Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Graduating Seniors Say Prayer Despite Atheist Complaints

Seniors at Louisiana's Bastrop High School went on with prayer during their graduation ceremony May 20, despite threats of a possible lawsuit, plans to cancel the prayer, and contrary advice from a school attorney.

Openly atheist graduate Damon Fowler complained to the superintendent about the traditional prayer and threatened to contact the American Civil Liberties Union if it wasn't removed from the ceremony.

At the recommendation of an attorney, school administrators reprinted all the graduation announcements to rid any mention of prayer in the program. Instead, a "Moment of Silence" was listed.

But when graduating senior Laci Rae Mattice stood at the podium to lead the moment of silence, she instead recited the Lord's Prayer.

"I respect the beliefs of other people, but I feel that I can't go on without giving glory to my Lord today," she said. "I want to ask for the Lord's blessings upon us."

Laci Rae then asked fellow students to say the prayer with her "if they want to."

"The Constitution does not require that graduation be free of religious people or speech. Students have the right to express secular and religious viewpoints at graduation," said Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel.

"To censor only the religious viewpoints is intolerant and unconstitutional," he continued. "Students should not be bullied by the ACLU to give up their constitutional rights."

In an online forum, Damon's brother Jerrett said he is in contact with a lawyer at the Freedom From Religion Foundation about the case. The group has offered Damon a $1,000 "student activist" award for his courage to speak out.

Administrators say Bastrop has never had anyone protest the graduation prayer.

"[Atheist, agnostic, and non-Christian students] respected the majority of their classmates and didn't say anything," said longtime Bastrop staff member Mitzi Quinn. "We've never had this come up before. Never."

Damon attended the graduation ceremony. Before the event, he posted on his Facebook page, "I'm going to walk, no matter what they say or do."

The teen has since moved to Texas.

Read More From CBN

No comments: