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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. be honest

    the kid sure isn't a genius.. a bit backwards.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
  2. taildragon

    My goodness, what a courageous young man, to throw caution to the wind and publicly pray in front of a crowd of townsfolk who “fully supports prayer.”

    "When you pray, don't be like hypocrites. They like to stand in synagogues and on street corners to pray so that everyone can see them. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward." -Matthew 6:5

    June 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Please stop with the "courageous" crap. It's not like he read it while the school was burning down.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • be honest

      how silly

      June 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Ken, I do believe the "courageous" comment was sarcasm.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Kilgore Trout

      I think taildragon was being sarcastic.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Taildragon's post could go both ways. Maybe it's because I've read other posts that use the word courageous.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      My mistake. I apologize.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • taildragon

      *sarcasm"

      must be losing my touch. Seriously though, you have the junior elf telling all the other elves how great Santa is, and they're all cheering and clapping. Why is this news?

      June 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      I've been wondering the same thing. The kid cannot write or draft laws. It's probably a one time thing because the school will be forced to let others express their beliefs.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Shane

      @ Ken I believe Taildragon's point is the Lord never taught us to pray for show or to make a political point, hence the scripture quoted that talks about praying in private and in earnest not for personal gain. Not that I necessarily agree that this is what happened here – I have no problem with this young man reciting the Lord's prayer prior to speaking, it is clearly his personal faith being expressed not the school itself promoting a particular ideology.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
    • Miss Demeanor

      nicely said. Team spirit belongs in sports... not in religions (though the cult-of-westboro in this Podunk town is really a cult)...

      June 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  3. JesusLovesUsAll7

    A lot of us are sadly misguided and confused about Jesus. Many teachings of His teachings have been watered down. Which is what the deceiver wants. Please seek the Truth...www.thewarningsecondcoming.com

    June 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Does Jesus love Gays and Lesbians?

      June 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • be honest

      sad that there were no psychotherapist would could help jesus back then

      June 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Like the two who put bags over their heads last week?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  4. Jeff E

    Want something to applaud about? Not only applaud him because you agree with him, but also applaud the atheist on the back row with equal praise. Applaud the gay student that wasn't allowed to attend because of discrimination. Applaud the Muslim that was afraid to attend for fear of being beat up. And then the REAL GOD, NOT THE RIGHT WING GOD, THE REAL GOD, WILL APPLAUD RIGHT ALONG WITH YOU. Until then, it's nothing more than a political convention.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
  5. Jon

    The interesting thing is people are claiming this kid is a hero, freedom of speech, and all that BS because he was "so brave" to do it and whining about the so-called "oppression of Christians" as well.

    What if he was a Satanist? A Witch? Or, in this current racist political climate, Muslim? Would he have been cheered then?

    June 6, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • Maria

      Excellent point, Jon. Keep on pushing back. It is time to tear down the walls of religion.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Kilgore Trout

      This is small town South Carolina. The majority of locals would have also considered him a hero if he bashed gays or gave a shout-out to the NRA in his speech.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • chelle

      Indeed. Picture a Wiccan burning a candle at the podium. Imagine the results. Not the same as the prayer from the Christian kid I'm sure.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
  6. Ayup

    1st Amendment, right?

    Violating church and state? Well, first, that's not a law. It was an opinion of Thomas Jefferson, and well, this young man has a right to disagree with the 3rd President's opinion all he wants. Second, he didn't violate anything. He said his piece. He proclaimed his god in a public forum. No one was thrown in chains or executed because they didn't believe in god. Atheists scream and shout about how they are "oppressed" by Christians, but then want to oppress Christians expressing their religious beliefs anywhere outside of their homes.

    Atheists are still the minority. Their views are not commonly held in the United States. In fact, most people are people of one faith or another. I'm sorry your beliefs aren't the majority. That's the way the cookie crumbles.

    The majority of the Europeans who came over were Christians. These Europeans settled the land. Therefore, Christianity remains the predominant religion. It is what it is and no amount of crying and whining is going to change that anytime soon.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • I Am God

      Many believed in God; many were not Christian

      June 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Kilgore Trout

      Why do I suspect that your history education was provided by either a Christian school or the state of Texas?

      June 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Christians may be the majority. but you still can't prove god exists.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I hate to burst your bubble Ayup, but it's in the constitution. It wasn't just "Thomas Jefferson's opinion".

      Were you paying attention in civics class?

