After Turning Last Year’s Graduation Into a Church Service, a Superintendent Finally Sees the Light

At last year’s graduation ceremony for Veterans High School in Georgia, Superintendent Robin Hines went full-force in making sure Christianity was honored along with the students. The event included a formal prayer, the singing of a gospel song (“Find Your Wings” by Mark Harris), and Hines himself spoke to the students about how they needed to “live life with a strong faith in God.”

Superintendent Robin Hines

Wes Bryant, an actual veteran who was there to watch his niece graduate, couldn’t believe what he was hearing so he alerted the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which sent the school a complaint letter:

“It’s really angering to come back and be exposed to that — to be expected to be a Christian wherever I’m at and not have your beliefs or lack of belief honored in your community,” said Bryant, an atheist, when reached by phone Monday. “(Christianity) is the majority religion, we know that, but it is nonetheless honoring one religion at a public school forum.”

“It alienates everyone else that doesn’t believe the same way, and it does send a message from the school, which does in some way represent the government,” he said.

At the time, Hines made no promise of changing anything in the future, and that’s usually a bad sign. You would expect him to keep things just the way they are.

So what’s happening this time around? Believe it or not, things are better!

Robin Hines said the district won’t sponsor any prayers or hymns. Music at the events will be “inspirational” but not religious.

He said the district doesn’t want to break the law.

That’s either an acknowledgment that he did something illegal last year and doesn’t want to get in trouble, or an understanding that he alienated students and their families last year and he wants to do them proud this year. Either way, it’s a victory for church/state separation.

Hines said Wednesday that he hasn’t heard from any of the families that filed complaints and he has not made a written response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

However, Hines said the most important thing to focus on is the kids. “This is an exciting time. It’s a culmination of 13 years of hard work for these students.”

Exactly. The graduation ceremony isn’t about God or Jesus. It’s about the students and all the hard work they put into their high school years. I’m assuming it’s Bryant and the FFRF that pushed him to “see the light,” and not just Hines figuring it out on his own, but it’s good to see him finally doing the right thing. He’s taking nothing away from Christian families but making the ceremony more inclusive for everybody, just as he should.

(Thanks to Jim for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • WallofSleep

    “The graduation ceremony isn’t about God or Jesus.”

    I agree, but every goddamned thing is about God or Jesus with some christians. Some are so obsessive/addicted that even other christians can’t take it.

    • grindstone

      Christianist Fatigue was certainly a factor for me.

  • Richard Wade

    Hines is saying the right things, But I’ll believe it when I see it at the end of the month. I hope we have a followup report about what exactly takes place at the graduation ceremony.

    • Artor

      What? Are you implying that an Xian might LIE to promote his faith? But- but- that’s unpossible!!!

      • Valancy Jane

        For folks that say they have *THE* capital-T Truth, they are notoriously lax about actual truth.

    • SecularPatriot

      Trust but verify.

  • JET

    Yup… threaten to hit ‘em in the pocketbook and suddenly their beliefs aren’t quite as important as their paycheck.

  • jdm8

    It’s not as if there isn’t at least one church every square mile, if not a dozen in some places. If people want their religion given special honor, go to one of those places. Anything else is pushing religion onto people that didn’t ask for it.

  • JKPS

    Cool, I hope he sticks to his word in this.

  • Lefty

    consider sending him a short message of support for this. don’t go into detail about WHY the previous behavior was wrong, just a quick approving nod and “nice, dude. nice.”

  • m6wg4bxw

    If I had it to do again, I would skip high school graduation ceremony. What a bore.

  • Emily Kausch

    We all have to do our part to make sure everyone knows Gods influence.

    • Charles Honeycutt

      Using other peoples’ blogs to promote oneself without permission is rude.

      God hasn’t influenced anything, thanks. Especially not the U.S., which was founded on pagan philosophy and secular law derived from pagan peoples.

      • Rich Wilson

        LOL, I’m getting lazy- I missed the name and thought that was sarcasm!

        Recently in American you could not even say the word ‘Easter’!

        Oh, the irony is killing me!

        And of course we have that lie about the kid being forced to stomp on a piece of paper with “Jesus” on it. Sigh. False witness anyone?

        • Charles Honeycutt

          Heh, so did I at first. Truth be told, I was expecting a sort of SNL Church Lady homage video there.

      • NewDawn2006

        Well, apparently the Christians are a persecuted minority. At least according to this on CNN:

        Such a hated minority that they proselytize at every turn, and try to turn our government into the christian moral police

    • Rich Wilson

      If you have to work to make everyone know God’s influence…

      then he’s not very influential, is he?

      (oh, but you’re comedy gold)

  • Alice

    Glad we got that straight. Only the religion, Faith, of the atheists, is allowed in public schools.

    • meekinheritance

      Obvious troll is obvious?

    • Rich Wilson

      You perhaps would prefer to include Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Baha’i, Shinto, Buddhist, Pagan, Voodoo, Jedi and FSM prayers? Or only Christian? What about Catholics?

      Is having NO prayer really that offensive to Christians? Like God will smite you if you don’t make everyone else listen to your prayer?