After Being Asked to Remove Prayer from Graduation, Riverside School District Cancels Ceremony Altogether

The Riverside School District in Arkansas has held Christian prayers at its elementary school graduation ceremonies for years and no one ever complained about it… until now.

First, let me give you a summary of every conversation that takes place when we revisit this issue:

Christians: But… Tradition!

Everyone else: It doesn’t matter. That still doesn’t make it right.

Christians: But… we’re in the majority!

Everyone else: A graduation is supposed to be for all students, not just Christian students.

Christians: But… we have rights, too!

Everyone else: No one’s taking your rights aw–oh, forget it. You’re hopeless.

Now, back to Riverside. Instead of simply removing the prayer from the ceremony and getting on with it, district officials decided to cancel the entire event altogether. Because we all know you can’t graduate from sixth grade without Jesus handing you a diploma:

Sixth grade parent Kelly Adams said saying a prayer at graduation has never been an issue before which is why a lot of parents are very upset.

“As Christians and a mainly Christian town I think, there were a lot of people hurt that our rights were taken away,” Adams said.

No one cares that you’re in the majority. And your rights weren’t taken away.

Adams continued:

“We just went to take a stand for God because we felt like out rights were taken away.”

They weren’t taken away.

Adams said the school received a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union regarding the graduation ceremony.

“I realize they have rights too but you can’t take rights away from one group and give it to another,” she said.

Removing a prayer from a public school graduation is neither a violation of Christians’ rights nor an observation of others’ rights. Not saying prayers is neutral. Saying that God doesn’t exist? That’s pro-atheist but no one’s asking for that.

Adams said she believes the school district made the best decision they could at the time so the parents decided to take action.

“A lot of the parents, the Christian parents decided to get together and do it at the church,” she said.

Adams said some of the parents are meeting Thursday to discuss which church will host the ceremony and to re-plan graduation.

“We are including everyone, everyone is invited, we want everyone to come and be a part of it,” she said.

Great, fine, no one’s going to stop you. In fact, you should do that every year. But the school district shouldn’t avoid the event just because they have to follow the law.

“We’re not trying to be pushy or ugly to anybody, we just want them to know there is a God who loves them,” [Adams] said.

She’s not trying to be pushy… except she just wants her religious myths shoved down everyone else’s throats. At a time we’re supposed to be celebrating the students’ achievements, she wants to make it all about her and her beliefs. How despicable can you get?

JT Eberhard wrote a letter to Superintendent Tommy Knight (you can, too!):

… you decided to nix the entire graduation – as if the graduation ceremony and recognizing the accomplishments of the Riverside students is an empty enterprise if those students are not made to hear a Christian prayer. You seem to have totally missed the point of a graduation, which is pretty damning since you are the superintendent of the school district.

So far, no comment from Knight.

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.

  • JWH

    Since when do SIXTH GRADERS get a bloody graduation ceremony?!

    • Baby_Raptor

      I “graduated” every time I changed school buildings (kindergarten, 4th, 8th and 12th) and my Senior graduation was in 04.

      • JWH

        When I was your age, we only got graduations after we FINISHED high school and FINISHED college. And we didn’t have these Internet things. We had to log into BBSes and download our files at 2400 baud! And we liked it!

        Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go chase the neighbor’s kids off my lawn.

        • tinker

          You kids and your computers! we had to use paper and pencil and this weird thing called an encyclopedia. If we needed more we had to walk to the library uphill in the snow, both ways! Oh, and back then the library had only books.

          Now you need to get off MY lawn.

          • Dave Empey

            Pencil and paper? Luxury! When I was a boy we had to carve our homework into our own flesh with a rusty knife!

            • JWH

              A knife?! You had a KNIFE?!!

              • Charles Honeycutt

                This is sure to escalate quickly…

                http://oglaf.com/beot/

              • McAtheist

                On my first day of school in rural Scotland in 1957 I was given a tablet and stylus to do my school work on. Many of the students had never actually seen or used this new technology. The ‘tablet’ was made of slate with a wooden frame, the ‘stylus’ was made of chalk.

                True story.

                • Tom

                  Well, unlike paper, at least the tablet’s endlessly reusable. And you can’t make spitballs or darts out of it.

                • Tom

                  Kind of puts it in perspective that that’s the year the space race started, however!

