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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. Rob

    I'm just wondering why this is news??? People pray at our local high schools' graduations every year. They even have an annual Senior Invocation and prayer breakfast. WHAT is the big deal here?

    June 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Colin

      This is so frightening. Year after year our education system is producing graduates who believe in Grec-Roman Jewish sky-fairies. I think future historians wil lregard this as one of the greatest paradoxes of 21st Century America.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Ave et Vale

      "They even have an annual Senior Invocation and prayer breakfast."

      Who pays for that?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Let's pray to the FSM, or Zeus. or Thor. That's what the BIG deal is about.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I very much hope this is a private school and not something my tax dollars are paying for.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • Chad

      There are a lot of posts for this article, including your own. It seems like people, including you and me are interested. It appears that this story is a big deal.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Chad

      @Saraswati Do you live in Liberty, South Carolina? Also, the student doesn't get paid for his speech, so no tax dollars. With regards to "Senior Invocation and prayer breakfast". That was not mentioned in this article and it is not paid for by tax dollars.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I'm pretty sure there aren't many schools in South Carolina that don't take federal tax dollars.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
  2. Rob

    Remember, there are NO atheists at the time of death. Very proud of this graduate!

    June 6, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • Stinky Pinky

      Says who? Show me your the stats on this.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      That is an ignorant statement.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Rob, That depends on what you mean – we're all worm food after death so yes no athiests and no believers. I doubt that anyone would convert unless they're senile.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • Observer

      Rob,

      Wake up! You are clueless about the difference between BELIEVING there is a God and HOPING there is a God.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • snowboarder

      lol! sure there aren't

      June 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm |
    • STEVE

      Simply not true.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • JoJo

      I had a severe heart attack in 2000 and gradually slipped into unconsciousness. I assumed I was dying. I did not pray. As it turned out paramedics got me to the hospital in time to adminster the paddles and shock my heart into beating again. My heart, breathing, brain and consciousness had stopped. I saw no holy visions during the incident.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • Chad

      I understand what you're saying; we all die, but what happens next is the question. I'm really not sure why the atheists are so angry. Its very strange that the statistics are consistent that only 2% of the population are atheists, but they sure do seem to do most of the posts.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      LOL. Even if true– that still says NOTHING about the validity of your beliefs– only that humans are weak-willed animals that tend to cave in to brainwashing in times of desperation.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      WHich is exactly why a majority of the "flock" are made up of invalids, disabled people, senior citizens, and desperate people.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • Athy

      Why do you think we're angry? We're just perplexed. Why do you religies believe in such preposterous nonsense? Can't you think at all? Try it (if you can).

      June 6, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Besides, you are patently incorrect, ROB (when is religion EVER been right about anything?).

      A few years back, a military chaplain made the similar statement that "There are no atheists in foxholes". The rebuttal was imediate– lots of atheist veterans in the combat zone responded by forming the (I think it was called) "Atheists in Foxholes". There are plenty of atheists at the time of death.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      You people just find it impossible to believe that unbelievers remain that way in foxholes or on deathbeds. "Oh, just give them enough incentive and they'll believe!" Would you please wake up and get that there really ARE unbelievers, and said unbelievers will NOT change their minds? It's as if you're saying "Just wait until 11:59 PM Christmas Eve! They'll believe in Santa!"

      June 8, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
  3. aallen333

    This must be most fascinating to many liberals – to hear what an actual prayer sounds like. So you see liberals, it's not as bad as you've been told. None of you burst into flames. And I bet some of you actually enjoyed it – even though I'm sure you'll never admit it – at least not yet. You should try it sometime. It's actually very edifying and good for your soul.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Thatguy371

      Pray/worship OFF of State run property/events all you want. Got it?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • Observer

      – Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”

      Ooooops!

