Greenwood High School Tries to Circumvent Injunction Against Graduation Prayer

Greenwood High School in Indiana put a graduation prayer up to a vote a couple months ago.

Students voted yes, so Constitution be damned, right?

Not exactly.

A wise judge said no — she issued an injunction against the school so they couldn’t say a prayer.

So there you have it. No prayer during graduation, right?

Not exactly.

The school has found a loophole…

A central Indiana high school that was the subject of a lawsuit over a graduation prayer says it is breaking with tradition and will not screen speeches by speakers at its May 28 commencement.

In the past, Greenwood High School’s principal has required student speakers to submit their speeches in advance to review the content, grammar and length. Most schools in the nation follow similar practices.

But Greenwood is lifting the practice this year, and school officials say speakers will not be stopped even if they use profane language or deliver politically charged speeches.

School officials would not comment on the reason for the change.

Let’s read between the lines: If students just so happen to include a prayer in their speech, it’s not like those speeches will be screened beforehand…

Phil sums up the potential consequences nicely:

We will not review speeches “wink, wink”. You can say what ever you want, “Wink, Wink”. You could even lead a prayer, “WINK, WINK”.

There’s some reason to have hope, though. The student who initially brought up the lawsuit against school prayer was the school’s valedictorian, Eric Workman.

I would think he’d be giving a speech that is prayer-less. So yay for that.

Of course, even if a student did make references to god or prayer, that wouldn’t be a legal issue. Students are allowed to do that. It’s school officials who cannot endorse prayer or include an official prayer in the graduation ceremony.

It’s a weak attempt at circumventing the law and they’ve already lost the case. They’re just trying to dig that hole even deeper.

  • Gordon

    Why are these people incapable of realising how much the non-endorsement of religion does for them?

  • cypressgreen

    Since Eric can say “anything,” how about a bit on this importance of the Constitution? He can really use this opportunity to set them all straight.

  • Carlie

    …and then he ought to add in a part about how any person who WOULD put in a prayer at a public event is trampling upon the rights and sensibilities of others, and is continuing in a long line of state-sponsored oppression and enforcement of religion in the same mindset as the governments of Iran and Iraq.

  • June

    I must remind you all that just because every student can say what they want, doesn’t mean that it’s all going to be about prayer. By opening it up that NONE of the speeches will be reviewed (censored) then that does give equal face time to Atheist views. I will give a slight nod to the fact that they’re trying to go around it…but they did it in such a way that they DID leave it open to both sides. … The Atheist Valedictorian will at least have some fictional humor to keep him entertained during graduation. :) I homeschool my kids now, but when they were in publis school I only had issue when they they would JUST try to teach christian-based Christmas songs. After I complained they used the “holiday” program to cover ALL the main religions… I was okay with that. It was educational for everyone.

  • beckster

    It’s a shame they are turning this graduation ceremony into a political and religious statement. What the students will remember from their graduation is the controversy, instead of what it is supposed to represent for their lives.

  • Joshua White

    This may be an easy policy to cause to backfire onto the school. All it takes is one student to give an outrageously offensive speech. Hopefully one of those kids is a /b/tard (google at your peril).

    It is also possible that in carefully selecting who will give the speeches they are ensuring that the speech will be of a kind that they approve of and may thus amount to de facto administrative screening (with the exception of the valedictorian). However IANAL.

  • http://www.atheistreality.com Stephanie

    Oh please! A student leading a prayer will likely be welcomed… but if a student gives an unscreened speech including an opposition to religion, he/she will most certainly face consequences – in some form or another. I agree that the school has put an unnecessary political/religious weight on graduating students, but I’ll be proud of any student who takes advantage of the new rule in favor of Atheism!

  • Ross

    I would be pretty amusing if one of the speakers gets up and prays to satan.

  • Bob

    So a professor in Chicano Studies speaks out against SB 1070 in Arizona and is lambasted for bringing politics into the commencement exercises …

    … but this blatantly dishonest attempt to bring prayer into a high school graduation is doubtless thought of by Christians as something that MUST be done. Never mind that ‘I didn’t know’ is an answer worthy of Cain.

  • JT

    I would love it if instead of a prayer or even an unscreened out endorsement of something I like. They just give a speech that is so filthy and curse word laden that it would even make the saltiest sailor blush. It’s guaranteed to be a YouTube hit!

    Eric, try to incorporate the phrase, “YEA! Let’s graduate the fuck out of this shit!” into your speech. It doesn’t really make sense, and it’s just silly. Just like the school’s response to laws.

  • brent

    hmmmm.

    i think it’s a win.

    like you say, if all the students actually want to pray, that’s their own stupid decision – it’s only illegal/immoral to MAKE them pray.

    I call it a free-speech win and leave it at that.

  • slantrhyme

    I will do 500 round-off back handsprings if this kid just goes bonkers in his speech. I mean it….This is the opportunity of a lifetime.

  • http://iamtheblog.com I Am The Blog

    If Eric gets wind of a desire to lead a prayer, then I think he should use the entirety of his valedictorian speech to speak about state-church separation.

    I don’t think he should just swear or say vulgar things, though, although it would be hilarious that would just confirm people’s prejudices I think: they’d say that people against the prayer are all immoral, vulgar, unrespectful, etc.

  • Lynn

    I wonder how offensive a speech the valedictorian could make without cussing?

