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.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Tom Hoopes, author of What Pope Francis Really Said, is writer in residence at Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas, where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department and edits The Gregorian, a Catholic identity speech digest. He was previously editor of the National Catholic Register for 10 years and with his wife, April, of Faith & Family magazine for five. A frequent contributor to Catholic publications, he began his career as a reporter in the Washington, D.C., area and as press secretary for U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer. He lives in Atchison with his wife and those of his nine children still at home. The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Benedictine College or the Gregorian Institute.

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