      June 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Chad

      @Observer That's true, but there also many other Bible verses for giving God the glory. It depends on what was in Roy's heart and only God and Roy know that.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • Observer

      Chad,

      What part of "“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” is beyond your comprehension?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      aallen666, Prayer – is that where you talk to an invisible sky fairy (who apparently is omniscient and should already know what you're thinking and about to say) asking it to change the course of history and favor you over the other 7 billion?
      Has it ever grown a limb on an amputee?
      Prayer may make you feel good and that you did something useful but it doesn't.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      I've heard and been forced to recite that meaningless invocation MANY times in my life– and it held no more meaning this time than it did any of those other times.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Again with the "They're just pretending to disbelieve" crap. And what's with this "You liberals" garbage? Until I started frequenting this board I really had no idea how many people there are with matching shoe sizes and IQ's.

      June 8, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  4. snowboarder

    for some reason i doubt a supposedly omnipotent god needs children to stand up for them.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  5. Jennifer Pruitt

    I love this kid! What are the anti-Christian groups gonna do? Demand the kid's diploma be taken away, sue the school or the kid himself? He stood up for his beliefs and his parents are so proud! He can't be touched, and why didn't they cut off the mic or stopped him right then and there. These groups want everyone to bow to their whims but they won't respect others who disagree with them. They're like Westboro Baptist Church at a funeral...it's all about attention for them.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
    • Observer

      Jennifer,

      "He stood up for his beliefs and his parents are so proud!"

      You would have felt the same if his speech included "Why God is Dead"? Right?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
    • snowboarder

      i can only imagine if the boy was a muslim and did the same.

      in general i applaud the child for making a statement. i would equally applaud him for making a statement for any god he followed. would you?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
    • Edd0

      And if someone says "Praise Allah!" you'd be all for it or not? Probably not, hypocrite.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • Thatguy371

      So, maybe you'd like to pay the costs of the lawsuit that WILL happen? Nope. Didn't think so.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Rob

      It would NOT be a hypocrite as there is only ONE true God... and Allah ain't him.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
    • snowboarder

      @rob, hilarious that you actually think that.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:24 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      "It would NOT be a hypocrite as there is only ONE true God... and Allah ain't him."

      Wow, that was a dud, JENNIFER. So what you are saying is that, had he invoked Allah, Gaia, Vishnu, Xenu, or Zeus– you would be all smiles because they aren't real?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      Sorry– not Jennifer, but ROB.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Chad

      @Observer why would a valedictorian present a speech about "Why God is Dead"? The speech is traditionally about giving praise to mom, dad, family, friends, teachers, and others who got the kid there successfully, including the pastor and God. In addition, the speech is traditionally about the future, next steps for the kids, college and future success in the job market. I don't believe that the topic of "Why God is Dead" serves either of these purposes.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      "I don't believe that the topic of "Why God is Dead" serves either of these purposes."

      LOL. You completely missed the point, which is not surprising– religious people aren't very good at this "critical thinking" thingy.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Saraswati

      If they don't do anything they can't punish the kid at next years graduation for anything he does, whether it's calling on satan or for the timely execution of anyone passing their 60th birthday. They just gave kids free reign to say anything they like at these events. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Jennifer,
      You'd also applaud him if he was praising islam or satan worship, right?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      I love this kid! What are the anti-Christian groups gonna do? Demand the kid's diploma be taken away, sue the school or the kid himself? He stood up for his beliefs and his parents are so proud! He can't be touched, and why didn't they cut off the mic or stopped him right then and there. These groups want everyone to bow to their whims but they won't respect others who disagree with them. They're like Westboro Baptist Church at a funeral...it's all about attention for them.

      "These groups want everyone to bow to their whims but they won't respect others who disagree with them". Wow. Do you even *hear* yourself?? It's you Christians who are trying to hijack our Republic and turn it into a Theocracy starring YOUR particular brand of insanity, it is NOT those of us who don't believe in your bloodthirsty narcissistic god! Would you please grow a clue? Like it or not the Westboro freaks are CHRISTIAN freaks – and they find everything they need to support their vitriolic hatred of anyone and anything they disagree with in the same book of fairy tales that YOU hold sacred.

