Mark Reyes is the valedictorian at Poteet High School in Texas and his graduation ceremony is Friday night.
He’s also an atheist. And thanks to his activism, the school will be getting rid of a nearly-100-year-old tradition of reciting invocations and benedictions at the ceremony:
Poteet Independent School District Superintendent Andy Castillo announced Tuesday that due to legal problems the words “Invocation” and “Benediction” will be removed from the commencement program of their Friday night graduation ceremony. The words “Opening Remarks” and “Closing Remarks” will replace “Invocation” and “Benediction”.
The substitution comes after the school district received a complaint from a person representing Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “After receiving this information last week, we have been working with our attorneys to avoid legal problems,” said Poteet Superintendent Andy Castillo.
Reyes added: “I know it’s tradition, but tradition isn’t always right.”
The Fox affiliate in San Antonio has the (un-embeddable) video interview with Reyes and you can watch that here.
I’m eager to hear how Reyes uses his time on stage.
I’m even more interested to hear how Religion Right groups — who push hard for Christian students to use their time on the graduation stage to proselytize — react to this. Will they support Reyes’ right to speak about atheism on stage (if he so chooses)? Will they denounce him? Will they just ignore the whole issue? (My money’s on the last option.)
Either way, Reyes has already shown courage and wisdom by getting the school to end a tradition that never should have been in place to begin with. What the administration at that school couldn’t do, Reyes has done.
We owe him a (root) beer for that.
(Thanks to Brian for the link!)