After This Christian Valedictorian Began to Talk About Jesus, the School Correctly Shut Off His Microphone

A few days ago, I posted about Roy Costner, a Christian valedictorian who used his time addressing the audience at his graduation to say the Lord’s Prayer:

As far as the law goes, Costner’s actions were probably legal. He turned in a copy of his speech to the administrators. The administrators approved it. And when Costner went up on stage, he ripped up the prepared speech and did his own thing. You can’t blame the school for that.

My concern was that Christians may have found a loophole allowing them to pray at graduation. Sure, it would require them to lie to administrators first, but Christians have never really had a problem with lying for the Lord.

It’s not surprising that another student would take a similar approach and use the time onstage to talk about God, but one school district in Texas has found a brilliant way to respond.

Remington Reimer was the valedictorian at Joshua High School and, just like Roy Costner, he strayed from his prepared, submitted remarks to talk about Jesus.

So the administrators, knowing he was veering from the approved script, turned off his microphone:

Joshua school district administrators say they censored Reimer because he began to stray from his prepared remarks.

“At the time that the speech was deviated from, the microphone was turned off — and they were told that, prior to the graduation ceremony, regardless of content,” Superintendent Fran Marek said.

“The valedictorian, salutatorian and historian speeches were all reviewed prior to the graduation and had prior approval,” Marek said. “The students were told that if they deviated from their speeches, the microphone would be turned off, regardless of content.”

This is precisely how the administrators needed to react. They didn’t “censor” Reimer. He was breaking the rules the school had set so they took action.

Just to be clear: The school didn’t cut off his microphone because he was talking about God. They cut off his microphone because he was talking about something different than what he promised to say. They would have done the same thing to any student who went off-script to talk about atheism, abortion, President Obama, or Game of Thrones, too.

So don’t let anyone tell you the district did this because they were “anti-Christian.” They did it because their valedictorian wrongly thought his Christian privilege would allow him to break the district’s policy.

There’s no reason Costner’s district couldn’t have done the same thing.

Good for the district for not letting Reimer finish. They made sure that the graduation ceremony honored all the students for their hard work, not just the Christian ones.

The loophole has been plugged.

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.

  • jdm8

    Lying for Jesus, apparently the path to a more perfect theocracy.

  • trj

    Cue indignant cries about persecution and suppression of freedom of speech.

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor
      • allein

        Oh god why did I click that?

        • Kevin_Of_Bangor

          Bunch of old white ladies spewing non-sense and you will notice none of them respond when they are questioned or called out.

          • allein

            Well of course not!
            (Also I hate Facebook commenting where you have to click to see 4 more comments, 2 more, 27 more….. Just show all the comments; why do I have to click so much?)

            • Space Cadet

              Back in my day* we were allowed to print bible verses on apple pies lovingly held by the American flag and just last week somebody told me they read about someone else who heard that another person got locked up in Gitmo for just that thing!

              *Apologies to older free thinkers here.

              • Kevin_Of_Bangor

                Neato it posted the picture twice. Double fuck yeah!

        • Space Cadet

          God decided you’d click that link before you were even born. Or you’re a masochist.

          • allein

            Most likely B.

          • Miss_Beara

            It is A. He has a plan for you.

            • allein

              Could he maybe tell me what it is?

  • GreenEyedLilo

    In the Bible, Jesus himself was purported to caution against being an annoyance for him and public displays of holiness. (Call it a myth or not; it’s the one they claim to promote, believe, and live by.) I still remember the Pharisees from sword-sharpening drills as a kid. So it’s irritating that Christians are seizing their “right” to act like Pharisees, and to turn their religion’s message into “You got a problem with that, you atheists and Muslims and Pagans?” If you can’t live by your stated beliefs, how dare you force them onto others?

    They don’t understand that they’re turning people off, and that they’re aggrandizing themselves, not any god. They think that if they’ve marred some non-Christian classmate’s graduation, they’ve accomplished something. They’re so eager to put on the persecution mantle, when Christians and others are truly persecuted elsewhere. Chinese or Middle Eastern Christians would love to be “limited” to a brief “thank you, Jesus” in a speech intended for a general group. And the people who need to understand that, refuse to.

    • 3lemenope

      I find that calling them Pharisees when they act like pious jerks works better than almost any other term of criticism or abuse. They are already primed by the myth to take the accusation both personally and seriously. If it’s one thing that’s clear from the text, it’s that Jesus is no fan of the Pharisees!

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        This I like quite a bit, and I will make sure to abuse this stratagem at once.

    • PsiCop

      Re: “They don’t understand that they’re turning people off, and that they’re aggrandizing themselves, not any god.”

      Actually I’d argue they’re fully aware they’re “turning people off.” Absolutely they do! That, you see, is the whole point of exercises like this one. They use them to perpetuate the irrational feelings they have that they’re being persecuted for Jesus. They purposely go out and do things like break agreements as to what their remarks will be, or just flat-out be offensive about their fierce religionism; then when they’re criticized for breaking agreements or being offensive, they screech and caterwaul about “persecution.”

      As for Bible verses like Matthew 6:1-6 and other related teachings Jesus reportedly delivered, Christians have rationalized those away and rely on some truly twisted justifications for not obeying them. See my comment exchange with one militant Christian, on a different blog. Her rationale for not obeying Jesus is, basically, incoherent … but she (and many others of her ilk) are firmly committed to it.

      • wombat

        But don’t you see? Jesus actually means whatever I say he does, not what he actually said! I know this because I’m a Good Christian and you’re an Angry God Hater. But it’s ok, Jesus loves you, and he will welcome you as soon as you come to believe in my interpretation of the bible!

        I regret clicking over to that blog. My brain’s still trying to crawl out my ears.

        • PsiCop

          Sorry about the brain leak you’re suffering from … ! :)

      • Captain Cassidy

        It’s sure important to that Christian that you be “angry” at her god. Why, it’s so important she’s using your “anger” as a silencing tactic to make you shut up so she doesn’t have to engage with your actual argument.

        • PsiCop

          Note, these same outraged Christians love to claim they’re being “silenced” by those vile, profane, god-hating atheists. Yes, they’re hypocrites … happily using against others a tactic they condemn when they (think) others are using it against them.

  • Regina Carol Moore

    I did not hear one word about Jesus before his mic got turned off. There is no religious conflict here. There is a freedom of speech issue here, but that’s a separate issue.

    • Nate Frein

      He wasn’t given free speech in the first place. He was given the ability to speak on behalf of the school on the condition that his speech was approved.

      This is still a school venue.