            • Jeff

              You had a rusty knife? Like, made of metal? You young whippersnappers and your fancy technology! In my day, we used sharpened rocks and didn’t complain because we hadn’t yet developed any language through which to do so!

              • JWH

                Sharpened rocks??? Aren’t we all fancy-schmancy! In my day, we weren’t even bipedal! So we had to grub around on all fours and rut around for tubers! And them tubers were tough!!

                • Mark W.

                  Multicellular life!!! Why you arrogant little twerp. I my day we were mono cellular…and we liked it! Why my buddy Larry ‘evolved’ a flagella and was racing around the tidal pool, we all said, “Larry, you should be down on your membrane thanking God for designing that thing for you.” But Larry was always a heretic and insisted he evolved it all by himself, so were ate him, we didn’t want to, it was all Larry’s fault.

                • Mairianna

                  Rut around for tubers? Well, isn’t that a luxury! As hydrogen atoms, we had to conceive of you all by gathering together and starting the big bang. Who had time to study and graduate? (Love this string!)

              • Duke OfOmnium

                Sharpened rocks? We had to hold our arms out and let the saber tooth tigers bite the homework answers into our arms.

          • http://twitter.com/tardis_blue Tardis_blue

            I call bs! Even in my backwater, very rural little town, it had microfilms, records and tapes. They may have even had video tapes!

        • Charles Honeycutt

          Off your Sims lawn, no doubt. Durn newfangled grass!

        • Mario Strada

          In my days we were monocellular. The graduation class after ours developed photosynthesis.

          • kagekiri

            Psh, in MY day, we were self-replicating organic fragments of pre-RNA, not even encased in a membrane.

            • ShoeUnited

              You had chemical interactions? In my day we had barely got the electroweak to separate from the strong nuclear force and gravity! We wrote our answers on the expanding disk before and after we were asked a question because time hadn’t become untangled yet. Those tests were hard.

        • http://twitter.com/Rickstersays Rickster Rickster

          good grief! when i was in school they just invented calculators and only the rich kids had them. but we only had graduation at high school an college too.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            you pikers. in my day we had the teenage lover of a sumerian god, who had just invented swamp grass; mine invented wine, so guess who won that battle?

            the rest of the universe was mostly unformed, but that was boring to my sister goddess so she fucked one of my dads to make something to watch on earth-TV. we also created cows and sheep, to watch them bleed when those noisy humans got too loud and killed them to feed us. then, we drowned them with a flood all except for this guy with a funny Z name. and his wife, and sheep. or both.

            later, a bunch of homeless religious zealots stole from our tablets (you call them ‘holy books’) and made a whole set of religions out of them. and we got ignored as a result.

            i would wish cursing worked, but that would make me look bad as a goddess, if the thousands written in My Name hadn’t actually killed you off with a lice ridden plague. oh, wait… you’re still here.

    • JKPS

      I know, I had the same thought. But I’m still writing to the superintendent because it’s an appalling situation.

    • ortcutt

      It’s considered an advanced degree in Arkansas.

    • KeithCollyer

      can’t help but agree, graduating should be about something you personally achieve, not just because you live long enough

    • Eli

      Uh, I graduated 6th grade in the mid 90s (from public school)… End of elementary school. I didn’t realize that was considered unusual.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      In Japan, graduation from each level (pre-K, 6th, 9th, and 12th) is a big deal. There’s a big ceremony, the kids get big fancy certificates, the parents all dress up very nicely and watch.

      I don’t see anything wrong with celebrating a milestone in a kid’s life. Going from elementary to middle school is a big deal, so there’s no reason not to make it a ceremonial one as well to acknowledge that.

  • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

    Spoilsports.

  • guest

    Because “graduating” to the 7th grade is so very special and deserving of an award. And all children shall receive a trophy for participating in a sport, regardless of how crappy their team was or if it even won a game. Now the Broward County(FL) school district is considering doing away with F’s or anything under 50%. The lowest grade a child will get is 50%. Because that makes any sense at all on any level. Everyone is special. Blah, blah, blah! The dumbing down of America continues. Makes me want to gag.

    • JKPS

      Wow, you’ve completely missed the point. Should I get you a trophy for that?

