VIDEO: Prayer Rebels Dare Mention God at School

The term “American heroes” is overused, so I use it advisedly here: Students who defy state-imposed bans on prayer at their graduation ceremonies are American heroes.

They are “American” because our country was founded by men and women who were tired of being told how or when they were allowed to pray. They are “heroes” because it takes courage to face off against the forces of secularism and take a stand.

Liberty HighOne such hero is Roy Costner IV, who made headlines yesterday when he ripped up his valedictorian speech at his Liberty High School in Pickens County, S.C., and said this (see video below):

“Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today,” he said. “I’m so glad 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 auditorium erupted with wild applause and cheering. Pickens School District had suspended its graduation prayer. Costner brought it back.

A similar thing happened at Lincoln County High where “Graduation prayer at rural Kentucky high school irks atheists, delights Christians,” reports a Daily Caller article

Jonathan Hardwick, the Class of 2013 president, said these horrifying words at graduation:

“Thank you for helping us get here safely today, Lord, and thank you for the many blessings you have given us.”

Students today are forced to treat their Creator, Savior and best friend as if he either does not exist or has nothing to do with his world.

But at their graduation ceremony they are in a unique position: They already have their diploma, and they have an opportunity to address the whole school. They can say a few words (and it usually is only a few) about God, and it’s too late for the thought police to shut them up.

I won’t call the Louisiana Legislature heroes, but they are to be commended for passing a bill promoting student-led prayer in schools.

Of course, Catholics know there is a real tension in the school prayer question in a Protestant country. “Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions,” says the Catechism … but it adds: “nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits.”

Pope Francis gave some good advice that can help resolve that tension in a recent homily he gave on hypocrisy.

“Let us think closely today: What is our language?”  the Pope asked. “Do we speak in truth, with love, or do we speak with that social language to be polite, even say nice things, which we do not feel? Let our language be evangelical, brothers and sisters!”

What do we fear when we avoid mentioning God? We fear those people who have defined Him as a peculiar personal belief we should keep to ourselves. We don’t want them to think we are odd or extreme.

But as Jesus put it: “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Don’t fear mentioning God in public. The more we agree that he is something shameful, the more the law will decide we aren’t allowed to say anything about him. The more we insist we can say what we want about God, the more they will be forced to allow us the freedom of speech and freedom of religion our nation was founded on.


Categories:Prayer Religious Liberty

  • Nathalie

    Amazing! So proud of this kid! More people should be like him and stop worrying about offending everyone when you have the right to a voice! America was founded with the believe of God – Pray loud and stand up like this kid did! AWESOME!

  • Noel A Hyde

    A valedictorian speech gives the honored student an opportunity to express among other things his gratefulness for his success in school. If he can’t express his thankfulness to God for fear of offending those who don’t believe there is a God, should he be prevented from thanking his mother and father for fear of offending students who only have one parent or who have two mothers or two fathers. I think not!

  • http://CatholicVote John

    There really is no paradox between ecumenism and evangelization. For true ecumenism is evangelization, an open honest dialogue with our separated brothers and sisters with the intent of leading them to the fullness of the truth. This is not an arrogant claim that Catholics are in some way superior to everyone else, we are not. We do however believe that Jesus did found one Church and that that one Church has been nurtured, preserved and maintained in the Catholic Church. Does this mean that we are without fault? Heavens no, for we like all churches are made up of sinners, and as such have had those who by their actions discolor and stain the image of the truth. Our Lord promised us that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, and bad Popes, bad priests and bad members will also not destroy the truth. Our constant goal as Catholics will always be to bring our brothers and sisters into the fullness of the truth, to do any less would be a disservice to the message of our Lord to go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    Thanks be to God for those who fear not and proclaim loudly that Jesus is Lord, regardless the cost.

  • FrankW

    Just one more reason I love living in South Carolina.

  • Robb

    Fair points, but we need to address the same issues that face other religions too. It’s really hard to make the argument that we Christians are having our freedom of speech restricted when people show up to a meeting on community relations with Muslims, hosted by a U.S. district attorney no less, and heckle the entire thing. And shout insults at women wearing hijabs.

    It goes both ways. I don’t think it’s too big of a stretch to assume most of the people in the audience are Christians.

  • jgbech

    Tom, I am in a quandary over school prayer. On one hand I am for SP, but when I see a young Jewish person in the graduating audience, I have second thoughts. And, it all comes down to whose prayer do we pray? I am not a good evangelist because I am uncomfortable imposing my beliefs on others. Nor can I “balance” the paradox of ecumenism with evangelism.

    • Marti Luke

      How in the world is saying a public prayer “imposing your beliefs on others”? So what if there is a young Jewish person in the audience? I am sick to death of this tortured reasoning from the politically correct. If a person can seriously damaged by listening to a recitation of The Lord’s Prayer, the problem is theirs not the prayer’s

      • JackB

        Marti, I always opt for the lighter side. Would it make a difference if the majority in the audience was Jewish? And no, I don’t think a person could be damaged, but uncomfortable, yes. No counseling needed. As far as Costner being a hero… I don’t see how. He ripped up his prepared document in defiance of the authorities he lauds.



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