

      June 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
  14. Michael

    One of these days, someone is going to do this and they're going to thank Zeus, Mother Gaia, Satan, Ganesh, Allah, and/or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and the very same Christians cheering this are going to the the first to go on the attack. They're only okay with shoving a god in people's faces if it's THEIR god, and therein lies the problem. Keep the religion in the church and nobody gets upset... well, except for the theocrats, I suppose.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Yep. And all the Christians on here right now discussing "freedom of speech" and how he was a "hero" would have the exact opposite opinion.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  15. Ric

    I would have booed the hell out of him. This is disgraceful, so sick of these idiots always trying to impose their lunacy on everyone. It's really time for Atheists and all non-believers to stand up against this nonsense. "God" (in quotes b/c there's no such thing) is EVIL, RELIGION IS EVIL. It is the sole source of bigotry, hatred, close-mindedness etc in this world. We as Humans will not evolve/survive unless we wipe out this sort of thinking and its damn time WE STAND UP AGAINST IT.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • lol??

      Sic Ric.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Evil is too smart to rely on a sole source provider. Check for other lines of distribution.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • derp

      @Bill Deacon. You managed to slink off like a coward rather than respon to this. I'm not letting you off the hook.

      I will keep trolling you until you respond.

      "it cuts both ways derp. When HBC accuses someone of mental illness, it's up to her to make the case. Not the other way around"

      So you are saying that there is no god?

      Or are you saying you are not sure whether there is a god or not?

      Because you have certainly never ever offered a shred of proof of any god.

      By your own logic, you have failed to fulfill "proof is required by he who states".

      Thanks, you have just proven the complete invalidity of anyone who has ever asserted that there is a higher power. I appreciate you backing me up like that

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

      so booing is not disgraceful? Way to take the high road Ric.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Sorry derp, didn't realize you were trying to be cogent. In mama's case yesterday she claims the boy should have his rights removed until he can prove his mental stability. This is a classic violation of the premise of proof of innocence. I quoted the Latin, since it is to root logic under girding our system of justice that says the state cannot remove rights from a citizen prior to the proof of guilt. The burden is not on the citizen to establish proof of innocence in order to obtain rights. mama is perpetuation a train of thought which would describe religious belief as either a mental illness or a crime, at which point the state would have a duty to censure Christianity as well as other religions. So, claiming Christianity is a mentally illness is more than an insult. It is the seed germinating in liberal atheism to criminalize religion.

      Conversely, you are correct and we are in agreement, he who makes the claim must provide the evidence. This seems to show that when I say to you "There is a God", I would be required to prove it. And you would be right to expect that proof before conversion to my belief. But I don't say there is a God. What I say is "I believe there is a God" for that, I incur no debt of proof to you. This is called freedom of religion. You and I are both free to believe the creeds we choose without proof or coersion, and without criminalization or diagnosis. I have often said that if one truly desires proof of the existence of God, one merely need seek him with all the zeal he can muster. Most agnostics are not dispose to that level of zeal or exertion. What they really mean is "Give me a believable report".

      I will claim this to you. An encounter with Jesus is never something that you should accept from someone else's report. Seek Him yourself though and don't be surprised when your disbelief turn into faith.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Oh, it wasn't mama, it was honey badger

      June 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  16. ann

    GOOD for him! I love it.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • mama k

      Love it all you want. You know why I say that? Because U.S. history has shown that the stronger someone pushes against the wall of separation, the stronger the wall gets; the more its intent is spread throughout all of the states.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • ME II

      @ann,
      Interesting that you would applaud a Christian lying to the administrators about what he was going to say.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  17. Nick

    The Free Exercise (of religion) Clause finally gets priority over the Establishment clause. This young man was merely exercising his rights and wasn't hurting anyone or "establishing" religion. Anyone who was there and disagreed with him could simply ignore what he said, respectfully!

    June 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Alice

      I wouldn't have a problem with what he said, but it's important to note that it was, in fact, against the law.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Nick, would your comment have been exactly the same had the boy been advocating Islam-run schools, girl students wearing a full hajib, and boys memorizing the Koran?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Michael J.

      Alice, your existence is against the law.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      can you cite the statute Alice?

