A Kentucky high school continued its tradition of having a student lead a prayer during graduation ceremonies, despite objections by at least six students, Fox News reports. Jonathan Hardwick, class of 2013 president at Lincoln County High School in Stanford, was given a standing ovation after he delivered a prayer during Friday’s commencement. A video of Hardwick’s prayer quickly hit social media, with most online comments supporting his decision. "Thank you for helping us get here safely today, Lord, and thank you for the many blessings you have given us," Hardwick said as part of the prayer. Lincoln High principal Tim Godbey acknowledged that six students — including at least one atheist — had asked him not to allow a student-led prayer at the ceremony. Godbey, who is Christian, said under separation of church and state laws, faculty members have never been able to pray publicly on school grounds or during school-sponsored events, but he noted that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit students from praying as long as they are not disrupted. Ricky Smith, an atheist who has been lobbying for a "moment of silence" to replace prayer during government meetings in the area, said he intended to notify the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation about Lincoln’s public prayer, which he feels violated the civil rights of students who are not Christians. (Online Source)
While I heartily commend those who take a positive stance for prayer, I think there are several common threads in these situations:
1. The false interpretation of ‘church/state separation’ is always a factor. It was about the state establishing a state religion such as was in England.
2. The protesters’ objections aren’t, at the deepest level, about prayer. They have ‘God’ issues. No one’s civil rights are really violated when there are public expressions of faith, any more than the civil rights of believers are violated when the world around them slanders and blasphemes their God.
3. Freedom ‘from’ religion cannot be obtained via institutions of men. We are all ‘religious’ by nature (Romans 1). The best that can be obtained is ‘outside’ reminders being removed from the minds of those who suppress truth they inherently know.
4. Christians can be a bit over the top in their ‘celebrations’ , whether it’s thunderous applause for the one who actually prayed in public (as in the video clip), or viral social media ‘idolizing’ the individual who prayed. It might be better to just humbly added an ‘Amen!’ to the prayer instead of displaying the ‘us v. them’ aspects of the issue.
Food for thought on a Friday morning.