    • Gus Snarp

      Yes, it’s terrible that we recognize little kids’ participation in sports (as we’ve been doing for at least 30 years now), or their accomplishment of successfully completing seven years of school and moving on to the next phase of their lives. Clearly they’ll be ruined by having the occasional celebration. While we’re at it, why does every kid get their own party every year with cake and presents just because they managed to keep breathing for another year?

      Maybe you should ride your hobby horse over to some Fox News blog where you can commiserate with all the other retirees about how Fred Rogers destroyed America.

      • Spuddie

        Fred Rogers, that bane to humanity!

        His lessons about sanely dealing with the anxieties of childhood and looking for the best qualities in people was so damaging to our plans. His genuine humanity and damn earnestness was just too much for this world.

        We, of the Legion of Evil, had to take him out.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

          dammitol! you’ve forced me to introduce my fav youtube channel of all time, on yet another blog. like a slave. fine. try not to laugh at this, you heathen:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxdyQnLOhKI

          • Spuddie

            I tried not to laugh, but I failed. ROTFLMAO

  • Loni Gaudet

    JWH – my thoughts exactly. When you have to have a ceremony for every minor transition of your life, and a ribbon for every event, no matter how trivial, how are the big moments supposed to be differentiated? No wonder weddings have to be so over the top – otherwise it would just be another ribbon given for an also-ran.

    • JWH

      Actually, I am of the opinion that we should do away with all publicly funded graduation ceremonies. If students and/or their parents want a graduation ceremony, let them front the money for it, including usage fees for the venue, guards to direct the traffic, and all that junk.

      And if it’s privately funded, they can even have a prayer.

  • Gus Snarp

    I think the whole idea of “graduating” from elementary school is stupid. I don’t think you should get a graduation until you actually graduate from high school. But I also realize that many schools do this, and this one has been, so to cancel it just because you can’t say a prayer is terribly unfair to the kids. It is also tantamount to an endorsement of the new unofficial graduation. These people are just terrible.

  • FBG

    Christians need to vacate the public schools. The resounding POP! that their money vacuum would create would be heard all over the nation. Then they could use that tax savings to fund their own schools in which they could fully celebrate their own culture without interference.

    • RedGreenInBlue

      As I understand it, Christians are free to celebrate their own culture in many places, including a vast number of churches, without interference (or taxes, or much of the regulatory oversight to which equivalent secular organisations have to submit). And non-Christians haven’t pulled their children out of public education en masse despite the favourable treatment given to Christianity in so many schools, so Christians (well, even more Christians) withdrawing their own children in protest at a religiously neutral school ethos would look rather petty.

      On the internet, I believe this stunt is called a “flounce”, and in most cases, the flouncer eventually returns. Sadly, if your wish comes true, the return might not occur until the distortion of education to fit the Religious Right’s agenda has affected the next generation’s scientific and cultural literacy, and thereby the US’s economy and international relations – but no-one’s stopping them!

    • RobMcCune

      Yes because their church, their home, the school’s bible club, their lunch, their recess, their clothing or other apparel, and literally anything other than position that communicates to a gathering of the student body is clearly not enough for them.

      Humble christians must dominate ALL!

    • Spuddie

      We are really only talking about the Christians who are too obnoxious, selfish and insecure enough not to show the slightest bit of respect to anyone else. The door has always been open. Don’t let it hit you on the way out.

      You have churches that you support with your charity. You have private schools which you pay tuition for and various recreational activities you can pay for out of your pocket.

      You don’t need my tax dollars to support your religion, you greedy leech!

      • FBG

        You don’t support me or mine with your tax dollars. I pay quite a lot of my own money to avoid my child being indoctrinated by Marxists in the public schools.

        Why does it bother you, the idea of Christians leaving the public schools? You don’t like them, their beliefs, their culture, or their ideas? Aren’t you better off without them?

        • Spuddie

          When you your religion is being officially supported by public employees and agencies, I do.

          Why does it bother me? Because trying to hijack our government and its services to serve your faith is disrespectful to everyone. Your religion doesn’t need my money. Because it is illegal and coercive.

          Lets make something clear. Your definition of “Christian” is really just those Christians who are too obnoxious to acknowledge or respect anyone but themselves. Like every fundie with delusions of grandeur, you like to conflate your beliefs with the entirety of Christendom.

