Monday, October 18, 2021

Christian prayer at a S.C. high school graduation


Many school districts in South Carolina communities that have a large Christian population have ended practices such as praying at school board meetings and other school events at the urging of the American Civil Liberties Union and education groups. However, one high school valedictorian decided that instead of giving his school-approved speech at the graduation ceremony, he would recite a Christian prayer.

Speaking at the Liberty High School graduation at Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C., on Saturday, June 1, Roy Costner IV started with his approved speech, but a little bit in, when he started thanking his parents for his Christian upbringing, he tore up the paper he brought to the podium and started, “Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. …”

This is the beginning to one of the most common and often-used Christian prayers, known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” According to the Bible, it was first spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mound.

The YouTube video of the speech has been removed due to a copyright claim, but several news agencies picked up the feed at one point, including the International Business Times, here. The story was originally reported by the Christian News Network, here, and followed by Fox News local affiliate WYFF-TV, here.

The speech was greeted by cheers from the crowd, even a smile from faculty members seated on the stage, according to reports. Christian leaders praised Mr Costner for standing strong to proclaim his own motivation for school, including Pastor Ken Klaus of the Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Saying prayers at school board meetings is one thing, but when a student speaks on his own from the stage at graduation, we tend to understand where he’s coming from. Can he protest from a school-sponsored stage? Well, he’s not technically allowed to do it, but at this point, who can stop him? Give a kid a mike, and he’ll tell you what’s in his heart, and several well-meaning people, especially in the South, are concerned about not being able to take their religious beliefs with them into the public schools.

I personally think Mr Costner simply expressed his own motivation for school, and if Christianity in some way helped him—at least in his own mind—to get where he got, then it can’t be wrong to tell people about it. Reciting the Lord’s Prayer, while no doubt proselytizing from a stage paid for with public tax dollars, was his choice and his alone. I might have chosen a communication method that relied less on the words of Jesus than on simple fact about family support for education, but I was not the one speaking at Liberty High School’s graduation ceremony.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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