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.


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