      • Regina Carol Moore

        Hence why I said it was a separate issue. I am appalled at the number of down arrows I received for stating true facts without voicing a single opinion.

        • Nate Frein

          Are you denying that

          There is a freedom of speech issue here, but that’s a separate issue.

          was somehow not in your post?

          • Regina Carol Moore

            That’s a factual statement, not opinion. If someone wanted to make an argument that the student had the right to say what he wanted, they’d have to try to go with “freedom of speech”, not “freedom of religion”, because his mic was cut off before any mention of religion. That was my entire point. You trying to create a disagreement or an argument doesn’t change what I said or my meaning. Obviously I was not clear enough in my original post about my actual point, because several people replied “arguing” with me when they were actually reiterating my actual point. Again I will say that people who are like-minded need to chill the fuck out and uplift each other instead of trying to tear each other down. Today, I’m embarrassed to be associated with the people who responded negatively to my original point. I’m convinced that some of the people responding to my original post didn’t even read the entire article or watch both videos. We all seem to be in agreement here but people insist on arguing and hating.

            • Nate Frein

              Transmission error is on the sender, not the receiver. That so many people misinterpreted your post means you need to grow up and take responsibility for an unclear post instead of whining about the people who “got it wrong”.

              • Regina Carol Moore

                Thank you so much for correcting me. I’m absolutely convinced that in real life you’re a kind, wise person who deserves respect. You’ve totally convinced me.

                • Regina Carol Moore

                  And that post wasn’t sarcastic at all. Just like this one.

                • Kayleigh Dyess

                  I completely understood everything Regina said. I even agree. I also agree with Nate. I have no idea why she was down voted in the first place. Seriously… if people would just READ someone’s post before freaking out. Regina, I understood exactly what you were typing and trying to convey. Don’t worry. Sometimes us atheists (myself included, admittedly) get all hyped up on the internet about trying to “one up” theists we debate with and our fellows get chewed up in the process as well. Childish… but it happens. Seriously, if someone is willing to give an explanation or further details as to what they earlier typed, they are not in the wrong. I would also have asked why I received down votes because it would be apparent that I have been misunderstood and would like to further offer in depth details to be exceedingly clear… which is exactly what Regina has done. I saw no temper tantrum either. Please remember that other people will stumble across our words one day, perhaps someone who is Christian but struggling with the concepts of “free speech” and seeking to browse the atheist/minority side of the politics. Biting off someone’s head for sincerely offering facts and opinions who AGREES with you is just ridiculous and counter productive. Take time and READ. This is the internet, not NASCAR.

                • Regina Carol Moore

                  Thank you Kayleigh. There is room on the internet for kindness, rationality and understanding, as you’ve just proved.

                • Nate Frein

                  I’m sorry I don’t have patience for temper tantrums.

                • Regina Carol Moore

                  Then you shouldn’t throw them.

                • Nate Frein

                  Thanks for the laugh!

      • Regina Carol Moore

        I cannot believe how many people have misunderstood my post, and become very obnoxious to me when we actually agree. My point was that in the case of Remington Reimer above, the second video, the religious apologists are purposely trying to turn this into a religious issue when it’s not a religious issue. His mic was cut off for veering away from his accepted speech, NOT because he talked about religion. Therefor, not an attack against any kind of religious freedom. (Which I’d probably call bullshit on anyway.) My point was that his religious beliefs had nothing to do with why he was cut off. He was cut off for not following the rules he previously agreed to. I’m not making an excuse for him breaking the previously agreed upon rules. I’m just pointing out that religion wasn’t the reason his mic was cut off. All you haters need to chill out. You are creating a situation where people who agree with each other end up disliking each other, and truthfully, we need to support each other to get things accomplished.

    • Orhan Orgun

      You didn’t hear “kingdom,” “glory,” and “amen”? Are you deaf?

      • Psychotic Atheist

        Not in the speech where the mic was switched off. He went into a speech about freedom of speech and then the mic cut off. No Jesus, no kingdom, no glory and no amen. You seem to have confused this with the earlier instance where the student gave the Lord’s Prayer, which contains all those words.

      • Regina Carol Moore

        No, I’m not deaf. Obviously, I am referring to the second video posted above, not the first one. Are you stupid?

    • Greg G.

      You didn’t hear anything about the new Star Trek movie, either. The mic wasn’t cut for talking about religion, it was cut because he deviated from the approved text. Whether he was pro-Jesus or anti-Jesus or speaking of the designated hitter rule is irrelevant.

      • Regina Carol Moore

        I totally agree with you and that was my entire point.

      • Regina Carol Moore

        Thank you for supporting exactly what I said in my post.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      There is no freedom of speech issue here. He can say almost anything he wants. No one in the world is required to give him a venue and a mic.

      • Regina Carol Moore

        I totally agree with you. And I often say that no one is required to offer a venue for other’s freedom of speech.

    • Baby_Raptor

      He read the rules. He agreed to them. Then he broke them.

      So, the school did what they told him they were going to do if he broke the rules.

      Remind me again how this is a “free speech issue”? Are we just supposed to ignore all rules of any type for speech you happen to support, Mrs. Moore?

      • Regina Carol Moore

        I cannot believe how many people have misunderstood my post, and become very obnoxious to me when we actually agree. My point was that in the case of Remington Reimer above, the second video, the religious apologists are purposely trying to turn this into a religious issue when it’s not a religious issue. His mic was cut off for veering away from his accepted speech, NOT because he talked about religion. Therefor, not an attack against any kind of religious freedom. (Which I’d probably call bullshit on anyway.) My point was that his religious beliefs had nothing to do with why he was cut off. He was cut off for not following the rules he previously agreed to. I’m not making an excuse for him breaking the previously agreed upon rules. I’m just pointing out that religion wasn’t the reason his mic was cut off. All you haters need to chill out. You are creating a situation where people who agree with each other end up disliking each other, and truthfully, we need to support each other to get things accomplished.

        • Space Cadet

          All you haters need to chill out. You are creating a situation where
          people who agree with each other end up disliking each other, and truthfully, we need to support each other to get things accomplished.

          In a forum like this where we’re relying on communicating only with the written word, having no benefit of inflection, we have a responsibility to be as clear as possible, which you weren’t. In your original post you seemed to be saying that because he never got to the religious part of his message that it was wrong to cut off his mic. At least that’s how I read it, initially.

          • Regina Carol Moore

            Now that you understood my point (assuming my previous post explains it thoroughly), what do you think of that? Because that’s really what we are all here to discuss.