      June 6, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • okfine

      25% of the populaton of this planet is Muslim. So I take it you'd be fine with a Muslim student standing up in front of this same school reciting a prayer to Allah or reading from the Quran? How about a Wikkan or a Shintu or a Hindu? Why do you think that it would only be Atheists that might be offended?

      June 6, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
    • Ayup

      "I hate to burst your bubble Ayup, but it's in the consti.tution. It wasn't just "Thomas Jefferson's opinion".

      Were you paying attention in civics class?"

      I believe I was actually paying more attention than you were. Let's look at the text:

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to peti.tion the Government for a redress of grievances."

      Based on that law, if Congress made a law that said he *couldn't* speak freely about his beliefs, that would be a violation. But if you can show me in the Consti.tu.tion where it says, "Schools shall not permit a student to speak about any religion as a high school valedictorian" then I will buy what you have to say.

      Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that the endorsement of a religion in a school is a violation of the 1st Amendment. However, the school did not endorse it. He was given a forum and he spoke. Sounds like he's right in line with the 1st Amendment to me. It's that whole freedom of speech part of that 1st Amendment.

      As for if the valedictorian wanted to read from the Koran? Sure, go for it. Why not? It's not hurting anyone. That goes for any other religious belief as well.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I know what is says Ayup. In fact I stood in front of the original document and read it with my own eyes. Everything in the constitution must be, by definition, interpreted by those who make and enforce, and ejudicate the law, and we have developed a separation of church and state based on the first phrase of that amendment.

      Anyway thanks for clarifying my point with your statement: Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that the endorsement of a religion in a school is a violation of the 1st Amendment. .

      That's all you needed to say. Now we're in complete agreement.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • Ayup

      Actually, you missed my point entirely. I will say it again. It's not a violation of the 1st Amendment because Congress did not make a law nor did the school endorse it. It actually falls squarely in line with the whole freedom of speech doctrine.

      June 7, 2013 at 1:03 am |
    • EnjaySea

      Ayup says: It's not a violation of the 1st Amendment because Congress did not make a law nor did the school endorse it.

      Okay, there's no law, it's a right. Is there a law protecting free speech, or is it just a right? Freedom of speech has limits, particularly when it conflicts with other rights. For example, why was prayer removed from school? Don't teachers have free speech, and therefore have the right to preach to their students?

      June 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      NJ. I think you are flogging a dead horse. The reason the student has the right, which is considered a natural right protected by the law, is he is acting as an individual. The reason school prayer was removed is that teachers are acting as agents of the government and the government cannot put prayer in the curriculum. The court has further elucidated that students have the right to gather for student led prayer and prayer groups but that teachers do not have authority to contribute religious instruction to them.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Hello Bill.

      Well, I don't think the horse is dead yet, so I think it deserves a bit more flogging. I guess we differ on whether this student was exercising an individual right. The fact that this took place at a pulpit, in front of an audience - a rather captive audience - at a school function, I think makes it quite different from holding a private prayer group for invited, and interested believers.

      Granted, this particular crowd loved every minute of it - at least the vocal, Christian portion of the crowd - but I'll bet there were a few people in the crowd, who remained quiet, but didn't appreciate the display.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Their appreciation isn't a requirement and neither is their attendance. The ceremony is a celebration and even if people had left, it would not infringe their graduation. Personally, in the public domain, I welcome the opportunity to hear ideas, which may be different from mine, from those who have achieved prominence or excellence. He was within his rights. One may argue that he was in poor taste or used bad theology but he was within his rights. But hey, we grant rights to people for all kinds of things that are in poor taste

      June 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • ME II

      There is a fuzzy line here. On one hand it is a school function and can be viewed as the school endorsement of a religion. On the other hand it was the student's own speech, not the schools.
      Tough call on the consti.tutionality.

      However, I would still consider it inappropriate.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      @Bill, and @Ayup.

      Although we've been arguing about the rights angle here. That's not really my problem with the incident, frankly. I think it's a more personal issue that I have with it.

      In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that as salutatorian, at my own high school graduation, I delivered a benediction, and read directly from the Bible. It was back in 1971, and not all schools had caught up yet with the restrictions on prayer, and importantly, I was asked to do it, and I was a Christian at the time. Yet, although I wasn't defying anyone, I may still have been offending someone.

      My opinions have, as you may have noticed, changed over the years. However, even back then, I wouldn't have done that if I was asked not to, because I didn't believe then, as I don't believe now, that it is appropriate to preach to people in a secular setting, no matter how strongly you believe in your religion.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Allow me to rephrase my previous conclusion: I don't believe now, and I didn't believe then that it is appropriate to preach to people, against their wishes, no matter how strongly you believe in your religion.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  7. Ken Margo

    He put the school in a difficult position. The school MUST allow other religions to be expressed. Or the school district might face a lawsuit. That's why I don't think this is a big deal. Probably a one time thing.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • oncampusandonline

      There are not many schools in which the valedictorian is as clueless.

      I hope he attends a college where he learns that everyone is not a conservative white Christian and discovers the importance of inclusion.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm |
    • mary

      Yeah, if that kid is the valedictorian, the other kids must have been REALLY stupid.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Yeah, in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal really. I just found it annoying that he was considered a hero, when he's just an impressionable kid whose strings were being pulled by his father and pastor, to make a big point that we should bring prayer back to school.

      We should NOT bring prayer back to school. They were all as dead wrong as they could get.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
  8. Kale

    bottom line, nobody should discuss their religious views during a school event that involves ALL different walks of life.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  9. JesusLovesUsAll7

    Oh WOW!!! What a beautiful story!!!! GOD BLESS YOU!! Roy Costner IV keep on marching for Jesus. Soon everyone will see. There will be no avoiding it.

    http://www.thewarningsecondcoming.com

    June 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      What he did should be required to get a diploma!! It doesn't matter HOW stupid or disrespectful you look as long as it is FOR JESUS.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      I'm an atheist. Does he love me too?

      June 6, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Age of Reason

      ...nice cheap flattery, but "JESUS" NEVER existed!

      June 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Ken, I find myself tracking with you on this story but to answer your question, yes, Jesus loves you too. That's what the pope said last week.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  10. NameHere

    So much better than what we got 4 years ago...a whiny young black woman who came back to complain for 10 minutes about how she wasn't treated fairly in middle school b/c she was black. She didn't read her approved speech either.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Kilgore Trout

      Careful, your Christian outlook is showing...

      June 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • okfine

      Jesus would be so proud....

      June 6, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  11. Bob

    The bible is a very poor text for valedictorians to quote, considering that it contains horrible guidance such as these fine bits from both horrid testaments:

    Numbers 31:17-18
    17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
    18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

    Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

    Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

    Leviticus 25
    44 “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves.
    45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property.
    46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

    Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

    Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

    And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

    So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
    Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    June 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • craig

      john 3:16 for God so loved the world he sent his one and only son, Jesus, whoever believes in him shall not perish, but will have everlasting life.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Science

      Hello Bob agree !

      GOOD NEWS..............bible is bull sh-it

      HEY TheTruth...... faithy............share with chad and the gang !

      Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell

      Next Showing: June 07 @ 12:45 AM

      http://video.adultswim.com/your-pretty-face-is-going-to-hell/bathroom-break.html

      Oldest Primate Fossil Skeleton Found In China

      Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | Jun. 5, 2013, 2:14 PM

      Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/oldest-primate-fossil-skeleton-found-in-china-2013-6#ixzz2VS35T5QS

      Black Holes Abundant Among the Earliest Stars

      June 5, 2013 — By comparing infrared and X-ray background signals across the same stretch of sky, an international team of astronomers has discovered evidence of a significant number of black holes that accompanied the first stars in the universe.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130605190711.htm

      Join your heroes. Be one yourself.

      Together, you and DC Entertainment have raised more than $2 million. This fight can be won. Here’s how.

      http://www.wecanbeheroes.org/

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/04/atheists-to-start-1-800-hotline/#comments

      June 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • Bob

      Craig, what you believe is complete nonsense. The whole Jesus-sacrifice thing is obviously a big steaming pile of bull doo, which you can readily see if you have the guts to examine it. Ask yourself this:

      How is it again that your omnipotent being couldn't do his saving bit without the whole silly Jesus hoopla? And how was Jesus' death a "sacrifice", when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time with less than a snap of his fingers? Pretty pathetic "god" that you've made for yourself there.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
      Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      June 6, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
    • Water_On_Mars

      Bob,

      I don't know of any Christians that ask people to follow those laws.

      They weren't written for modern day people.

      Look at who they were addressed to.

      And why.

