Liberty Counsel Encourages Students to Pray During Public School Graduations

The Christian Right group, Liberty Counsel, points out that “the key to graduation prayer is that the school should remain neutral — neither commanding nor prohibiting voluntary prayer or religious viewpoints.”

And so they’re letting Christians everyone know the legal loopholes (PDF) so that students can proselytize during graduation ceremonies without getting into legal trouble:

If a school does not place “prayer” on the agenda and does not select a clergy for the sole purpose of delivering a prayer, it avoids two ofthe Supreme Court’s major concerns. School officials can use neutral criteria for selecting the participants. A neutral criteria is one that does not select a speaker for the sole purpose of delivering a religious message.

An individual selected using neutral criteria could then participate in the public graduation ceremony and voluntarily offer a prayer or make religious comments. In this way, the school does not intentionally select a religious person for the purpose of prayer.

This is all part of their “Friend or Foe Graduation Prayer Campaign“:

The purpose of Liberty Counsel’s annual “Friend or Foe” Graduation Prayer Campaign is to protect religious viewpoints at graduation. Liberty Counsel will be the friend of schools that recognize the free speech rights of students and the foe of those that violate their constitutional rights.

I would love for a high school senior somewhere to test this…

Suppose you’re an atheist and the class valedictorian. You get up on stage and say something like, “God never helped me study for all those exams. God never helped me get a high SAT score. God never relieved my stress during those all-nighters. That was all me. I’m the one who worked hard. God doesn’t exist, after all.” (That would probably be a pretty dickish thing to say, but work with me here….)

Or what if a Muslim student was voted by her classmates to speak at graduation? What if she thanked Allah for getting her through high school and then invited everyone to pray with her?

Would Liberty Counsel support their free speech rights? Would those schools be considered “friends” or “foes”?

We constantly hear about how groups like the ACLU defend the free speech rights of Christians.

I have never once heard a story about Liberty Counsel helping out non-Christians for the same reasons.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

    What’s the problem here? Students are being encouraged to express their religious beliefs on their own prerogative rather than under the clock of official action.

    This is entirely proper. The “loophole” is just the First Amendment.

    • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

      Cloak, not clock!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      The loophole is the tyranny of the majority. The loophole is saying if you are not in the majority you are not welcome at your own graduation.

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        There’s a big difference between a ceremony officially recognizing a religious viewpoint and student speakers making an individual decision to express their own religious views (or not).

        Insisting that no one mentions God at graduation is a serious affront to religious liberty.

        • Shouldbeworkin’

          I entirely agree with your first paragraph, However, I haven’t heard that anyone is insisting that there should be no mention of God at a graduation. What Hemant is objecting to (if I may be so bold) is that an organization is attempting to establish a de facto Christian ceremony within graduations by playing the system, and that they would not be supportive if the result was anything but Christian.  He is merely trying to point out hypocrisy.

          • Demonhype

             Yes, it’s clearly a wedge strategy.

      • Zeggman

         It’s possible that this will be implemented fairly — that graduation speakers will truly be chosen without regard to religion, and graduation speeches will not be pre-screened to allow endorsements of religion but disallow the expression of atheist viewpoints.

        The real test will come when the unbiased selection process taps an atheist who decides to speak out. If a policy of strict neutrality (i.e., no mention of religion pro or con) is abandoned, sooner or later the door will swing both ways. I would hope that atheists would have set a good example by that time so that Christians will know how to react when someone at the podium expresses a religious viewpoint with which they disagree.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        That’s not true at all. I’ve been to many graduations that have not had a prayer. In fact, most of the graduations that I’ve been to have not had a prayer. The majority of my class was Christian, but everyone was of course welcome.

        • Coyotenose

           That has nothing at all to do with what Gordon Duffy wrote. Of COURSE most graduations don’t involve breaking the law or the spirit of the Constitution these days. But since the issue is well-understood now, every time one does, it means that people are violating the Constitution -on purpose- so they can feel extra special at the expense of others.

          • Demonhype

             Exactly.  My mom said something (years ago) to that same effect.  “Well, we took a vote and the majority want Christianity taught in public school, so therefore it should.  I would be okay with it IF the majority was Muslim, but, you know, they’re not so they’ll just have to suck it up.  MAJORITY RULES!!!!”