            • Space Cadet

              I agree with you. This is not a freedom of religion issue. From what I’ve read in other reports, that the situation isn’t about religion is a demonstrable fact. Not that those who cry persecution care about facts.

              It’s also not a freedom of speech issue, in that his rights to free speech weren’t violated. Getting those who are claiming persecution to realize that is gong to be as difficult as it is to get them to realize this had nothing to do with religion.

  • Anon

    I can’t feel angry at the guy. He has to put up with being called ‘Remington’.

  • GeraardSpergen

    The school presumably wouldn’t have approved a sermon – that’s the free speech discussion… but that wouldn’t make the news like phony persecution.

    • Nate Frein

      Except it wasn’t “Free speech” in the first place. It was conditional speech because it was a microphone and venue provided by the school, for the students.

  • SeekerLancer

    I really hate that Christians have made graduation speeches a battleground. These valedictorians are assaulting the very education they worked hard to achieve. I can only hope their academic track record will lead them to grow older and wiser and they eventually look back at what they did with embarrassment.

    I’m not suggesting they need to lose their faith and become atheists even, just that they recognize how out of place their preaching was and how juvenile they were being.

    • JET

      Which is exactly why the astute high school principal is wise to have his finger hovering very close to the kill switch. The Lord’s Prayer screamers are the ones who make the news, but there are many other ways an 18 year old might make a mockery of his high school graduation. Attention seekers of any ilk should not be allowed to ruin what is considered an important ceremony simply because they feel like showing off.

    • PsiCop

      Note prepended: Please read this whole comment to detect the sarcasm in it. Apparently the last paragraph of this comment, mentioning the Christian Martyr Complex, is being missed. Not to mention the page I linked to which explains this phenomenon in greater depth. I apologize for not having been clearer.

      Re: “I really hate that Christians have made graduation speeches a battleground.”

      They do it because they’re oppressed, you see. Everyone wants to wipe them out … destroy them, or kill them even, solely because they’re good Christians. The only way they have to fight back against this monumental campaign to wipe them off the face of the earth, is to use things like graduations to make a point of how devoutly Christian they are.

      When they do it, they either are allowed to get away with it (as Costner did) and then pronounce themselves victorious in Christ; or they get stopped (as Reimer was) and then pronounce themselves persecuted for Christ. Either way, they win. So, I must ask in all honesty … why would they NOT do such things? They have no incentive not to (in cases like these) break their agreements with their schools as to what their speech will be.

      It’s pretty much the same with all other aspects of the so-called “culture war” that was sparked by the Christian Martyr Complex and which is fuelled by Christians’ ongoing perpetual wish to be persecuted for Jesus.

      • Hoosyurdadi

        Oppressed? To be brutally honest, that is one of the most profoundly stupid things I have seen on the internet this week. They have the right to their religion. Because they can’t pray when representing the school they are oppressed? When another religion is the mainstay in the US populace then you may have the right to utter that statement honestly. Until then you are either deluded or lying.

        Also, muttering some kudos to one’s imaginary friend to a few cheers in a crowd doesn’t make them good christians. Respecting the laws of the land would… so inherently them going against the rules and what they agreed to makes them bad christians.

        • Nate Frein

          I think you need a new sarcasm detector.

        • PsiCop

          Re: “Oppressed? To be brutally honest, that is one of the most profoundly stupid things I have seen on the internet this week.”

          I think you may have missed my sarcasm. It’s not that I think Christians are persecuted. Rather, it’s Christians who think they’re persecuted. They aren’t, of course, but clearly, they do, and they aren’t letting go of that notion.

          The reality of it is, Christians are outraged that there are non-Christians in the world, and that there are limits to their ability to control others and force Christianity on them (e.g. SOCAS). That there are insolent non-Christians who dare defy them, and that they aren’t allowed to use the power of government to go after them, is something they view as “persecution.” As I said, it’s not … but that doesn’t mean they understand that.

          • Hoosyurdadi

            Sorry, Psi. I did.

            Many apologies. =]

            • PsiCop

              No problem, it appears you weren’t the only one, so I went back and fixed it (or I tried to, anyway).

          • Sue Lindgren

            No sarcasm here…
            you are my hero & I’m sportin’ a HUGE lady boner for your mind…. ;)

          • wmdkitty

            Excuse me, this is probably a stupid question, but what does “SOCAS” mean?

            • allein

              Separation of Church and State

              • wmdkitty

                Ah. Thank you.

            • PsiCop

              Separation of church and state.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Ah, if ONLY PsiCop hadn’t neglected to use tags, rather than trusting to the reader to be able to spot sarcasm, or perhaps, to merely read the entire post. If only, if only…

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            *blinks* Huh. I had no idea that tag actually had a function. That made me smile.

      • Hoosyurdadi

        Matthew 6:1

        Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven

      • czilla138

        you are full of shit Psicop. Christians aren’t oppressed. THEY are trying to oppress every other kind of faith, and down anyone who doesn’t believe EXACTLY like you do. There is a seperation of church and state. preaching needs to STAY in your church. you saying that christians are being oppressed just shows how stupid and uninformed you are.

        • PsiCop

          Re: “you are full of shit Psicop. Christians aren’t oppressed.”

          As with Hoosyurdadi who responded to me the same way … my sarcasm seems to have been missed. I don’t think Christians are persecuted. But … they do, and knowing this explains a great deal about their behavior.

          Yes, it’s a delusion, but they’re committed to that delusion and they aren’t about to let go of it.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Oh for Heaven’s fuck’s sake.

        • Xzamilio

          I hope you know the downvotes aren’t because we disagree with you….they’re because you’re an idiot that can’t read or comprehend sarcasm

      • Robert

        Why are you persecuting my right to persecute others!

      • Randay

        PsiCop, I don’t see how one could miss your sarcasm. Where in the OT or the NT does the bible defend free speech? What would Jesus do? I would think that Xians should be happy to just to be personally “saved”. Why should they care if we others are or are not? If they already “know” Jesus, they are home free.

        • PsiCop

          Re: “I would think that Xians should be happy to just to be personally ‘saved’. Why should they care if we others are or are not?”

          That’s easy. It’s in the Great Commission:

          And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20)

          Jesus ordered them to “make disciples of all the nations.” How they go about it, is entirely up to them … but since Jesus didn’t state any limits, Christians will accept none. They’re entitled to do anything and everything they want, in order to make this happen.

          A corollary to this is that they view any attempt to place limits on their ability to force Christianity on others, as a limitation on their “religious freedom.” American Christians view this as an impermissible violation of their religious freedom. Therefore, merely by refusing to convert to their Christianity, non-Christians are robbing them of their religious freedom.