          The reality is your group are just a loud, overly vocal minority who likes to pretend their ideas are more widely accepted than reality suggests. The overwhelming majority of people who identify as Christian find it offensive to use government coercion to support the faith.

          Its not like your group particularly cares for public education anyway. Too much having to show respect for other beliefs and people. Difficult to indoctrinate.

        • Spuddie

          I pay for your church every time public officials act as functionaries of it. When you use teachers to reinforce your faith. If you want to indoctrinate them in a “proper Christian context” don’t be such a cheapskate. Pay for it yourself. I don’t have to.

          What bothers me is how selfishly obnoxious people like yourself are. How little respect you would show anyone who shares different beliefs than your own.

          Christians like yourself are more than welcomed to leave public schools. You have no respect for it anyway. Too much of having to acknowledge the existence of people who may believe differently than yourself. Not enough deference to Christian privilege for your sake.

          What really annoys me is how you dishonestly conflate your ideas with all people who identify as Christians. The truth of the matter is your beliefs represent only a small annoying minority of that crowd. You call yourself Christian but really you mean Fundamentalist Christian. Mainstream beliefs need not apply.

  • anony345

    A great many Christians thinking that a ceremony, or a meal, or a passed test, or even a bowel movement, is an “empty enterprise” if they can’t loudly and conspicuously thank and/or praise their imaginary deity for it is a LOT closer to the truth than you realize. Many of them have had drilled into their heads, from a very young age that EVERYTHING is “because Jesus”. They see not praying to “God” before, during, and after every event in their lives as offensive, while being ENTIRELY unable to see how being required to participate in such activity is offensive to everyone else that doesn’t believe in their myth. They accept no middle ground or neutrality. Their feeling is “If you aren’t with us you are against us”. They are unable to communicate or relate in any manner which doesn’t assume that their myth is 100% accepted fact.

  • Carpinions

    Pathetic. Beyond pathetic. And typical.

    Someone dares to uphold the law, so the people in control of the ceremony cause the problem themselves so they can rile up the town and completely flip the situation on its head in their favor. Then they take *the* – not *their*, *the* – ball home with them and make their discrimination explicit.

    My guess is you could explain to these people how they’re 139% wrong, and they’d understand. But they wouldn’t care because…what was that line? Oh, right: “I could care less about the minority…”

  • JET

    Wait a second… So if a high school wants to get around the ‘no praying’ rule, they can just move the ceremony to a church and make attendance voluntary? Let me think about this…

  • JKPS

    I wrote an email to Knight – thanks for posting his email – and I hope a bunch of other readers do, too.

  • http://twitter.com/FilthyPazuzu Ƒɩƪţħƴ Ƿɑɀųɀų

    I’m surprised by the animosity here toward the graduation ceremony itself. Isn’t graduating from high school to go to college just another building transfer?

    Grade school to middle school is a big transition, as is middle school to high school, as is high school to college.

    I agree that graduations for every grade are silly, and that giving everyone an award after every event makes all awards meaningless. But going from one school to another is a big step that should be acknowledged and celebrated.

    As for these selfish bastards who canceled ceremony because they couldn’t impose their beliefs on it, they should be ashamed. They’re setting the worst example – as well as making the ceremony about themselves instead of the kids, the ones who are really losing out because of all this.

    • JWH

      As I said above, I go a little further. I think that in general, graduation ceremonies are meaningless. You go to a big room in funny clothes, sit for a little while as people give speeches, get a piece of paper, and leave. The real meaning is not in the ceremony, but in the work the person put in before the ceremony to achieve his milestone.

      The graduation ceremony is frippery, and the diploma is pretty much just a piece of paper.

    • rhodent

      Even today, high school is the end of formal education for many people. That’s not true for elementary school.

  • Mick

    Have I got this right? They’re having the graduation ceremony in the (Christian) church and everybody (Muslims, Hindus, atheists, etc) are all welcome?

    • allein

      But the town is “mainly Christian” so it’s ok….
      /sarcasm

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Just in general 6th grade and 8th grade graduations bug me out. They are not a big deal. You are moving from elementary to middle or middle to high school. Why is it a big deal to from kindergarten to 1st grade?

    • Bdole

      Yeah, I got ONE graduation – from high school. I’d never even heard of “graduating” from lower grades until much later. It’s all a gift-mongering scam I tell you!