      June 8, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
  6. Chad

    @chad

    Trophy was close; more than 9 out of 10 Americans believe in God. Its more like 75% are Christans. It sounded like you didn't research, but assumed his stat was incorrect, right? You can Google it and find several polls, like the Gallup Poll, Wikipedia, Washington Post. I even found the same stat during my undergraduate thesis at the University of Michigan where I surveyed over 3 or 4 hundred students and others. One thing that I'm always curious about is why the large majority of comments for articles like this one are overwhelmingly posts from atheists and consistently negative and attacks on the religious minded. It makes me wonder if posts from believers are deleted or if maybe atheists are more interested in stories like this and believers. If the latter is true; then that would be very interesting and perhaps unfortunate. God is good and the ultimate good is love. In a recent sermon at my Lutheran church, my pastor indicated that God's true name is "I am" I believe. I believe the Bible also says that in the end man will believe that we are god. In the end, everyone dies here on earth and we all wonder what will happen next. Well done Roy! Praise be to God!

    June 6, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Paranoia Chad, no one is deleting the posts. None of you on here can give good reasons why you chose your god over all the others; the reasons you reject all the others are the reason atheists reject them all. And no you do not know your god is real, there is the same evidence for your god as there is for all the others, i.e. none.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • Rachel

      I'm not an atheist, but I am also not a Christian. I pray every day, but feel no need to force my beliefs or my prayers on others. Why can I be afforded the same courtesy?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Nobody's deleting posts Chad. The fact is that you're so eager – you and the rest of the believers – for the oft-advertized but never seen "end-times" to arrive that you're looking for evidence of persecution. Christians, accusing others of persecuting *them*! Do you have any idea how absurd that is? Nevermind, of course you don't. Carry on; at the very least it's occasionally amusing.

      June 9, 2013 at 12:37 am |
  7. Terminal Velocity Religion...

    hurtling towards it's inescapable fate, it's gas bloated carcass dashed upon sharp rocks like overly decayed whale. Toodles 🙂

    June 6, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
  8. CBP

    And those who do not believe as this young man does or who do not use the Lord's Prayer in their religion were not participating. They could just sit and wait until the prayer was over. Unless you have been a person who does not believe in the same way as the majority and have sat there while the Lord's Prayer is being recited you cannot understand how a person could be upset. We sat in class every day as the day began with a reading from the New Testament and the Lord's Prayer. It was not easy to be different and it certainly was not comfortable for us to sit and not be able to participate. This is a country which allows all religions and we need to find ways to make sure public assemblies like public school graduations make every person feel comfortable and accepted.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Jennifer Pruitt

      I think those of other faiths were showing they too are sick of groups like this. There is an uprising coming from the ranks of the young who follow Jesus Christ. Saying "No more, we will not bow to groups like the one mentioned in the article." You notice these groups never attack other faiths, but it's always Christians? More of these stories will make the news and we will NOT be silenced.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Rachel

      Jennifer, did you read what he said? He was uncomfortable because he was not a Christian and was forced as a child to sit through Christian prayers and readings every day in school. This country was founded on freedom of religion. Having religion forced on you is not freedom even if Christianity is the majority religion in the US

      June 6, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
    • Fr33th1nk3r

      "There is an uprising coming from the ranks of the young who follow Jesus Christ."

      I have yet to see one, single logical argument from you religious types on here. Does your "uprising" include the fact that the numbers of relious people are decreasing, rather than increasing?
      I gues you better stage your "uprising" soon– otherwise there won't be enough of you left to even get it started.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
  9. Steven CaboWabo

    As an atheist I have no problem with an individual saying that are thankful for and like their belief. The part that is a problem is when he said "Taking prayer out of schools is the worst thing we could do". Now he is making a judgement for what is good for others, specifically his own personal religious beliefs.
    We won't force him to listen to reasons why there is no god and some religious ideas are problematic if he won't force us to listen to his beliefs.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  10. ladie jade

    this was very selfish. Just because a person believes one thing how dare you force your belief on others? I am not a christian, but I do believe in God, but it annoys me when i hear "I'd like to thank jesus" and hold for applause. Its like they are saying it for praise and that is taking praise from god which further shows how backwards religion itself is.