          • Randay

            Maybe Jesus ordered them to do things, but in the end they have to do nothing but accept Jesus as their savior, even if they don’t do other things he said, and they can even do the contrary.

            • Xzamilio

              Umm…I’m not versed on the particular verse where Jesus states so, but that is not true. But I do understand what you are saying, because this particular “uprise” in students using their graduation speeches as the platform to display their religion is actually something that Jesus would have been against (if he ever even existed). Matthew 6:5-6 is a prime example of that. But it doesn’t surprise me because you’ll find that when it all boils down to it, Gandhi’s saying that “Your Christians are so unlike your Christ” rings true…most Christians do not even bother to follow the commands of their Jesus….just the ones that suit them while bending the others or ignoring them completely.

              • The Other Weirdo

                I suppose Gandhi missed Luke 19:27. Then again, what did he base that opinion on?

                • Xzamilio

                  The same thing most non-Christians base that opinion on…watching them in action

                • The Other Weirdo

                  No, I meant, what did he base his opinion that Christians are unlike their Christ?

                • Xzamilio

                  He based it on his time in South Africa during Apartheid and talking to the Christian Missionaries

                • wmdkitty

                  In other words… watching them in action!

                • Xzamilio


    • peaceloveandunity

      Not only it is extremely inappropriate, it is very lazy and unoriginal
      to rip off someone else’s work in a graduation speech. The school must
      have very low standards if these kind of people become valedictorians

    • jondrake

      Yeah, Freedom Of Speech is a messy thing.
      Lets teach them that early by trying to squelch it.

      • Nate Frein

        Who, exactly, stopped this man from speaking?

      • TCC

        On the contrary, this is a good lesson in “Free speech is not absolute and often carries consequences.”

        • blah

          No, its not absolute, but as a student speaking during a school sponsored event the 2 off limit topics are drugs and sex. Unless I’m missing a court ruling somewhere….

          • TCC

            Would you like to provide some evidence for even your claim that drugs and sex are off limits? Morse v. Frederick (the infamous “BONG HITS 4 JESUS” case) says that student speech can be restricted when it promotes something illegal, so that would apply to illegal drugs (assuming that’s what you meant by “drugs”). Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier seems to indicate that the school is perfectly within their rights to censor speech that is “inconsistent with ‘its basic educational mission,’” which I think would absolutely apply here. But IANAL, and I welcome your assuredly informed opinion. </sarcasm>

      • Xzamilio

        It’s called “Freedom of Speech”, not “Freedom of Consequences and Scrutiny Speech”

  • Tel

    Ah, nice biased reporting — The narrator said “The school administrators say they were just following policy because they had not pre-approved what the smartest kid in the class had to say.” The phrase “smartest kid in the class” is designed to get us on his side and see the policy as pointless.

    You know, I also really don’t consider him as the smartest kid in his class if he decided to deviate from his speech whilstknowing the consequences.

    • The Watcher

      And considering he doesn’t know how the First Amendment works.

    • C Peterson

      The valedictorian isn’t the smartest kid at a school. The valedictorian is the student who had the highest grades.

      Very, very different.

      • baal

        My HS graduating class had a minor issue when the valedictorian was going to be the student who avoided AP and other hard classes like the plague. That student was smart but the competition in the classes it took wasn’t nearly the same as the other top students.

    • Amakudari

      You know, I can totally see a smart kid thinking he can get away with anything because he’s smart. People usually get great grades by having a high intelligence and at least a modest work ethic, but that doesn’t mean they have a more acute understanding of societal boundaries or what other people are thinking.

      (Shorter version: I got good grades and did some stupid things, too.)

      • Feminerd

        I find that valedictorians are usually the modestly bright kids with great work ethics. You can’t be stupid and be valedictorian, but you certainly don’t have to be brilliant either. A lot of the “smartest” kids in high school were also quite lazy, so they didn’t get the grades. Or they were like me- doing the minimum necessary to get the low A’s for a 4.0, but not investing the extra time and effort to get the 99s and 100s.

        • JET

          While simultaneously attending classes at the local community college. We had a kid who missed valedictorian by a fraction, but he still graduated with close to a 5.0 (all AP classes) AND was just a few units short of an AA degree.

  • Jon Anderson

    This whole thing sickens me. How dare that little twerp use my sons case as an excuse to prayer rape the audience. And I have heard some news station in New York as paid the little twerp 10k to interview him.. grrrr

  • Miss_Beara

    We shall all just sit here and wait patiently until the Christians who will cry persecution, free speech, silencing Christianity, atheists are getting their way, etc. will delight us with their presence.

    • Asimov

      Actually, I’ve not heard a single thing about this, or the Roy Costner moment, in my local Texas news stations….go fig.

  • Willy Occam

    Wow, this actually happened in TEXAS? For once, I’m not ashamed to read something about my state on this website!

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      North Carolina envies you so much this day. >.<

    • Feminerd

      ^ what Willy said.

  • LeftyLauren

    Was discussing the Lord’s Prayer incident with my dad last night. He was talking about how amazing it was for that kid to stand up and say what he believed in and that it took guts to do something like that and he deserved a standing ovation for being so brave. Of course he should have the right to talk about his religion–he earned it by having the best grades in the school!


    • The Watcher

      Really? Is that how it works? You earn the best grades in school, and that exempts you from having to follow the rules of that school?

    • TheFantasticMrsFarts

      yeah, it’s so amazing to stand up and blather on about what 97% of the audience already believes in and supports. WOW! he’s almost a martyr!

    • Amakudari

      Uh, only downvotes on this?

      People, it has the look of disapproval at the bottom.

      Edit: That’s better.

    • onamission5

      Would your dad hold the same opinion had the valedictorian been an atheist or someone of a less popular religion, I wonder?

      edited because “your” has an r in it

      • Amakudari

        Yes. I am an atheist who gave the valedictory address at my high school graduation. I would absolutely never have brought up religion, because the whole point was to have all the students and their families celebrate their graduation. We’re given the podium as a reward for our grades, but it’s not open mic night; it’s with the understanding that our speech is going to honor everyone present.

        • onamission5

          That’s great! It doesn’t answer my question about LeftyLauren’s dad, though. ;)

          • Amakudari

            Sorry, I guess I saw “would you dad hold” and corrected it in my head as “would you hold.” Apologies.