      "The whole point of the New Testament/Jesus is that there is a new covenant between humanity and God, making the Old Testament essentially null and void, meaning that anyone can become a Christian (not just those of Jewish descent) and that the laws of the Old Testament (including Leviticus) are no longer applicable. This is why Christianity exists and the main reason for the distinction between it and Judaism."

      http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/18immd/i_really_wish_atheistsagnosticschristians_would/

      June 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • cookiemcdougal

      Oh my, you sound so cross.........perhaps you should try not being so angry, and perhaps have some FAITH. Yes, faith. And when you are at your darkest moment, and wondering what is to be, and don't know where else to turn, where else to look, everything is so dark and depressing......................................look to God. How about now, moron? Because you know that when you need him, truley need him. you will pray to him...........everone knows it. So stop trying to sound so "2013".. No one is impressed.

      June 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
    • Science

      Hey ,,,,,water ............you might want to shake it (the water) out your ear so you can fill up the empty head with the truth.

      No god(s) needed..........but physics is required.............and it works every time.

      Quantum Teleportation Between Atomic Systems Over Long Distances

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

      http://piersmorgan.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/06/valedictorian-breaks-school-rule-recites-lords-prayer-during-graduation-speech/#comments

      PS.............post a comment on link above ............water on the brain ?

      June 7, 2013 at 11:59 am |
  12. Eric

    I am not a Christian, but there is still such a thing as freedom of speech and religion. This student is allowed to believe whatever he wants and also speak his beliefs. If this offends some people, so what? No one has the right to stop free speech due to offense. That's why the KKK is still allowed to hold rallies. That why those Westboro Baptist nutjobs are allowed to picket whatever (unfortunately). Also, the kid is not a state or county employee. He is not in violation of the separation of church and state. He was a student that excelled above his peers at this one high school, and he was allowed to give a speech. Did he go outside the guidelines he was supposed to use? Yes, he did. But when has rule breaking always automatically been bad? He didn't follow a rule, but he didn't break a law.
    Also, human have something called free will. We really can do whatever we please at any time regardless of rules, laws, or consequences. I'm not saying we should, but we can. And no one has the right to not be offended. So too bad for those that are.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Athy

      He violated separation of church and state, Eric. Does that go over your head?

      June 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      The students in the audience also had the right not to be preached to in a school function.

      Why should his rights trump the rights of everyone else in the room?

      June 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • simple really

      "but he didn't break a law..."
      He did, but it will be ignored in a Podunk town controlled by the cult-of-westboro with a wink and a nod. Unless you learned US history in a southern Christian academy, you should know that. He can pray in school (to himself) any time he wants, right? So you can't HONESTLY say that anyone has "taken gawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwd out of schools. Ah... honesty. Isn't there even a commandment for that? Shoving his beliefs down the throats of an audience in a public gathering like that one is not acceptable or legal. It steps on the rights of those who do not practice this talibananas kid. Our rights end when they trample someone elses rights. It's just common decency to avoid doing that. Cult-of-westboro is not the official religion of the US. We don't have an official religion. We are a nation of mostly Christians. That does not make us (despite the lies of your self-appointed religious 'authorities') a Christian nation. So simple, a child could grasp it.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      NJC, the reason his rights took precedence is because he is the valediictorian. He earned the right to present his thoughts to the group and he should be given due attention by virtue of his accomplishment. If the valediictorian were another faith or no faith, I would expect to hear how his values and beliefs contributed to his accomplishments. I owuldn't think I was being converted, just that I was seeing into how someone's character has helped them achieve what they have.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  13. Anon

    There are many who loved what this boy did. Yet I am sure they would all be screaming if a student who wasn't a xtian did the same thing. I can just hear it now, how they would be screaming if someone who was a muslim prayed. It is only okay with these people if he the person is a xtian.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Absolutely. And can you imagine being a member of another faith – say maybe Jewish? Listening to all of the "Yay Jesus!" going on around you? How that would have made you feel? I don't believe for a moment that any of these religionists should be free to shove their insanity down our throats.....but if it's open to one, it should be open to all.

      June 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  14. be honest

    In many cases, valedictorian doesn't imply brilliance or intelligence but rather the ability to be trained. Yes – trainable. Just as some dogs are more trainable than others.

    This student proved it to the point, bringing up delusion.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • Jeff s

      Sad you do not respect or believe in the freedom this country was founded on. Regardless of what he believes he should have the right to speak his mind. You do not have to believe it, you do not have to follow in his footsteps, but you should at least respect his right to state his opinion in public.