            I told her that was likely true, that she likely felt she would react that way–right up until I skipped home with my lunch pail and informed her that anyone who believes Jesus was God or was the Son of God or anything but a prophet of Allah would burn in torment for eternity in hell, and also Jesus never died on any cross.  Then she’d put on her best suit and hat and march right down there, infuriated that the school is telling her kids that the primary tenets of her religion were wrong and evil and hell-worthy.  She didn’t like what I said at the time, but didn’t argue against it, and after that she changed her tune about forcing religious belief into public schools and their events.

            They’re trying to create any situation where they can force their religion where it really doesn’t belong–and then start driving the wedge right in from there.  They know damn well that an atheist would either be outright stopped or they would “take a vote” to make his/her silencing seem “constitutional” (because tyranny of the majority is a-okay, donchano?), or they would turn a blind eye to the inevitable bullying and persecution that would happen to the atheist student in the hopes he/she would be scared out of speaking.  Of course, knowing what kind of hell lies in store for an atheist who takes advantage of a rule that was intended for Christians only, they tend to hope that the problem will resolve itself before it even shows up.

    • The Captain

      I think you missed some of the points. The loop hole is this. The Liberty Counsel is telling schools that it’s a violation of the constitution to hire a preacher to come in and give a sermon during graduation. BUT if the school says it invited the preacher because of they where a graduate of that school lets say, and the preacher just “happened” to give a sermon then that would be O.k.

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        That would absolutely be acting in bad faith (har har) and should result in a lawsuit if there’s good evidence of intent.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        It depends on your criteria. What if he/she was a famous preacher and/or a great speaker?

        • Coyotenose

           You should know that that is completely irrelevant, unless you also think it would be okay to invite a famous actor back to his old high school to speak at graduation – knowing that he’s a diehard political activist known for impromptu speeches – and then act surprised when he goes off on the Republican Party.

          • Demonhype

             Very much so.  I’m trying to find an example of an atheist speaker who would inappropriately take advantage of such an invitation (public school) to make a heartfelt speech about atheism, but I’m coming up blank.  That said, if there is such a person who had such a reputation and was invited to speak  by, say, an atheist principal or whatnot who had been trying to force outright atheism into all sorts of public school events, that would be just as disingenuous.  I doubt we’ll have such an opportunity until atheists have the same presence and privilege in society as Christians do now though.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

              I’m pretty sure if Dawkins was invited to a high school graduation, based off his merits in science, that he would interject his beliefs about a lack of deity. To say any different would be naive.

              • Coyotenose

                 There’s plenty of evidence about Dawkins’ behavior out there that refutes your claim. Being “pretty sure” when libeling someone based on your own made-up idea of him doesn’t make it so.

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

                  He  said at y’alls big conference that you (inclusively speaking) should go out of your way to mock and ridicule Christians. If he doesn’t do the same given a public platform, then his message loses all credibility. 

    • Thalfon

      The problem is that this smells less of “remember you’re allowed to pray unofficially” and more of “hey school officials, you get in trouble for picking a pastor, but you could *incidentally* and *totally unintentionally* pick people who just happen to choose to pray and it’s all good!”

      The loophole here isn’t that students can pray, it’s that school officials can in fact push prayer into the graduation ceremony by simply acting as though it wasn’t arranged.

      • Demonhype

        Like they did with…was it Damon Fowler?  I’m having a hard time keeping these cases straight, it seems like there are so many of  them, but was that the case where they made a pathetic attempt to legitimize it by having a student recite the prayer, as if just giving an official platform to student-led religious posturing is somehow different in a graduation ceremony than having a teacher or administrator read it?  They’re always trying to pull some crap like that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

      Actually, no.  Students are being encouraged to express Christianity–Conservative Christianity in particular.  You know darn well that Muslim, Pagan, Atheist, Buddhist and other non-Christian students have zero support from Liberty Counsel.

  • Brian Avey

    The ACLU has defended a number of low-profile and virtually unknown cases in favor of Christians, probably in order to have something to counter charges that there is an anti-religious bias in much of their work. However, I would stop short of giving them credit for being balanced in their defense of everyone’s civil rights. As for freedom of speech, it would not offend me — a Christian — if someone expressed gratitude to a higher power according to his or her own understanding, or if no mention was made at all of a higher power. What seems artificial and contrived is going out of one’s way to express a negative view of God, claiming all the credit for ones achievement — as if teachers, mentors, well-constructed curricula, and above all, the opportunity to seek an education did not matter.

    • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

      I would suggest those ACLU cases are not well known BECAUSE they were defending Christians. It’s when the ACLU questions Christian actions that the conservative media goes nuts promoting the event.

      By and large, the ACLU operates according to very predictable and fair principles. It’s a pity this goes unappreciated by so many people in our society who only care if ‘their’ side is being defended or challenged.

      • Demonhype

         I would also suggest that the other cases become more high-profile because the person being defended is not in the “desirable” group and that riles up the people in the privileged position, that one of “those” people is having the temerity to challenge their privilege and that damnable ACLU is having the temerity to stand up for them.  The media isn’t as likely to focus on a “Christians vs. Christians over some minor detail” story as something a lot more rabble-rousing and therefore ratings-heightening, like something involving atheists or muslims or gays or what have you.

        The ACLU’s defense of some Christian groups is not a smokescreen.  It’s just that in a country where Christianity in general is an overprivileged majority group you’re going to have fewer cases where someone in that overprivileged majority group is being oppressed or persecuted or generally screwed over, and it’s usually going to involve a detail issue between subsets of that majority group, which isn’t as controversial as “should Muslim women be able to wear headscarves” or “should atheists be allowed to exist openly”.

    • The Captain

      Sooo “freedom of speech” is cool as long as it’s either positive towards, or neutral to your god? Anything else is not? Doesn’t sound very “free” to me.

      • Demonhype

         Just like atheists are only okay if we express a positive or neutral attitude toward their god or religion.  We can say “religion is so special and I wish I could be part of it” or “I’m not getting involved at all”, but if we challenge them in any way–even if, or especially if, it involves the rule of law being imposed on us–we are strident, militant extremists, no different than clinic-bombers or jihadists.

    • http://twitter.com/adam_the_k Adam K

      Okay, so friends, teachers, and family helped, but explicitly still not God. Would that be better?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

        No. That’s like calling out everyone who they felt who didn’t help them. “I’d to thank my parents, teachers and friends who helped me get this far. I would like to not thank the following people…” Who does that?  I would like to not thank Adam K for me getting me through college. Adam, you were never there when I needed help. You were so distant when I was struggling. Adam, you never called me or helped me study. 

        Why would I give a speech of that nature. The truth is Adam, you’ve never lifted a finger in effort to help me. While this sounds extremely negative and defamatory to you, the truth is that I never knew you. Rather than going out of my way to make a laundry list of people who I’m not friends with or who I know of, but not know, I thank speeches should just stick with thanking people. Otherwise there are going to be some long speeches filled with not thanking the some 6+ billion people in the world that I do not know. 

        • Coyotenose

          Does this make the problem with your argument clearer?

          “I’d to thank my parents, teachers and friends who helped me get this far. I would like to not thank unicorns.”

          Does that sentence insult everyone else on the planet? Or even anyone who has ever lived?

          The rest of your post has to make the assumption that God is a real thing who took real actions to help the speaker. We have no reason at all to think that.

          It’s odd that you think that saying a stranger never helped you personally on a forum is “extremely negative and defamatory”. And again, there you go, equating God to a guy living somewhere, doing something.

          Trying to set Adam K up by misrepresenting the argument is what is extremely negative and defamatory.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

            Who is misrepresenting the argument? If someone giving a speech starts calling out people who didn’t help them, it sounds negative. Period. Why even go there? Adam said in his version that God explicitly did not help. I’m assuming, maybe a bad assumption, the explicit part means that he would have mentioned God, but it would be under a negative light. 

            If a speaker thanked God, then THEY must have a reason to think that He helped them and THAT is what mattered. Quite frankly it matters because they are the speaker and you are not. 

            If they mentioned and thanked their best friend are you going to get offended if you happen to dislike the mentioned friend too? 

            Yes, I am mentioning God as if He exists and is doing something. That’s because I believe that. For a group that cries foul over censorship you really like to censor things that  are against your own beliefs. 

            The point is, as long as the prayer is not planned by the school and is student led you don’t have a leg to stand on to stop them. While you may not like that, and I can see why b/c if the tables were flipped I wouldn’t like it either, it’s legal.

             So what if there is an organization that is out there telling students what their legal rights are?  FFR does the exact same thing when they support people making a fuss over prayer banners, etc. They help students know what their rights are and support them in taking stands. 