            • onamission5

              No worries. :D

      • LeftyLauren

        You know, I really am not sure. The discussion devolved into “so you think you and the small percentage of atheists out there are the only people who know the truth? You think the majority of the world is wrong and you got it right? You will never say anything to change my mind.” etc. etc. with my little sister chiming in to support him and how it’s sweet and nice that people believe in a higher power.

        • onamission5

          Hugs. I can imagine that was pretty exasperating.

        • Willy Occam

          Yes, so sweet and nice. I just have that warm fuzzy feeling inside thinking about how my sky daddy looks out for me and loves me so much. No if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to ride my pet unicorn through a field of rainbows.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Did you ask whether it was appropriate for him to ambush his entire class with formal prayer and make them a captive audience at a governmental function that they worked and paid to attend, after lying to his school in order to do so?

      How about the difference between “expressing yourself” and violating the spirit of the U.S. Constitution and making everyone listen to you recite a formal prayer at said event from ambush?

      Or the lack of bravery needed to take an action without repercussions that merits him tremendous approval in his social circles, said circles being the overwhelming majority throughout the country? All you need is a lack of social anxiety issues; one can be an intellectual coward and do the exact same thing he did. It’s NORMAL to lead a prayer before an audience in his circles.

      Edit: You’re very mistaken, but not in the “stupid atheists should move to Iran and [insert gibberish here]” way that is the norm. Believe me, it’s appreciated, despite the pushback you’ll see.

    • Jon Anderson

      well he obviously bombed US Government. He is a self promoting grand stander. But that goes to show the level of education we have here in South Carolina.

      • The Other Weirdo

        Don’t say that. Somewhere those words are filtering through a S.H.I.E.L.D. databank.

    • Baby_Raptor

      It doesn’t take balls to stand up and say something when you know the majority of the people around you, and a good chunk of your fellow countrymen, will support what you’re saying.

  • JudyV

    I want to see an audience react to a Muslim valedictorian who tears up his speech, covers his ears and closes his eyes, and chants a nice long Muslim call to prayer into the mic.

  • MargueriteF

    I’m not surprised other kids are trying it. Roy Costner IV is now nationally known, and has been on talk shows and all over the news. Why wouldn’t a smart, ambitious kid try to use this as a venue in an effort to get equally well known? It all puts Matthew 6:5 in a new light: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.” Costner is living proof of that, though I am fairly certain this isn’t the kind of “reward” Jesus was talking about.

    • PsiCop

      Re: “It all puts Matthew 6:5 in a new light: ‘And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.’”

      You DO know, of course, that Christians have largely rationalized that verse away, don’t you? They view it as their sacred duty to vociferously ignore it, and pray just as publicly … and as often … as they possibly can. Because, after all, what good is it to be a righteous, devout Christian, if you don’t parade your righteousness and devotion before others and get noticed for it?


      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Sure, they essentially claim that it’s a metaphor for “you can pray publicly, just don’t pray for the wrong reasons”. which would be a completely reasonable interpretation if not for Jesus’s habit of going off by himself to pray, and if not for the following line about shutting oneself in one’s closet to pray in secret, which doesn’t resemble any metaphor that could support their argument.

        • PsiCop

          Precisely! Jesus opened that particular teaching (in verse 1) with a general statement: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” He then went on to give examples of it among the “hypocrites”: Being seen giving to the poor (verses 2-4), and standing in the streets to pray (verse 5). In verse 6 he goes back to his followers, and very clearly tells them to “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret,” which contrasts with the behavior of the “hypocrites.”

          The Christian rationale for ignoring this instruction is to treat verse 6 not as the explicit instruction it is, but as a mere example of behavior they might do (as though it were optional). Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold up in the language of those verses … whether in the original Greek or in translation. Verse 6 opens with a clear break, that being the phrase συ δε (su de); it’s usually translated as “But you …” although for me, a closer English equivalent would be, “You, however …” In either case it shows a clear break in Jesus’ address. He’s very clearly going from having given two examples of “the hypocrites’” bad behavior, to telling his audience what they ought to do, by comparison.

          • Captain Cassidy

            You mean that by wild coincidence, Christians have warped yet another completely straightforward Bible verse to mean something totally different that happens to match up with how they want to abuse other people? SAY IT AIN’T SO!

            • PsiCop

              Shocking, I know … ! ;)

  • Houndentenor

    I have the right to free speech. I don’t have the right to use someone else’s podium or microphone for my speech any more than I have a right for the local newspaper to print my op-ed.

    • onamission5

      Indeed, the right to say what you wish without government persecution does not entitle you to a complacent, captive audience, neither does it entitle you to have other people facilitate your speech against their will.

      Nor does it entitle someone to be free from any rebut or criticism, or from any legal or social consequences should harm stem from their words. See: yelling fire in a theater and causing a panic in which people are injuired. See: losing friends when one acts like a gossipy, backstabbing ass. With rights come responsibilities. Is someone legally allowed to be a gossipy, backstabbing ass? Most assuredly. Do I have to stand there and listen, let that person into my home, provide them with a platform, let their words go unchallenged? Absolutely not.

      • Houndentenor

        Absolutely. And what I find is that the religious leaders who spend the most time decrying nonbelievers and those of other religions are the first to scream foul if anyone dares criticize them.

  • The Watcher

    The First Amendment only guarantees you the right to speak. It does not mean that the government or a government entity has to give you a forum. Would the fundies be equally in favor of a person standing up and swearing? How about blaspheming? After all, it’s free speech.

    • Xzamilio

      I remember something like this happening in Texas where a religious group used the First Amendment to disseminate Christian pamphlets at a school. And when a Satanist group heard about it, they decided to do the same and disseminated Satanist pamphlets….well, needless to say, the Christians were livid and the entire thing was scrapped. It goes to show you..that they only want free speech when it pertains to them and their propaganda.


    If this juvenile ass hat really is smart then, the day will come when he looks back at his behavior with deep embarrassment. As it stands, his education seems to have omitted the part about the freedom of religion not being a right to force one’s views on others.

  • Josh De Lon

    Mr. Mehta, I would encourage you to write about this public school social studies teacher and local conservative Christian media personality, Peter Heck. His remarks on the role of women and men in a family during his commencement speech have sparked some national attention. Here’s a link to an excerpt of his speech. He hasn’t published the whole thing yet, but of course he’s spinning it as if he’s being persecuted by the left for standing up for traditional American family values, whatever those are.

    • allein

      I would recommend you go to the “Contact” link at the top of the page and submit this there.

    • wmdkitty

      “your greatest role of your life will be that of wife and mother.”