    June 6, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
  11. Laura

    Did he have a right to do this? Sure. But that doesn't make what he did any less obnoxious. If he had used his time at the microphone to pray to the prophet Mohammed for helping him get to where he is today, I doubt the audience would have been cheering.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Zayah V

      Exactly, which is why this kind of thing is completely inappropriate. It makes people of other faiths or non believers second class citizens because they know they could not do it without immediate negative consequences.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
    • mjbrin

      agree

      June 6, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Gorsh

      Interesting point. If your audience is overwhelmingly supportive of your message, then it is by definition not offensive. The only people offended seem to be especially sensitive people hundreds of miles away. I doubt anyone there cares a bit what you think.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • Rob

      It was NOT obnoxious. But if he HAD prayed to Mohommed, that definitely would NOT have been a good thing.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm |
  12. Zayah V

    He set a horrible example by implying that his faith makes him special enough to violate any rules and codes of conducts in society. I am 100% sure he and all those who were applauding do not see it that way which is extremely frightening. And anyone who does not think so then has to also agree with anyone who begins making inappropriate speeches about anything in the future, from politics to gay rights to w/e else because if that person believes in it strongly like this young man does, then it must be right and therefore OK.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Gorsh

      Yeah, that whole freedom of speech thing does cut both ways.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • mjbrin

      agree

      June 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
  13. Colin

    If you stand back and think about it, this is pretty frightening for the future of the country. Here we are in the 21st Century and we churn out a class of high school kids who, by and large, still believe in Greco-Roman Jewish sky-gods.

    They also believe that ,when they think silent thoughts like, "please God, help me pass my exam tomorrow," this being reads their minds and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways in order to answer their prayers.

    Wow, just...wow.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Rob

      The only thing I have to say to YOUR comment is WOW, you are stupid. Whether you believe in God or not, he exists. Good for this graduate. He is already leaps and bounds ahead of his class!!

      June 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • Colin

      So Rob, you believe that a GrecoRoman Jewish god is reading the minds of students in South Carolins when they pray....and I'm stupid.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • Athy

      Rob is a lost cause. Pity.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • believer in a greco/roman jewish (and others') god

      Dear Chad,
      Is it stupid to believe that an omniscient being could exist? People with higher intellect than you and me have believed or currently believe in such a being, and while many others have also rejected this idea, I don't think it is prudent to assume that one position is definitely the most logical.
      You use the term "GrecoRoman Jewish god" with the implications that this is somehow negative. I would argue that if a god did exist, he would presumably reveal himself to certain humans at some point in history. Thus, I have no problem with the idea that he could have chosen Jews, Greeks, Romans, or even Native Americans. These are the only reasons I could think of to produce negative implications from the term "GrecoRoman Jewish god" as opposed to simply "god", however I confess I may have completely missed something. I would appreciate it if you could enlighten me on the reason behind your choice of words.
      This is the first time I have posted to this website's comment section so if I have misplaced my comment, please forgive me.

      High regards,
      John

      June 6, 2013 at 11:21 pm |
    • believer in a greco/roman jewish (and others') god

      Sorry, I meant Colin, not Chad. My mistake.

      June 7, 2013 at 12:03 am |
  14. anita

    "I wanted to stand up for God", I instinctively started crying and have not stopped since, My God, how many years have I waited for someone in this society & in this country to have the courage and righteous spirit w/in them to say those words, I cannot stop crying, thank God, thank you God, someone had the courage to say what is true and give you the honor, majesty and glory you are so worthy of and deserve.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Kevin

      God never did anything for you or anyone. But I'd bet you'd have to Google Jonas Salk.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • alex

      Very good, I will start my speech as an atheist and in the middle of speech convert into islam and start praying to Mecca.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • Zayah V

      Would you still be as happy if someone started ranting about politics, gay rights, abortion etc? Because those are probably not allowed either but if someone feels strongly enough like he did then it must be ok right?

      June 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • guess what

      Cry for the little jewish and muslim and Hindu kids who wanted to say the same thing about their religions but were too intimidated to do so because the 'good chritisan towns-folk' would have returned that night, wearing hoods, and burned crosses on their lawns. Cry for them too, good Christian woman. Yes, they can be just as American as SC rednecks. Really. It's true. Non-Christian Americans. And many of our founders were deists. OMG. Deists. I think you confuse your team spirit for Team Jeeeeezus and Patriotic Christianity with Christianity. A common mistake in the south

      June 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Laura

      Yeah, forcing prayer onto a captive audience at a public school graduation is totally courageous. Especially in a small town in South Carolina.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
  15. tmathew

    Great to see the valedictorian stand up for his faith in Christ. This nation was created on this foundation of one nation under God.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Observer

      References in the Declaration of Independence and our Consti-tution:

      God 0
      Jesus 0
      Christ 0
      Bible 0
      Christians 0

      June 6, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Stinky Pinky

      Check you history book again.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • jmikejohnson

      Actually, you're wrong. Check your facts. Oh wait...Christians don't believe in facts. That's why you are Christians and not atheists.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • Observer

      "Under God" became official almost 200 years after our nation was founded.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      No, it was not. Read a fvcking history book you ignorant buffoon, instead of parroting the crap you've heard coming out of people older and stupider than you.

      June 9, 2013 at 2:16 am |
  16. makeonomics

    How sad that our graduates can't hold their beliefs internally, I respect that he has beliefs and wish that, at 18, he could respect that as well. Too bad he turned a public event into a personal private party and left out everyone who doesn't agree with him. Had an atheist hijacked a South Carolina graduation, would we be so quick to forgive?

    June 6, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • good luck training sea monkeys

      You can't expect the simple people to understand abstract concepts like minority rights. The fact that our founders took great pains to prevent the tyranny of the majority from trampling the rights of smaller groups with different beliefs is not something they can even grasp. The fact that they wouldn't even care is a moot point. You can't fix stoooopid.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:11 pm |
  17. c5boi

    When he is working at Burger King in a year, may God help him realize that :
    1. America has turned into a nation of religious idiots
    2. The one god in this country is money
    3. You can't fix stupid

    June 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • Gorsh

      Sorry, he was the valedictorian. Were you?

      June 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
    • Observer

      His prospective employers know that he doesn't follow rules or listen to authorities.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
    • Kevin

      Prerequisites for becoming valedictorian at a high school with a graduating class of 50 in a small town in S. Carolina: Don't get your sister pregnant before the 8th grade.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Doobs

      He's probably already headed for the executive training program at Chik-fil-A.

      June 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  18. Chad

    Bravo! To God belongs the glory. I'm assuming that this was the best received valedictorian speech in the history of this school. God deservese to be received well. Bravo!

    June 6, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • c5boi

      Chad you are a drooling moron..but you have lots of company!

      June 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • Observer

      Chad,

      So God is really proud of kids who don't follow rules or authority?

      Skip the hypocrisy. If this kid had given his "Reasons Why God is Dead", you would have gone nuts.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Chad

      @c5oi Calling me a "drooling moron" is a bit harsh. Are you aware that over 90% of Americans believe in God? (This fact is consistently found in many polls/surveys. You can Google it and find these facts quickly and with ease).