            It’s not as is the Liberty Council is raising money to pay for student’s college expenses for those students who pray during graduation expenses are they?

            • Coyotenose

               And now you’re crying censorship specifically because I don’t treat God as a real person.

              Pathetic. Not even worth refuting the rest after that. Whine Persecution more, please.

              • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

                Clearly you are missing my point. You are the ones trying to censor. It’s legal to pray if it’s not planned by the school and is student led. You are the ones trying to stop it and complaining about a student-led prayer by a student who happens to be a Christian. 

                We aren’t being censored, although you wish you could shut us up :) It’s just funny (in a sad way) that you whine about free speech and not getting your way, but as soon as a Christian interprets the law fairly and it allows room for something religious then you cry foul. 

                Try taking it and dishing it out sometime.

    • atoswald

      Brian,

      You should have a look at this website:

      http://www.aclufightsforchristians.com/

      I would say that the ACLU is balanced in defending everyone’s rights.
      “The ACLU is our nation’s guardian of liberty, working daily in courts,
      legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and
      liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone
      in this country.”

        The perceived anti-religious bias is coming from the majority (who in this country happen to be christian), which frankly is not discriminated against as often. The ACLU defends more cases involving discrimination against non-christians simply because there are more of those cases. Quite presumptuous of you to assume the ACLU has ulterior motives in defending personal liberties.

      • Demonhype

         I just made that case too!  :)  Let me say that if atheists got into a majority and Christians lost their privileged status totally, I’d still want an organization like the ACLU to be around.  When you have any majority there is a good chance of privilege to form, both overt and subconscious–even with atheists–and I would always want the minority to have recourse to justice even if I am part of the majority.  I would like to think that atheists would be more successful than Christians at that!*  ;)  But even if that turned out to be the case, humans are humans and we would still need a great organization like the ACLU to keep us honest and act as a vocal and visible conscience that reminds us of where we are slipping.

        That day sounds like it’s a long ways away though, and I don’t know if I’d live to see it much less enjoy it.  But if it did, I think the ACLU would remain just as important as it is today.

        *Note for those who don’t read and comprehend:   I said “I would LIKE TO THINK” and “even IF that turned out to be the case”.  This is not a statement that atheists will be more successful, just that it’s something I would hope would be true but probably wouldn’t because there is no magic bullet to make a society perfect–especially not a magic view-on-religion bullet.

    • Coyotenose

      I’ve heard this before, that the ACLU only pays lip service to defending religion. While individual members have opinions on religion all across the spectrum, the ACLU itself always acts in keeping with its stated mission. You’re spouting a conspiracy theory. It requires the claimant to possess psychic powers to know what people are “really” thinking that in no way aligns with their actions. It’s odd how often Conservatives seem to be psychic.

      The ACLU doesn’t get as many cases defending Christian rights because A) Other groups assist on their behalf like the Alliance Defense Fund (groups that you NEVER see defending Separation or atheists), and B) You’re all been told over and over that the ACLU is something that it is not, so you never ask them for help.

      Your last sentence is nonsensical, comparing other people with “God” and asserting that both rate credit and that not giving any to a deity is like insulting the others in your life. I assume you’re referring to Hemant’s “God never helped me study” comment. That isn’t what he said.

      “Artificial and contrived” describes religious constructs, not atheism, thanks.

      • Demonhype

         Good point about the Alliance Defense Fund.  Sounds like some groups spouting this conspiracy theory are just sore because the ACLU wouldn’t defend some effort they made to force their religion on others.  These people sound like they think the ACLU, if it was “genuinely” interested in defending Christians, would have been against the likes of Damon Fowler or Jessica Alquist.  (bad spelling?)  They are like spoiled children who genuinely don’t understand why they don’t get toys on someone else’s birthday, or why they can’t have their sister’s cookie too, or why Mommy made them get off the swing so their brother or another child could have a turn too, and they think it’s because they’re being persecuted or something.  So when Mommy gives sister her cookie back or lets another child use the swing they’ve been monopolizing for a half-hour or more, they are the victims of horribly unfair treatment.  (This irritates me more now than ever, since the recent drama with my now-estranged brother and his wife, as the events that led up to the drama and estrangement involved his wife having this very “why can’t I have everything no matter what?” attitude, screwing me over seriously as a result, and my brother outright justifying her behavior as “right” and “good” and now pretending that I am at fault for not overlooking the problem like he does and gutting out the massive damage she did to our lives and acting as if everything is cool and nothing happened.  And now telling all the rest of our family–outside the immediate family, that is, his parents are very disappointed in him– a lot of lies and bullshit so they also think that I’m horrible for not just letting her have her cookie and mine too without a fuss or argument.  So this kind of attitude really torques me off more than usual.)