      Because all we women are good for is fucking and breeding…

      He’s not being persecuted — he’s being shredded to ribbons, and rightly so.

      I am not a walking uterus. I have dreams. I have plans. I have friends, family, a partner. I believe that my impact on them, and my impact on the world, is not dependent upon my having children. My contributions, whatever they are worth, are my own, and I have every right to be proud of that, whether or not I’ve “fulfilled” my “greatest role in life”.

      (Full disclosure: I don’t have — or want — children, thank you.)

      • The Other Weirdo

        Don’t forget the sandwiches; what would we do with those? Also someone has to do the laundry. And sweeping. It’s damn dusty in here. And you’d better be fetching the water from the well at first light, too, and lighting the kitchen fire.

        I’ve often found that people who talk about “…that of wife and mother…” usually don’t stop there. For the love of the Ancient, Evil Ones, why are we still wedded to a Bronze Age philosophy that was largely made up for political purposes anyway?

  • Rich Wilson

    The thing about loopholes, is that they work both ways. I know people who don’t understand the importance of the establishment clause have the numbers in some areas of the country. But you have to know there’s a Valedictorian out there, probably even a religious one, who values religious freedom, and will use that very loophole to make that very point. It’s only a matter of time. Worry about legal, and the rest will work itself out.

  • JasonTorpy

    Important correction: The school shut off the school’s microphone and took him off the school’s stage out from in front of the school crowd. When he gets his own mic and his own stage and his own crowd (say, at his own church), he can preach all he likes.

  • JA

    “”So don’t let anyone tell you the district did this because they were “anti-Christian.”””

    Considering this happened in Texas, I’m betting Christians are hard-pressed to figure out what to say about this.

    Wait, this happened in Texas?? Does not compute.

  • LonesomeDove

    The ground rules were clearly set. That was the absolutely acceptable action to take.

  • Hell’s Devil

    As an atheist – I’m against his mic being cut off. Let him talk about his faith, who cares? Lots of people express opinions at graduations that I don’t agree with – so what, that’s their opinion, it’s just not a big deal. Atheists aren’t helping our cause by cheering this kind of censorship (which IS what it is) on.

    • killer3000ad

      He strayed from his prepared script. The school made it clear, you stray from it, you get the mic shut off.

    • Nate Frein

      He had a conditional agreement for the use of the mic. He broke that agreement. He lost the use of the mic.

    • Derpington_The_Third

      Looks like you have not a clue how speech works.

    • TommyNIK

      I’m an atheist also. You, sir, are a poor one.

      • Hell’s Devil

        lol – the only requirement for being an atheist is to not believe in gods. There is no club, no list of rules, no dogma – I don’t have to hate the religious to be atheist. The only way to be “bad” at being an atheist is to believe in gods, which I personally don’t.
        I think YOU are a good example of why so many atheists reject the label of “atheist” & are disinclined to associate with us – the belief that being atheist means you have to be a jerk to the religious. I do’n’t hold that view, & I’m PROUD that I don’t. I’d rather be a nice atheist, thanks.
        PS: not everyone on the internet is male.

    • dagobarbz

      It’s not an atheist issue, did you even read the article? PEOPLE WERE WARNED IF THEY STRAYED FROM THEIR APPROVED SPEECH THEY WOULD BE CUT OFF.

      Doesn’t matter if they’re talking about their Jebus or a better way to get good gas mileage, if it is off the script, you must pull the plug.

      That’s not so hard to understand, is it?

    • Baby_Raptor

      What part of “he agreed to rules and then broke them” are you missing?

      There was no censorship here.

  • David

    This is just a matter of respect. We have freedom of religion, meaning we have the freedom to not have it preached to us at a public school graduation as well.

  • Corwin1681

    It is funny that they are totally ok with breaking one of 10 commandments..

    • Bonta-kun

      Just the one? Which – lying, graven images, coveting, stealing (from other beliefs), loving thy neighbour, committing adultery (which could be considered the same thing)… killing…?

  • Jim Creston Poet

    They should have sewn his lips.

    • WallofSleep

      Whatever the fuck for? This was a high school graduation, not a Marylin Manson music video. Jeez.

  • lurker

    Matthew 6:5
    “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full”

    Hypocrisy at its finest.

  • Nate Frein

    What I think is funny is that this kid is about to go off and join the military…which is all about restricting how and where you say things.

    • wmdkitty

      Er… the military is cram-packed with Evangelicals. He’ll fit right in.

      • Nate Frein


        Yeah, probably.

  • czilla138

    Just another christian trying to force their beliefs on everyone else.

  • jackassletters

    First, I am an atheist, so take that into consideration when I say cutting his mic is a bunch of crap.

    If you were required to submit this article to the mayor prior to publishing, and was told if you varied from what you agreed to publish it would be taken down, you’d think that was crap and censorship because it would be. It’s called “prior restraint.”

    These kids worked hard to get where they are (If we are to accept that being a valedictorian means anything.) Presumably he’s now a functioning member of society with the best education offered, and either an adult, or close enough that it shouldn’t matter. It’s time to allow him to express himself as an individual, it’s his time to make mistakes, and say stupid stuff if he wants to.

    In my mind the egregious part comes from needing approval. When Bill Gates speaks at one of these events do you think the administration insists on vetting his remarks? So why threat a member of the student body differently?

    • allein

      The school is under no obligation to give them an unlimited platform to say whatever they want.

      • jackassletters

        Of course they aren’t. Who said that? But is three minutes to express one’s hopes and dreams and usual platitudes too much to ask? If the administration puts themselves in the position of needing to approve messages they become and agent of said message and then we get into these fights about who is allowed to say what. He’s earned the time.

        • Feminerd

          He’s earned the time to speak his pre-approved speech. The school gave him a platform to speak from, and probably quite a bit of freedom in what to say. However, because some people are jackasses, they require pre-approval of speeches and warned the students that their time was conditional on sticking to those pre-approved speeches.

          He left his speech, his abrogated the conditions of his oral contract, and the school pulled the mic. That’s what should happen when you fail to uphold your end of a bargain.

          • jackassletters

            I say you are under no obligation to obey undue conditions that violate the principles this country was founded on. Seriously, the first kid that refuses to get his speech pre-authorized will be my hero.

            • Nate Frein

              Grow up.

              He was given a conditional mic and he broke the conditions.

              He can shout his message from the sidewalk corner for all I care, as can you.

              • jackassletters

                I need to grow up? I’m the one with the more advanced arguments in my opinion. You’re resorting to “but he broke the rules!” arguments. Lame. I bet you were once a high school hall monitor and took pride in this.

