So Brave.


It must be really tough to be a Christian in South Carolina.

Back in January of this year, the Pickens County School District was contacted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation because the prayers they conducted before their school board meetings likely ran afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  Since then, the district decided to eliminate the benediction from its graduation ceremony.  I’m not sure if it was brought to litigation, but given the relatively short span of time between the original notice and now, I suspect the PCSD just omitted the school prayer on their own.

Good thinking on their part, since stuff like this was deemed unconstitutional for decades now, yet for some reason atheists and secularists are the “bad guys” for reminding them that yes, they still have to follow the rules even if everyone there prays to the exact same God.

Well, one devout young high school graduate from Liberty High School by the name of Roy Costner IV had enough.  During his graduation ceremony on the 1st, he ripped up his pre-approved speech and instead decided to make it all about God:

“Those 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,” Costner said moments before launching into the Lord’s Prayer.

Christian News reports that Costner had apparently decided to recite the prayer in protest of his school district’s decision to omit prayer at graduation ceremonies.

How brave.

He sure stood up to the school district on this one … never minding the fact that he lives in an almost exclusively Christian community and as far as I’m aware, he didn’t break any rules by saying the speech as an individual and not as a representative of the school or with its approval of any kind.

The response, as you could predict, was overwhelmingly positive:

As Costner prayed, many of those gathered broke out into applause. Soon the auditorium was filled with cheers of encouragement.

“You couldn’t even hear him doing the prayer anymore because everybody was clapping and cheering,” Brian Hoover, who attended the graduation, told

Costner told Fox Carolina this week that it had been “an emotional moment,” looking out and seeing the crowd’s reaction.

A spokesperson for the Pickens County School District said that Costner would not be reprimanded for his prayer. “The bottom line is, we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faith,” John Eby said, according to Christian News.

Yet I am left to wonder if this same desire to incorporate religion and prayer into the school would be felt if the valedictorian had been Muslim, or Buddhist, or – dare I say it – an atheist.  I wonder what the collective response of the audience and of the school board would have been if they deviated from their pre-approved speech material and started delivering a prayer from the Diamond Sutra, or the Quran, or if they had just decided to speak about how their parents taught them how they didn’t need “ancient fairytales” to grow into a good, moral person with a drive and ambition to better themselves and help others.

Would the reaction have been the same?  Would that have gone over well?

Or would the collective response have contained phrases like “shoving their beliefs in my face”, “forcing their religion on others”, “blatant lack of respect”, and “inappropriate venue”?

I can’t say with certainty … but if experience with other situations similar to these and throughout the nationwide discourse regarding belief and the freedom to express non-Christian beliefs is any guide, then I think I’m pretty close.

And as I said, it’s not even that he’s breaking the rules since he did it without the knowledge or consent of the school.  However, to respond to the implementation of a law designed to protect nonbelievers and believers alike by using his valedictory speech to peddle his own faith and point to the heavens in an act of defiance is profoundly selfish and disrespectful.  It would remain so regardless of who did it, but because his religion is in the majority, it’s being praised instead of punished.

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4 Responses to So Brave.

  1. I don’t have a problem with individuals giving speeches riddled with praise the lord or praise allah, just as long as the district doesn’t encourage or promote it. And a lot of kids here do thank the lord first when they get up to give their speeches. But I agree–to do it as an act of defiance, especially when you’re supposed to be a role model for your peers—is very disrespectful of others and self-serving.

  2. I’ve got one even worse. I graduated in 1994. We had a rehearsal for graduation and someone – the principal or some other teacher – I just remember it was the adult in charge – said we couldn’t have prayer before graduation now (ya know thanks to those meanies) but it was okay if a student led the prayer. We then proceeded to rehearse the “spontaneous prayer”. I remember sitting in my seat so irritated, but happy I was finally going to get away from that place. This was in Texas. They also have a prayer before PTA meetings in most schools, justified because there were parents there, not just teachers, but it was in a school and led by a teacher. I just want to rip my hair out sometimes. You’re exactly right – if this were done by any other religion or an atheist there would be an uproar.

    • My high school had a benediction, and no one thought twice about it. In later years I looked back and thought, “Yeah, that shouldn’t have happened.” The problem is that in a town where 99% of the population is Christian, who’s going to complain? That sort of cultural inertia is what has carried this tradition as far as it’s gone, and it’s only now that these districts are being called on to finally do something about it. Atheists are such a buzzkill.

      I like the shamelessly half-assed attempt at the “spontaneous” prayer … it’s probably what happened with this guy in SC, but we’ll never know.

      • We had a benediction too – in a church. And they STILL wanted a prayer at the school too. I think they’ve since done away with the benediction since that was . . . ugh, 1994. I love how they get away with anything for so long then finally get called on it and suddenly they’re being oppressed. Pfft.

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