        And yes, atheism has been remarkably consistent no matter where and when it has sprouted up across time, across continents, and in various cultures and religions.  Being based in logic, reason and reality has a lot of upsides.

        • Stev84

          The Allliance Defense Fund are god’s ambulance chasers. A truly despicable organization if you look a bit into what they do

          • Rwlawoffice

            Please explain why you think this about the Alliance Defense Fund?

      • Rwlawoffice

        Whether the ACLU defends a Christian’s right to free speech or right to exercise religion on occasion is really not the issue.  They are clearly in opposition to other Christian beliefs and that is the reason why most Christians would not use them or support them.  

        • Coyotenose

           Can you name those beliefs without having to resort to psychic powers to divine the ACLU’s “true” intentions? Again, the ACLU’s actions are completely in line with its mission statement, and are fair to all parties based on Constitutional law.

          What you’re telling me is that Christians resent that the ACLU follows the law and protects people based on the law.

          • Rwlawoffice

            It doesn’t take psychic powers. Most conservative Christians are pro life and the ACLU has a Reproductive Freedom Project that is in direct opposition to their goals. Yes I understand that abortion is currently legal in this country but many conservative Christians want to change that law. The ACLU doesn’t so that puts them at odds.

            • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

              And the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project forces Christians to obtain abortions against their will…. how, exactly?

              • Rwlawoffice

                Don’t think I said that or even implied it.  You should read my post again.  My point is that conservative Christians will not support the ACLU for its positions on abortion.

                • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

                   They won’t support the position that Christian beliefs about abortion should be imposed on everyone, including non-Christians.  Big difference.

    • Demonhype

       We’re not talking about whether a single person “wouldn’t  be” offended, but the fact that many are.  There are non-Christians who don’t want to be forced to listen to Christian stuff in order to attend commencement and there are atheists who don’t  want to be subjected to religious sentiment as a condition of attending their commencement.  Both of these groups worked toward their graduation and commencement no less than the Christians or believers in general, and it’s not fair to force them to listen to what really amounts to a “Christians count, you are second-class or lower” message.  There are also Christians who find it both uncomfortable and offensive as well, because many Christians (including my mom) think that faith is a personal thing not to be paraded around at any chance and in front of any captive audience you can get in front of.

      If you wouldn’t be offended by someone failing to thank God or some higher power at graduation, that’s great.  We’re saying no one should be offended by the omission of religion from a public school event.  We don’t insist that atheism be preached from the graduation podium, we would prefer that it remain neutral to every religious viewpoint, but if they’re going to all people to preach Christianity or any other religion at us from it we will claim our constitutional right to equal access.  And we will continue to claim and fight for that right until it is finally understood that certain venues should remain religiously neutral.

      This isn’t about someone being able to thank a higher power either–you can easily do that before or after the ceremony, during the ceremony in your own head, or even have a church service dedicated to the event (I’m sure most churches wouldn’t have a problem with having a special service for that, or to dedicate the nearest Sunday services to all those great kids graduating from the local high school, for example).  This is about what platform they use to thank that power, and whether it is an appropriate platform.

      That said, we had one valedictorian or saludatorian or whatever who mentioned thanking God at mine.  I didn’t care much at the time, partially because I wasn’t an atheist yet and partially because this person didn’t take the opportunity to proselytize–she just make a simple mention as a personal thing and went on to talk about our futures and whatnot.   What these people want isn’t just for students to personally thank god in a valedictorian speech but to make the speech about god and about salvation and turn a public school event into a publicly-funded revival meeting with a captive audience.

  • SystemsReady

    My view is, you can thank God all you want in your speech. I won’t care. I might roll my eyes, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. What I DO have a problem with is that person imploring everyone to pray with them during the speech. That is making the assumption that everyone shares the same beliefs and pressures them to act so.

