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High school valedictorian defies prayer ban, recites Lord's Prayer

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jun 6, 2013 in World
While delivering his graduation speech, Roy Costner IV, a valedictorian at Liberty High School, S.C., stunned the crowd when he tore up his approved speech and began reciting the Lord's Prayer in defiance of a school district ban on "sectarian prayers."
According to KCRA, after he tore up his approved speech at the podium, he began his speech at the Clemson's Littlejohn coliseum, saying: "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."
He continued: "And I think most of you will understand when I say..." He paused for a moment, and then began: "Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name..."
According to KCRA, as he launched into a recitation of the Lord's Prayer, many in the crowd broke out into tentative applause that grew into cheers.
He continued as the cheering gradually drowned his recitation: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
KSBW reports he finished the prayer pointing his finger in the air: "For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen."
Cheers and applause followed his "speech."
Brian Hoover, who attended the graduation, said: "You couldn't even hear him doing the prayer anymore because everybody was clapping and cheering."
Logan Gibson, who also attended, said: "It took a lot of courage to do what Mr. Costner did."
KSBW reports that the valedictorian's act was in protest of the Pickens County School District's decision to ban "sectarian prayer" at school meetings following complaints for atheist and secular groups.
The Daily Mail notes that his reaction might have stemmed from the popular misconception in the district that the new policy amounted to a "ban on prayer in schools." What the school district barred, specifically, was "sectarian prayer" at school gatherings.
Fox Carolina reports that Christian prayer at school meetings had been a subject of debate after the school board adopted a new policy that allows only non-sectarian prayer at meetings.
According to the Daily Mail, Kelly Pew, Pickens County School District Superintendent, commented: "What I find unfortunate are the mistaken and false representations that the Board or the District want to 'ban' prayer from our schools."
Costner said that following the board's decision, he spoke to his pastor and prayed before taking the decision to say the Lord's Prayer instead of his prepared speech.
He later told Fox Carolina: "It was an emotional moment. It was overwhelming to look out and see the crowd and yelling."
According to a spokesperson for the Pickens County School district, John Eby, the school's decision to allow only non-sectarian prayer delivered by a non-student came after the district received complaints from "the ACLU sending FOIA requests to every district in the state this year after the Chesterfield County case, then the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent us a complaint about religion at board meetings and some other issues as well. That is why the reaction to the prayer at graduation was loud."
Secularists have wondered why Christians feel persecuted when asked, for the sake of politeness and respect for other people's religious sentiments, to avoid imposing their sectarian religious observances in public gatherings. Proponents of secularism would ask why Costner felt compelled to impose a sectarian Lord's Prayer in a public gathering where several were of different religious persuasion. How would he feel if another person were to stand at the podium and compel him to sit through a recitation of a Muslim or Hindu prayer, or a haranguing lecture on atheistic philosophy?
The crowd's cheering, however, suggests that the decision to ban "sectarian prayer" at school meetings was unpopular.
Eby said that although speeches have to be approved by school district staff, the school district was not going to reprimand the valedictorian. He said: "The bottom line is, we're not going to punish students for expressing their religious faith. He’s a graduate now. There’s nothing we can do about it, even if we wanted to."
The Washington Times reports that Costner will start his freshman year at Clemson University in the fall where he plans to study computer science.
More about lord's prayer, Roy Costner IV, Liberty High School, School
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