      • JWH

        See “Back in my day,” above.

    • allein

      I had 8th grade, high school, and college (and preschool but they just do that cuz it’s cute). No 6th grade though that was a transition point (now my old elementary school is K-5 and middle school is 6-8).
      8th grade graduation practice is when I began to hate the song Pomp and Circumstance because we heard it so many times. I always wondered why we had to run through it so many times just to file in in a line, sit down, file up to the stage, and sit down again. By age 13-14 it shouldn’t be that hard. Cue the first kid and the rest should be able to follow. Also my 8th grade graduation gown was gold…yellow is not my color.

    • Anna

      I think it’s a big deal because the graduating class is leaving the school and the students may be dispersing to other schools and thus may not see each other again. So graduation ceremonies are really a way for parents, teachers and students to all gather together, celebrate the accomplisments of the graduates, and say goodbye.

      My old nursery school actually held two graduations, one for pre-K (because many of the students were leaving to attend kindergarten elsewhere) and one for kindergarten (because all the remaining students were leaving). Later on we had ceremonies for 5th grade (leaving for middle school), 8th grade (leaving for high school), and, naturally, 12th grade.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    I have no real opinion on whether a “graduation” from elementary school is superfluous or not, but my observation has been that to the kids, it’s a big deal. So refusing to hold an expected graduation just because you can’t say a prayer is basically a metaphorical kick in the teeth for the kids. Not nice. Have the ceremony, let the kids get their moment, and families who want to can say a nice prayer together later. There, was that so hard?

    • Spuddie

      Its a lesson to the kids. Showing them what small minded, selfish people, who like to call themselves Christians, will do when they don’t get their way.

  • Duke OfOmnium

    Just another reminder that christianity is like syphilis: it only feels good when it’s being spread.

    • islandbrewer

      I’m SOOOO stealing that!

  • Bdole

    I have a story that I’ll probably tell again come Xmas.

    An atheist in the large apartment building complained last Xmas about a nativity scene in the common lobby under the tree. She did NOT complain about the tree, just the religious iconography. The hyperchristian, ersatz manager of the building got all bent out of shape and instead of simply removing the nativity scene (or even leaving it), decided that there’s no point in having a tree if there’s no Jesus. She single-handedly made the decision for the whole building that the building’s tree wouldn’t go up in the building’s lobby becuase she couldn’t have more of her religion pushed on everyone else.

    Now, I couldn’t care less about a nativity scene one way or the other, but I was flabbergasted by the level of entitlement a person must have to deny everyone a Xmas tree – a germanic symbol of yuletide having nothing to do with Christianity except through the usual coopting – motivated by nothing but personal religious grievance. She also said that she expected that that atheist will get hers: “She probably won’t be around next year.” Implying that her god will see to that.

  • busterggi

    The traditional response of the bully with a ball – if you won’t play my way you won’t play at all.

    • Mark W.

      Spot on!

  • timberwraith

    This, unfortunately, is a common response of the oppressive majority. When successful legal challenges prevent the oppression of a less powerful minority, the majority sometimes leaves that institution (or event, in this case) and invests its resources in a private institution whose purpose is to continue that oppression.

    Southern whites shut down many public schools after Brown vs. The Board of Education, rather than desegregate them. Instead, they put their financial resources into white private schools which were created to reproduce educational segregation.

    I recall a prom that was cancelled a few years ago when some LGBT people wanted to attend with their partners, dressed in a way that reflected their individual gender expressions. The school cancelled the prom and the parents then organized a secret prom in which everyone was invited except the LGBT people in question and a few learning disabled kids. Read about it here. These people behaved like the spiteful assholes they truly are—not terribly surprising. People can be really terrible when you challenge their pet forms of hatred. Prejudice, regardless of whether it’s religious or secular in origin, leads people to behave in absolutely horrid, vicious ways.

    I just watched the movie Bully last night. All of this stuff is still fresh in my mind. The movie portrayed communities in which not only children bullied others but the school administrators, parents, and communities were complicit in supporting that abuse. Some of the bullying came from religious sources and much of it simply came from children ostracizing those who are different.

    I went through this kind of shit as a child and it really pisses me off.

  • WallofSleep

    Great. You don’t get your way, so you take your ball and go home.