    • Demonhype

       Not to mention we have seen what happens to non-Christian students who don’t shut up and tow the line.  Let’s not pretend there is anything akin to a choice there–or if you think there is, then if I put a gun to your head unless you give me your wallet, I can’t be charged with armed robbery because “you had a choice”.  Or if your landlord says “If you keep going to church I will change your locks and dump your belongings on the curb,” he should be exempt from any discrimination charges because, after all, you had a choice.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

      ” imploring everyone to pray with them” – and then they’d hear my Daughter chanting to Cthullu.

  • SwedishLore15

    There’s absolutely nothing objectionable about individual students opting to recognize their personal religious beliefs as a speaker.  You might find it distasteful, but the student has the right to include that material in their remarks. There’s a world of difference between the school forcibly encouraging participation and a student speaker acknowledging God in their prepared remarks.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I wasn’t objecting. It’s legal. But would these groups defend non-Christians who took advantage of the same opportunities?

      • SwedishLore15

        Truthfully, I don’t know, because this article doesn’t give that sort of context.  I am sure there are some more fair-minded Christian groups that would, just like there are some atheist groups and Islamic groups that, given the chance, would want their viewpoint to dominate the process.  But since they’re a very specific advocacy group, there’s really no point in whether or not they would defend other people.

      • Cygnus_72

        I would imagine that Christians would object. I often imagine the intensity of the outcry and sheer hatred that Christians would have if a Hindu led a prayer at a high school graduation.

        Anyway, I was listening to Mike Huckabee’s radio show today (for some odd reason) and this very subject came up. Huckabee inferred, as most fundamentalist Christians do, that there is a battle being waged by the left and atheists to prevent students from praying in school. I just groaned. I wanted to call him up and inform him that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc., are allowed to pray; it’s just school-sanctioned prayer that is illegal.

        I wish fundies would get this through their collective skulls.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

          I’m a Christian, and I would not be offended at all if someone of a different faith gave a prayer. I’ve traveled to Muslim areas of the world on many occasions and have even been prayed for by others to a different God than who I follow. It was a sincere effort on their part and showed how much they cared for me. Why would that offend me?

          • Coyotenose

             Your experiences =/= general Fundamentalist, Evangelical thought in the U.S. Anecdotes are not data. We see how they act and react every single day, and it is childish, tyrannical and privileged.

            I know that religion is bull, and it doesn’t offend me when Christians pray on my behalf*. People possess empathy as a result of evolution and natural selection. Of course they care about me.

            *It offends me when they pray for me to “see the light”. That’s ignorant, arrogant and condescending. It means they don’t have an actual argument, aren’t able to own up to it, and aren’t mature enough to just walk away.

          • SphericalBunny

            Forgive me if I didn’t notice your reply on the relevant threads, but I can’t say I noticed your vocalised exception on the threads pertaining to Jessica Ahlquist  (the 16yr old threatened with rape, death, bodily harm to her + her family for abiding – and asking others to – to American law). Did I not notice your sincere efforts, or did you not make them? Would you care to ask me why I would find that offensive, or why I find the idea of ‘Xtian ethics’ less than persuasive in the situation of real life?

            Thank you in advance for your reply, although I will warn you that I may find ‘Oh, I replied once about how they weren’t REAL Xtians’/’I did lip service once to how that was wrong, but rape/death/bodily harm threats don’t really concern me’ to be unconvincing in the face of ‘But not allowing public prayer is totes wrong!!!’ And I comment on all those threads!!!’, and slightly disingenuous. Links to my opposition would be lovely, and necessitate a proper apology from myself too. 

            • Demonhype

               So much this.  This is how I feel all the time.  Don’t just give me the “no True Christians”/situational lip service “oh, that shouldn’t be”.  When other Christians act like that, I want to hear and see the “nice” ones speak up and be counted every bit as enthusiastically as they do when they think that a single iota of prayer might not be expressed in the public school or on a  courthouse or what have you.

          • Anonymous-Sam

            Because on a regular basis, posts to this very blog are made which demonstrate how Christians get up in arms almost every single time someone makes a demonstration that there is any other kind of belief out there, from atheism to Islam. Look at the signs being taken down, vandalized, or forbidden to be posted at all. Look at the atheists receiving death threats and worse.

            And then you ask “Why would you ever think that this might offend someone?”

            Because obviously it does, or these hateful responses to mere indications of an atheist’s existence wouldn’t be so commonplace?