                • Nate Frein

                  More advanced?

                  Your argument boils down to “BUT FREE SPEECH”.

                  He didn’t have free access to the school’s microphone. Get over it.

                • jackassletters

                  My argument is also predicated on civil disobedience. Following rules for rules sake is as dumb as believing people should be able to say whatever they want because of “BUT FREE SPEECH” arguments.

                  Again, I am on the high ground. Tell me why the school has a right to pre-censor or to cut the speech of the one student who has done the work to make this speech?

                  BUT IT’S THEIR MICROPHONE! isn’t really an argument.

                • Nate Frein

                  Ahahahahaha. Civil disobedience?

                  He stepped up to the microphone and tried to spew christian privilege. That was not civil disobedience. That was a bloody temper tantrum.

                  The school does not have the “right” to censor. It has the responsibility as a government agency to monitor and restrict how it’s fora are used.

                  Seriously. Do you, like, whine to your newspaper if they don’t publish your letters? Grow up.

                  And really? “Following the rules for the rule’s sake”? No. We’re following the rules because they protect everyone’s rights instead of privileging the majority’s rights. Just because we’re following the rules doesn’t mean there isn’t a good fucking reason for doing so.

                • jackassletters

                  What country are you posting from? We may be talking past each other. Because last I checked, in the US, we still believe in individual freedoms more than we gave a shit about majority rights.

                • Nate Frein

                  Okay. What you need is to learn to read for comprehension.

                  Those rules exist because of individual rights. We follow those rules because the protect the rights of individuals, even when they belong to minority worldviews, unlike the kid who had his mic cut.

                • jackassletters

                  i can’t read for comprehension if you are going to use doublespeak to make your argument. So the kid that had his mic cut doesn’t deserve the rights of the minority because he’s part of the majority? You have me confused.

                  When is it right for you for a kid to speak his mind? We may even be on the same side here. The idea that this kid depended on the school to approve his speech was ridiculous. The idea that schools want to take on the responsibility of approving student messages is baffling.

                  I say make criteria for when the kid gets to talk and let him. Top of his class? Give him 3 minutes at graduation. He wants to talk about fishing? Let hi, He’s earned it. Maybe next year you get something better. But to have to approve every speech? How fucking pedantic.

                • allein

                  When is it right for you for a kid to speak his mind?

                  On his own time and his own stage. It is a school function, not the student’s personal soapbox. He doesn’t “depend” on the school to approve his speech (he can post it to youtube, write a blog, hell he can shout it on the street corner after the ceremony to anyone who’ll listen if he wants to); but if he wants to speak at a school function he can follow the school’s rules for speakers at that function.

                • Nate Frein

                  What you need to understand is that kid is about to put on a uniform and start training to be an officer in the United State’s Navy.

                  When he is wearing that uniform, he does not have free speech. In any way. That is the exact same situation he found himself in while speaking from the School’s stage. He’s going to have to grow up and learn the distinction sometime. Now is as good a time as any.

                • jackassletters

                  That’s an idiotic argument. Who cares what he was going to go do? So if he was going to go do gay porn you’d be fine? What if he was going to fix your car? Or be a high school teacher? Who cares what a high school student intends to do once he graduates? Newsflash! Most don’t amount to shit. Hell, this kid may fail out after his first year in the Navy. Also, he’s not in the fucking Navy. Why should he be held to Naval standards? That’s fucking stupid. He’s a high school student that studied hard and gets to stand before a microphone as a representative of his class and tell it like he believes it is. He’s not a naval officer representing the Navy.

                  Even if he were, I’d still defend his right to speak without having some asshole like you cut his mic!

                • Nate Frein

                  You just don’t get it, do you?

                  In both situations he is representing an organization. That organization is responsible for what he says while representing them.

                  If he were doing gay porn, then I would expect the organizers of an awards show to cut his mic were he to start blathering about sin. If he were fixing my car I would expect he would get fired if he started badmouthing his own garage. If he were a high school teacher then you damn well better be sure I’d want him fired if he decided to start praying to his students.

                  He does not have some constitutional right to a free mic on his graduation, GPA be damned.

                • jackassletters

                  Ah, so to you free speech is a matter of who allows you to speak? Good to know.

                  I wasn’t talking about what high school students or day porn stars should be allowed to do. I was talking about the fact that it doesn’t matter what this kid decides to become. He’s a high school student now. is the message you want to send that he should obey the rules and only speak approved messages? That’s dumb.

                • allein

                  Yes, he should obey the rules and give the speech he submitted and said he was going to give.

                • jackassletters

                  You’re a good little soldier. Way to follow orders. Hey, shoot those people over there will you?

                • Nate Frein

                  Yes. He should obey the rules that exist to protect his and every other student’s rights. When he stepped up to the microphone, he was representing the school. When his message was no longer kosher, the school removed him as a representative.

                  Note that no one attempted to stop him from speaking. He finished his speech.

                  He simply did so without the school’s microphone.

            • allein

              He wants to refuse, fine; then he doesn’t get to speak. The graduation is still an official school activity and the school gets to make the rules.

              I wonder how he’s going to handle the Naval Academy when he thinks the rules don’t apply to him.

              • jackassletters

                People who do nothing buy obey the rules end up perpetuating cycles of abuse and bullying. He’ll be the man who speaks up at the Naval Academy when you daughter is sexually abused. Or maybe he won’t. The point is people need to speak their conscience. If this is results in a mic being cut or people laughing because you praise a zombie in the sky…I don’t care.

                Institutions can make rules. Only people without morals blindly follow them.

                • Nate Frein

                  Not hardly. It doesn’t take a spine to “speak out” for a majority viewpoint like he tried to do here.

                • jackassletters

                  So you are agreeing with me now? I’m confused.

                  I don’t care if the viewpoint is the majority or the minority viewpoint. He either has a right to express it or not.

                  Having to have an agency approve his speech is shit. This is bad for him and the agency.

                  Let’s say the administration approves his Christian speech, but next year they say the atheist speech (or Muslim) is crap. Not they have entered into the arena of Church and State. Best they stay out of this.

                • Nate Frein


                  They specifically did not approve the christian elements of the speech. That’s why they cut his mic when he went off speech.

                  Are you really this stupid or are you being deliberately obtuse?

                • jackassletters

                  That’s my point. They shouldn’t be in the position of approving or disapproving of anything. This is the generation that is going to take over when you and I die. Their opinions matter. We need to start allowing them to express them. Even if they are wrong. The best answer to bad speech isn’t less speech. That’s stupid. It’s more and better speech.

