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.
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 KCRA.com.
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.