      Sure ridicule him, preach out against him, but respect the freedom that allows him to do this.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Maria

      honest, I've witnessed this firsthand. Even though my marks were the highest in my class, I was actually passed over in elementary school for the valedictorian award because the kid who was chosen was an ass kisser to the teachers. However, that same kid who was handed the valedictorian award couldn't reason well, and years later failed out of high school math and science, whereas I remained the top student.

      Stupidity, dishonesty, and inability to reason go hand in hand all together with religion.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      He didn't have the right, Jeff. He was told not to, and for a good reason.

      This is one high school graduate I'd never hire, as an employer. Like I need yet another employee who feels "free" enough to break whatever rules he doesn't like.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Being Truly Honest

      Let's be truly honest, to be honest, the one who needs some serious training is you. Your beliefs are so wayward and out of whack that only by the miracle of God can you still be in existence.

      June 7, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      NJC, You're not really going to stand here and tell us you are against breaking rules that have been in place for a long time are you?

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

      Bill, Is there something about my demeanor that makes me seem rebellious? Perhaps. More about that in my post to your other comment.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      I'm sure jesus gave him brownie points. Maybe when he dies he'll go to the head of the line to get through the pearly gates. Kinda like hotel reward points. Of course if it turns out that Odin is the REAL god, well then he'll be S.O.L. Or Zeus. Or Jupiter. Or Mithra. Or............

      June 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  15. Nathan

    BOOOOO

    June 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  16. EnjaySea

    Well, well, wasn't he so brave to impose his brand of religion on his schoolmates!

    And oh! This is amazing too. He said, “This is what God wanted me to do.” Wow! so he actually read the mind of his invented deity!

    What an amazing, amazing, indoctrinated puppet of his father, and his pastor.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Athy

      He obviously can't think for himself. That's the problem with religion, it's hard to break the chain.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Jeff s

      Imposed his religion? Hardly. I am around people that talk of their religion and God all day and never once feel like it is being pushed on me.

      Now if they started to treat me different because I didn't believe as they did, then yes I would have a problem. But someone just speaking in front of me is hardly imposing. Sad that you don't get that. That you do not wish people to have the freedom of speech, or the freedom of religion. Sad that you do not understand that just because someone says something you do not have to believe it or agree with it. Just sad.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      Well, after you get over being real sad about my opinion, try atheism for awhile Jeff, if you want to see what it's like for people to treat you differently.

      Freedom of religion also includes freedom to not have a religion, and not be preached to by those who do. So sad that you don't understand that.

      June 6, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      God also told Dubya to invade Iraq. Coincidence?

      June 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
  17. Age of Reason

    ...We don't even know WHAT "GOD" even is!!!!
    And as for this "jesus" character, he didn't even EXIST! So...stop believing in this mythical,political construct!!!

    June 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  18. bajadelmar

    He's a young punk know-it-all kid forcing his religion upon everyone in attendance. Typical xian no respect for any other point of view than their own!

    June 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  19. MagicPanties

    This is so sad.
    Clearly an intelligent kid, but terribly brainwashed from birth and so he recites his meaningless fairy-tale hogwash.
    Sigh...

    June 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      If you don't preach God's Word at important times like this, nothing will go right for your life.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • MagicPanties

      So you'd be OK with it if this guy read some verses from the Koran and said Allahu Akbar, right?

      Oh wait, it's only ok if it's YOUR religion.

      Get a clue.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • I Am God

      Valedictorian. I have had a happy life, a great family, and a wonderful home I built from the ground up. Stop spreading lies and actually get a clue.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • Valedictorian

      The 'koran' is a false copy, and mohammaed a false prophet. God deals with those on the wrong path in His way and rightlo so.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Valedictorian

      Your argument ia a bit too round.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Armor Shield

      And I suppose you think you are the epitome of truth plus, MagicPanties? That is what is So Sad! Those demon-infested magical panties you wear are wrapped so tightly around your head so that you can't see or hear the truth of God anymore, sad to say.

      June 7, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  20. Pete

    As far as I'm concerned, what this kid did is no different than dropping his drawers and mooning everyone, which has also been done. Kids will do just about anything once they know that they've graduated and can't be disciplined. I wouldn't call that gutsy for a school in that state. Declaring his atheism would have been gutsy.

    June 6, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • responder

      WRONG! Atheism is nothing more than a cult. Howz that koolaide coming along?

      June 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
    • bajadelmar

      Exactly. Doing this did not take much courage, he was just singing to the choir. If he came out as gay or atheist he would have been lynched in the parking lot or possibly on his way home.

      June 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.