        • Demonhype

           Exactly.  Same as when that Hindu gave a prayer at the Capital, and all the “oh, I wouldn’t mind IF” turned into a whole bunch of arguments about why that particular religion doesn’t count because it’s polytheistic, because the majority of Americans are Christian, and so on and so forth.  They say they wouldn’t mind, but the moment it happens they have a thousand and one excuses why this particular person should be prevented.  If it was an atheist, you’d get the same stuff we’re hearing here: “Well, I don’t mind if someone explicitly promotes their own religion or some ‘higher power’ or just leaves it neutral, but any expression of atheism should be barred because it’s just an insult to all the religious people and in this case the offense experienced by students in the audience should trump free speech–though when we get another Christian student, all this will be reversed and free speech will be the priority.”

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Ask them directly. Ask Liberty Counsel to put it in writing on their website that they would be just as supportive of featured students or invited speakers exercising their freedom of speech at graduations if they were to express atheist ideas, or Muslim beliefs and prayers, and not just Christian prayers. 

        Ask them to certify publicly that they really are behind freedom of speech for everyone, not just more exercising of the privilege of the majority.

      • Demonhype

        No.

    • Paul_Robertson

      You might find it distasteful, but the student has the right to include that material in their remarks.
      Not really. This is the bit that Liberty Counsel is being sneaky about. Liberty Counsel rightly points out the restrictions on viewpoint discrimination, but it is entirely appropriate for a school to place limits on the subject matter covered by a student at an official function. There are plenty of subject areas that are inappropriate for a graduation speech and religious (or irreligious) prosyltetising is one of them. Just because a school can structure things to permit “student initiated” prayer doesn’t mean that they should. Freedom of speech does not include a right to a captive audience. The students are gathered for a purpose and that purpose does not include religion.

  • Deven_Kale

    I would argue that anybody who is hired by the school and gives a prayer (or worse) was most likely instructed to do so, or the school was negligent in it’s actions by not researching the speaker or instructing them in what was and was not acceptable in their speech. For example, the “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” mess that eventually caused the VP to leave the school. He purportedly did so because he wasn’t diligent enough in researching the group and caused harm to some of the students emotional health because of it.

    If this campaign happens to cause a student to get up and lead the class in a prayer, or to speak up about their gratitude to their god and all they believe he’s  done for them though, then I say more power to them! I have no problem with civilians exercising whatever rights they have (or should have, in some cases). That’s the beauty of living in America, freedom of speech (for civilians), especially if it offends. :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=693815483 Gaurab Thapa

    Hey please check out the new Pastabad Gita of the Pastafaris @ pastabad.weebly.com and find grand revelations uttered by the FSM himself to throw at false believers. Here is a sample of what’s there.

    In the beginning before there was light,  1.0 His Noodlyness, the FSM burned bright.  1.1

    With noodly appendages and two giant balls, 1.2
    Appear the world and stars, he calls.  1.3

    And lo! thus appeared the heavens and the skies 1.4
    And all that in this noodly universe which flies 1.5

  • Justin Miyundees

    I’d like to see a student challenge this also.  It only took one small child to speak up for everyone to realize – hey!  the Emperor IS naked!

  • Paul_Robertson

    I’ve found a less partisan summary of the first amendment law regarding school prayer. Note that to permit student led prayer, the school must create a “limited open forum” permitting a broad range of views. The corollary is that the school may choose not to create such a forum. While schools can rig things to permit student prayer at graduations a) it opens the door to a lot of other speech, including the type suggested by Hemant; and b) we should remind schools that they don’t have to do this and encourage them to stand up for religious freedom by limiting the subject matter of graduation speeches.

  • Corey

    why are students making speaches at graduation? there was just one student, the class president, who gave a speach, and the teachers then handed out the diplomas and talked a little…but there was no line of students waiting to get up and speak. am i missing something here?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

      Yes. Many times the senior class or the class sponsors will vote on it. My high school had both the valedictorian and the salutatorian speak. 

  • Hibernia86

    If you earned valedictorian, then you should be allowed to thank God, Allah, Thor, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster as much as you wish. No US tax dollars were used to unfairly get you that spot. You earned it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

    If they’re going to try and impress high school seniors that get to speak at graduation, they should use “criteria” correctly.
    “A neutral criterion is one…” or “Neutral criteria are…”, not “A neutral criteria is one…”


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