Liberty High School valedictorian Roy Costner hadn't been at the podium for more than 30 seconds when he tore up the speech he had gotten approved by the faculty and began reciting the Lord's Prayer to thunderous applause.
Patrick Elliott with the Freedom From Religion Foundation says they have received complaints about the district in South Carolina in the past for having student-led prayers at school board meetings.
So they wrote to them and asked them to stop.
"Sometimes people think, 'majority rules' but that's not really the case with a constitutional right. So students do have the right to attend school without the school promoting or endorsing religion even if you know a large amount of people in the community would hope that the school would do so," Elliott said.
Jonathan Saenz with Texas Values is proud of Costner.
"It's very clear. If the student is allowed to speak, the government cannot pick and choose what words they like...specifically target them because they're religious," Saenz said.
Elliott says he doesn't feel what Costner did was illegal, just in poor taste.
"I think it's a symptom of the entitlement that has gone on in that district. They've been instituting prayers and religious practices for a very long time and so when the school is now coming into compliance with the law, I think there's bound to be some reaction to that. I also think if it were a non-Christian student, a Muslim or somebody who's non-religious, I think you would have heard "boos" there instead of you know, loud applause," Elliott said.
Saenz doesn't agree, saying those who complain usually target Christians expressing their faith.
"That's what we've seen in Texas, that's what we're seeing in South Carolina, and so all denominations have religious freedom rights but it seems like every time it becomes an issue and someone threatens with a lawsuit or some type of challenge, it's always a Christian student. And so that's unfortunate that you see this type of targeted discrimination. And we hope that's something that will end," Saenz said.
We posed the question on the MyFOXAustin Facebook page. "Does this offend you? Or not?"
Tabetha writes, "I couldn't care less if he said the Lord's Prayer or did jumping jacks, fact of the matter is he broke the rules."
Carl writes, "I'm kind of an agnostic/atheist, but if a kid who has achieved valedictorian wants to give alms and praises to God, then so be it. He earned the right to speak and give praise where he sees fit and any institution that tries to prevent that is taking an egregious overstep."
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