      June 7, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Alice

      Bill, MikeOnABike did so with on the previous page:

      Lee v Weisman (505 US 577, 1992) is THE ruling that makes it entirely clear that prayer at school-sponsored functions is verboten. Pay particular attention to Anthony Kennedy's words here, writing for the majority:

      "As we have observed before, there are heightened concerns with protecting freedom of conscience from subtle coercive pressure in the elementary and secondary public schools. Our decisions in [Engel] and [Abington] recognize, among other things, that prayer exercises in public schools carry a particular risk of indirect coercion. The concern may not be limited to the context of schools, but it is most pronounced there. What to most believers may seem nothing more than a reasonable request that the nonbeliever respect their religious practices, in a school context may appear to the nonbeliever or dissenter to be an attempt to employ the machinery of the State to enforce a religious orthodoxy."

      This is now known as the "coercion test." Also, consider the points of the Lemon test. Under Lemon v. Kurzman (1971), the court ruled that these three criteria must be met to AVOID violating the separation clause:

      Have a secular purpose;
      Must neither advance nor inhibit religion; and
      Must not result in an excessive entanglement between government and religion."

      June 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • JFCanton

      The lack of the school's knowledge of what he was going to do would appear to be a fatal problem with declaring this illegal. You can't test what isn't known until it happens.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Judging by the criteria, I'd say you have no case:

      The graduation ceremony is not so much a school function as it is a secular celebration of the already established fact that these are graduated students. No ones diploma was in jeopardy.

      Those who supported the comments applauded. Those who did not declined. There was neither advancement nor inhibition.

      Since the remarks were not approved by the school board, there is a distinct non-entanglement of government and religion.

      No violation occurred.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • ME II

      @Bill Deacon,
      "The graduation ceremony is not so much a school function as it is a secular celebration of the already established fact that these are graduated students. No ones diploma was in jeopardy."

      What? How was it not a school function? School matters. School location. School organized. School approved speech (the one ripped up.).

      June 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • derp

      @Bill Deacon. You managed to slink off like a coward rather than respon to this. I'm not letting you off the hook.

      I will keep trolling you until you respond.

      "it cuts both ways derp. When HBC accuses someone of mental illness, it's up to her to make the case. Not the other way around"

      So you are saying that there is no god?

      Or are you saying you are not sure whether there is a god or not?

      Because you have certainly never ever offered a shred of proof of any god.

      By your own logic, you have failed to fulfill "proof is required by he who states".

      Thanks, you have just proven the complete invalidity of anyone who has ever asserted that there is a higher power. I appreciate you backing me up like that.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • ME II

      @Bill Deacon,
      I agree that it is not entirely clear as to whether it was "government action", due to the student going off-script, but it was a school function.

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

      Probably, JF & Bill, although one might be able to argue that school administrators failed the law by allowing him to continue once started.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • ME II

      @Alice,
      That might be a valid complaint.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • JFCanton

      I suppose they could have a cutoff switch-but then do you want to use it? If he gets cut off there (note: with the student body already chanting) it's more of an event than if he goes on to blather about the usual valedictory stuff and put the potentially offensive element in the rearview mirror.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  18. cypress40

    How is it not political if he set out to make a statement? Roy, believe it our not, some in your community are actually glad that Freedom from Religion meddled. Remember, they were representing a complaint from someone in your community!

    June 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  19. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    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.

    I don't take any issue with using his position as valedictorian to stage a protest. In his statement quoted above, he is however, quite wrong.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  20. Common Sense - What a Payne

    If he is the school's valedictorian, he obviously hasn't gone through life bucking the system. He's done everything right, and he wanted to pray. We have kids taking guns and knives to school. We have kids dropping out. We have students failing out. Maybe those kids should be the priority, not a kid who *gasp* said a prayer after working hard throughout high school.

    June 7, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Common Sense

      Why do you think a Valedictorian wouldn't have bucked the system? The Valedictorian in my school partied harder than anyone else I knew and was generally a pain in the ass. He was also insanely gifted at pulling off assignments, which is why he had such a high GPA.

      For a person using your handle, it seems you lack a lot of....common sense.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      But hindu atheist, ignorant self centered has to show their hindu evil ism, ignorant secular ism, self center ism by sticking their hindu filthy nose in every one business.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • NESTLE FOUNDATION OF OVALT INE

      Separation of church and state is everyone's buz, hurting head Islam bot ism.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Truth absolute GOD is foundation of America, and one is free to invoke HIM, any time, at any Place in America. a hidu atheist, ignorant self centered has no place to stop any one, for invoking truth absolute GOD in America.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • great reasoning Cletus

      The old switcheroo bogus argument. He could have done much worse. Be GLAD that he did this instead. Signs say you could be a So. B.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
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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.