    ““We’re not trying to be pushy or ugly to anybody…”

    Fuck you. These kids don’t get a graduation ceremony because you folks had to act like a bunch of spoiled brats. Way to lead by example, losers.

  • Anna

    This is just so insane. How is it possible that these people never seem to be able to follow the law? I went to public schools and not once was I ever exposed to any kind of church-state violation. Not even once. Yet in so many parts of the country, not only do they break the laws secretly, they do it openly and proudly.

    I’ve got to assume that the blame lies with evangelicals. It seems like highly evangelical areas have the most egregious church-state violations. As long as they’re the majority, they run roughshod over everyone else. And I suppose it doesn’t help that these places are so homogeneous. I don’t think they could get away with such things if they had large, vocal, active Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu populations.

  • Guest

    I don’t attend Riverside, but I do live in Arkansas. At my sixth grade graduation, we had prayer. At just about every school in Arkansas, there is prayer sometimes. It’s not something that we have to, it’s just something that we WANT to do. It’s our right as Americans to do and say as we please. It’s never been something discussed, it’s just always been that way. I don’t understand why they canceled the graduation, but I also don’t think that they should have cancelled the graduation due to one person’s opinion. And by the way, the reason why we have sixth grade graduation in Arkansas is because our elementary schools end in sixth grade. We usually don’t have middle school. We have high school as seventh-twelfth. Honestly, this isn’t an issue that we should be worried about.

    • phantomreader42

      You do not have the right to hijack the government and steal tax money to force a captive audience to praise your imaginary friend on public property. You never had any such right, whoever told you that you did is a liar and a traitor, and anyone who believed them is an idiot.
      You can pray on your own damn time. You do not get to use school functions as church services. And if you’re really too stupid and lazy to figure out how to pray on your own without being ordered to by an agent of the government, why should your pitifully weak faith be worth the trouble of propping up at taxpayer expense?

    • RobertoTheChi

      Opinion? No, it’s called the Separation of Church and State.

    • DavidMHart

      Of course they shouldn’t have cancelled the graduation due to one person’s correct opinion that it would have been illegal for the school to include Christian prayers in it. What they should have done is taken the illegal part out of it, and then run the graduation as a religiously neutral thing. The fact that they were so unwilling to play fair by all students, both religious and non-religious, speak volumes for their sense of majoritarian entitlement.

      Of course you as American citizens have the right to say as you please. But the American government (including governement-funded schools) does not have the right to violate the 1st amendment by including sectarian prayers in functions that it runs. And you as citizens do not have the right to force the government to break the law just because a majority of you want it to.

  • dwight

    congress shall make NO LAW regarding the establshment of religion or the free exercise thereof. taken literally, as it was written, means that our government cannot write a law establishing a (state) religion nor can it restrict the exercise of religion. one does not have to read very far into the thoughts of the writers of our Constitution to realize that what they were referring to was NOT intended to be restrictions on religion in public life, else, they would not have held church services IN THE CAPITOL building.

    • DavidMHart

      Sorry for being late to the party, but ‘Preventing the government, and those employed by the government while on duty, from endorsing one religion over another, or over non-religion’ is not remotely the same thing as ‘restricting religion in public life’. Any citizen in their capacity as a citizen is still entitled to be as publically, vocally religious as they please. All that is asked for is that the government not try to insert more religion into public life than there would otherwise be (and, conversely, not try to reduce the amount of religion in public life either).

      The fact that some of the founders did not fully realise the implications of the first amendment as regards the having church services in the Capitol building is no more to the point than the fact that some of them did not realise the implications of saying ‘all men are created equal’ in a document expressing their intention to set up a country that would be practicing slavery.

  • Marc Remillard

    Uh, their rights WERE taken away. What part of “free exercise thereof” do you not understand? It is only be giving the establishment clause a meaning neither the specific text nor the expressed intent of the Founders support do you get to the completely unsupporable notion that you have a right not to hear a prayer at a public event. There can be ZERO argument that the “free exercise thereof” was abridged. If you tell them they can’t pray at a commencement ceremony how, with any degree of intellectual honesty, can you claim that isn’t a denial of free exercise?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Nero8289 James Pickett

    Is their anyone stopping individuals from praying quietly by them self’s? If so then that is a violation of your rights,but not allowing mandatory prayer,or not allowing prayer to be part of the ceremony is not.