      @Observer Of course God is proud. If God wants to be recognized, worshipped, etc., etc., etc., then this is of course what he received from Roy. The thing is, why would a valedictorian present a speech on the topic of "Reasons Why God is Dead" at graduation? The speech is traditionally a opportunity for the valedictorian to recognize those who got him/her there, like their mother and father, teachers, coaches, teammates, friends, etc. and also yes, God go him there and it would weigh heavy on his conscience if he didn't give God the glory.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:16 pm |
    • Observer

      Chad,

      So you think God is really proud of kids who don't follow rules or authority. Wow!

      If the kid was an atheist who included his views on "Why God is Dead" and how not wasting his time believing in God made him do better in school, would you have ANY problem?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • Chad

      @Observer I guess you can call it a difference of opinion. Basically, God wants us to recognize that we cannot accomplish anything without him. It sounds like you prove that you don't need God to accomplish anything. That's simply a difference of opinion. So, my and Roy's strong belief is that God derserves the praise, and we don't. If we don't mention God, then we feel we could disappoint him. It might be a fear thing. I understand that it is best to respect authority and that is very Biblical, I agree with you. Its prima face.

      About your second point; there is only one God or belief. There are thousands of things that we could waste time on. I could see that he might mention that he didn't waste time watching TV and playing video games and he encourages others to limit these activites too. However, I don't believe that anyone would attribute their success to not wasting time in believing in God. In fact, only 2% of the population are atheists (stats available from several reputable sources), but the large majority of the posts are from atheists. Perhaps atheists waste a lot of time on this subject and these posts?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    • Athy

      Chad, you're a fucking idiot. The fact that the majority of Americans are believers is beside the point. Truth is not determined by popular vote. Sadly, all that proves is that the majority of Americans, like you, are not free thinkers. They just go along with the crowd without thinking. I pity you.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
    • Observer

      Chad,

      Thank you for once again proving that many Christians are just pick-and-choose hypocrites when it comes to the Bible.

      See if you can find a Bible. I'll bet it says this:

      – Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”

      June 6, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  19. midwestmatt

    I'm sure this audience would have booed had a Muslim, Jew or Bhuddist decided to do what this young man did but used their religion's prayers instead of a Christian prayer.

    Unfortunately for all those who claim a war on Christianity, there is NO prohibition on religion in any public school. You can pray during school hours, organize a religious club and say whatever you want as long as it's not supported or endorsed by the school or disruptive to the school.

    Nice try whining, persecuted Christians, but there is no war on your religion and what this guy did was little more than flout the rules in the name of his religion.

    BTW- 13 years, my niece's graduation in southern California had the same exact thing happen as two students took the mic and loudly prayed a Christian prayer. This kind of disobedience is not news but it is yet another indication of how paranoid Christians have become as they insist on the baseless notion of a "war" on their religion.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      No,
      i have witnessed it, a Muslim student mentioning truth absolute GOD in his high school graduation speech, rest assured, no one ever objected to it.

      June 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF URGE TO BLOW UP DURING GRADUATION CEREMONY

      you have witnessed it !!!! ha ha ha ha, are you trying to impress people mullah madar chod or son of a liar (or called lair in Pakistan)?

      June 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF URGE TO BLOW UP DURING GRADUATION CEREMONY

      and bas tard, stay away from school graduation, proms, you don't want to scare people with your overgrown beard and walking around with skull cap and winter jacket in mid summer.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
    • CHRISTIAN FOUNDATION FOR ISLAM FOUNDATION, FOUNDATION

      NO, there is no try, only do. Now make me a sandwich.

      June 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
  20. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    A criminal can not stand shred of proof of his hinduism, denial of truth absolute to be known to any one, so are hindu atheist, ignorant self centered by faith, nut head by faith, they do not like a shred of evidence to be known to humanity to keep their business of hinduism, illegality flowing.

    June 6, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • CHRISTIAN FOUNDATION FOR ISLAM FOUNDATION, FOUNDATION FOR M. HEDBERG

      MY FAKE PLANTS DIED BECAUSE I DID NOT PRETEND TO WATER THEM

      June 6, 2013 at 10:12 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.