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 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.