    But of course he should take the high road and discuss how important the separation of church and state is in this country, stuff like that.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Iason Ouabache

    Word of advice for Mr. Workman: make sure you physically have your diploma in hand before you make your speech. And please please PLEASE make a prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. RAmen!

  • Epistaxis

    Joshua White:

    All it takes is one student to give an outrageously offensive speech. Hopefully one of those kids is a /b/tard

    Well, I would say hopefully one of them is an eloquent defender of the constitution.

    But maybe we’ll discover that the prayer is actually the least of it, and the speeches will be full of other things to embarrass the school with everyone watching.

    Are there really any consequences the school can administer at this point? I seem to recall the last punishment mine ever inflicted, on seniors who decided to go smoke cigars right after the last day of school got out, was to ban them from the commencement ceremony in advance. They get a lot less dictatorial when the room is full of parents.

  • SpencerDub

    This sickens me.

  • plutosdad

    It sounds petty and silly, they are saying if they can’t force kids to pray, then they can’t enforce any standards whatsoever. How childish.

    Part of me hopes he makes a profanity laden speech, but part of me hopes he rises above them and delivers a great speech. Perhaps on the importance of the protections of the Bill of Rights, which the administration obviously takes for granted. Giving a speech on how lucky the school is to have a first amendment to stop someone from a different sect of christianity to force themselves on the school will probably offend them enough, and yet be intelligent and thought provoking. Better to embarrass them with intelligent argument.

  • Delphine

    I think it’s great. Eric Workman can take this opportunity to “use profane language or deliver politically charged speeches”, so to speak. What kind of consequences can he get? The school not allowing him to graduate? He already earned his credits and he already got into a university. He has nothing to lose. If they publicly said they’re not stopping the speaker for any reason and I happened to be the speaker, I’d think long and hard and write up the most profane, witty, disturbing, funny comment ever while jabbing at Christian prayers here and there.

  • SpencerDub

    Off the top of my head, I think the problem with making an incredibly profane, biased speech is that it could send the wrong message. If Workman’s speech is offensive to the vast majority of listeners, they’ll likely see that as an excuse: “There, see, that’s why we shouldn’t allow students to say whatever they want.” This could ultimately work against free speech.

    To be fair, I haven’t thought through that argument very much, however. For instance, it seems at odds with my position on Draw Muhammad Day (which I’m staunchly in favor of). It was just a thought that popped into my head.

  • me

    While this makes the issue more complicated, I do not believe that this avoids the Establishment Clause problem. If a prayer is offered as an official part of a school-sponsored event, there may still be a problem.

    Also, the valedictorian should totally give this speech:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethel_School_District_v._Fraser

  • exactamundo

    Have you tried to contact the valedictorian? See if he will post his graduation speech on YouTube (I’m sure if there are no restrictions he will certainly take advantage of it).

  • Richard Wade

    This is the same kind of cowardly evasion of responsibility as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The school has done an excellent job of teaching the students to be chickenshit cheaters, using disingenuous and passive-aggressive means to get around the spirit and principle of the Constitution that protects their freedom too.

    Like the adults who have raised and educated them, this class will be a generation of spoiled brats who want all the protection of the law just for themselves, but who will not take any of the responsibility that the law also demands.

  • Ed-words

    The valedictorian should give a nice,long

    speech on separation of church and

    state. They’ll be sor-r-ry!

    Or maybe he could speak about the famous

    skeptics in American history.

  • http://gmail.com Dustin

    If I were Eric Workman, I’d be chompin’ at the bit! They could have their prayer, then I’d read the relevant clauses of the Constitution prohibiting the school from endorsing it and let the Founding Fathers weigh in with some quotes CLEARLY ARTICULATING what they meant by “no law respecting an establishment of religion”!

  • konley

    any student who is speaking, or better yet the valedictorian, should cuss up a storm. every other word. make mother blush, babies cry and old men uncomfortable. that way next year, they have to screen speeches. no one is listening the rational thought, so give them some chaos…
    just a thought.

  • Vas

    Ladies and gentleman, distinguished faculty, fellow students…

    A talent agent is sitting around his office when a family walks in and tells him they have the most amazing act he has ever seen. The talent agent rolls his eyes and says that he does not book family acts. The father insists that their act is different than other family acts and begs the agent to take a few minutes to hear him out. The talent agent agrees and says “alright tell me about this act of yours”….

    Please please please Eric, please just do it. This is a once in a life time opportunity, the stuff legends are made of, claim your place in history, please please please. (oh yeah and post it to you tube.)

  • pinecone

    My daughter and I are both Atheists and she is one of three Valedictorians for the class of 2010. (They are all Atheists BTW!)We also live in a rather small rural town, overwhelming religious. But as she is getting ready to write her speech she is reminded that the speech is not about her, but about the class itself. So even though she would love to quote Darwin, or Dawkins, or Sagan, or even Dennet, she really should keep it focused on this particular class and its accomplishments. Just an FYI…

  • woodrow

    Many of you should actually read the constitution. Congress can’t make a law favoring one religion over another or prohibiting the free exercise of religion. The Courts and the ACLU have found a way to unconstitutionally censor a students freedom of speech when it comes to christianity. It is so sad when some many are absent the most basic ability to Reason that they support this censorship.


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