                  Maybe next year the atheist gets up there and has a brilliant take down of the year before’s speech, but he can’t get that one approved. Year after it’s the Hindu student. So on and so on. Take religion out of it. What about politics, or sexuality, or finance? What are the acceptable topics for a speech for you? List them all and I bet I’ll have issues with a few. Want someone like me to be the arbitrator of what you can say?

                • Nate Frein

                  I don’t understand how someone can so monumentally miss the point. I hope you’re a troll.

                  I’ll type slowly so you have less of an excuse to not understand.

                  No one took away the boy’s free speech rights. He stood at the podium talking away.

                  The school is responsible for any message they could be seen to “endorse”. This includes speeches given by people at ceremonies organized and paid for by the school. Like a graduation. Ergo, the responsible thing for the school to do is vet the speeches to make sure they do not do minor things like violate the fucking establishment clause. You know, that little thing that requires government agencies to not bee seen to endorse a given religion.

                  Like this kid wanted to.

                  And before you whine about “civil disobedience” again, civil disobedience is continuing to post atheist blogs in countries where doing so risks putting them in jail or getting them killed. It is not standing up and throwing a temper-tantrum that your religious privilege isn’t being recognized.

                  But I’m pretty sure you’re invested in continuing to deliberately miss the point, so after this post I’m done with you.

                • jackassletters

                  If you give a kid that makes his marks three minutes to talk, and that’s you’re criterion, you can’t be accused of having an agenda. As soon as you enter into the realm of needing to approve speeches you are into the exact thing you are are worrying about like the fucking establishment clause. If you let anyone that meets the requirements to speak you need not worry about wether or not you are endorsing this individual.

                  You state, “He stood at the podium talking away,” but the article says his mic was cut. Which is it?

                • Nate Frein

                  You state, “He stood at the podium talking away,” but the article says his mic was cut. Which is it.

                  . . .

                  Did you watch the video? His mic was cut. He wasn’t tackled. He wasn’t forced off the stage. His vocal cords weren’t dependent upon the microphone in order to keep working.

                  Are you naturally this obtuse or do you have to work at it?

                • jackassletters

                  So standing at the back of the auditorium without a microphone qualifies as speech for you? Good to know.

                  Are you this much of a freedom hating jack booted thug or does it come naturally to you? Be careful how you answer, since I bet only one of us has done military service and worked for a newspaper.

                • allein

                  Nobody was being abused or bullied here.

                • jackassletters

                  But if you condition kids to never speak up if the rules say not to, how do you expect them to speak up when their conscience says they should?

                • wmdkitty

                  Oh. My. Ceiling Cat.

                  SHUT. UP!

                • Feminerd

                  Oh for fuck’s sake- yes people should speak up against abuse, bullying, and intimidation. However, that doesn’t mean everyone is entitled to a government sponsored bully pulpit to say whatever they want! Why can you not see the difference?

    • Space Cadet

      IANAL, but I don’t see how Prior Restraint is applicable in this situation.

      Since the school, a gov’t entity, is providing the platform for the speaker, it has the right to put limitations on what is said, hence the requirement for pre-approval and the consequences for deviating.

      That’s different from your scenario in which Hemant submits the article for pre-approval from the Mayor. If Hemant is going to publish the article on his own, or through another privately held company, then the Mayor putting restrictions on that would be Prior Restraint. However, for this to be similar to the graduation speech, the Mayor would have to be giving Hemant the platform, like on the City’s official .gov website. In which case the Mayor has the right to limit what is said, just as the school does.

      The key difference is the perception of the speech/article having the backing of the gov’t.

      But again, IANAL.

      • jackassletters

        I was going out of my way to make an analogy. Yes, legally you are correct. My point was that it’s hypocritical for the writer of this article to take joy in the mic being cut while standing behind principles that allow him to publish without worry about needing prior approval.

        • Frank Mitchell

          It’s a crappy analogy. Hemant publishes without prior approval not because of “principles” but because (I presume) that’s his contract with Patheos. Hemant probably wouldn’t have signed it otherwise. The “Mayor” isn’t even involved in the transaction between speaker and audience, so requiring his approval is an obvious intrusion of government.

          If I submitted an atheist novel to a Christian publishing house they’d be well within their rights to reject it. If I agreed to give a speech about religion in a Church and proceeded to call their God a delusion they’d be well within their rights to cut my mic. If my home town asked me to give a speech with the understanding that I wouldn’t mention religion at all, and the first words out of my mouth were “Religion is the opiate of the masses”, I will have violated my agreement and they’re well within their rights to cut my mic. Schools ASK their valedictorians to give a speech; they’re not REQUIRED to, and they can place any restrictions on that invitation consistent with the Establishment Clause.

    • Nate Frein

      I just want to address this:

      In my mind the egregious part comes from needing approval. When Bill Gates speaks at one of these events do you think the administration insists on vetting his remarks?

      My junior and senior years in JROTC I helped put together the various dinners and functions we held every few months, and you’re damn right we vetted the keynote speaker’s speech before we gave the final OK.

      • jackassletters

        And I don’t buy this. You’re telling me if Warren Buffett goes off script you would have cut his mic? You needed to see his lecture first? Bullshit.

        • Nate Frein

          If I thought he would go off-script in an inappropriate for school setting way, he would not have been invited in the first place.

          • jackassletters

            He was invited because of his achievements. Just like this kid was. Why is this hard for you?

            • Nate Frein

              Why is conditional speech hard for you?

              • jackassletters

                Because conditional speech is not free speech. I believe in the latter and not the former. I think insecure whiney assholes believe in conditional speech. Which are you?

                • Nate Frein

                  He has free speech. He doesn’t have free access to the school’s microphone.

                • jackassletters

                  He does if they invite him to use it. Once they invite him to use it they either need to let him do so or tell him he has no freedom of speech. They could just provide him wiht talking points under your ideals.

                  I believe he should have told them to fuck off and left an empty microphone, but that’s not what we have.

                • Nate Frein

                  They gave him a mic on condition that they approved his speech.

                  Pretty cut and fucking dried here.

                  The school had no obligation to provide him anything. They certainly didn’t take away his right to free speech. They simply denied him the use of their mic.

                • tasteless chap

                  That “invitation” came with conditions. He ignored those conditions!

    • Tobias2772

      I see and agree with your point about censorship to some extent. I would like to point out a couple of things, however. First, in school settings free speech has been historically restricted to allow for the educational process to continue without disruption. That process is not so much at issue here, but the precedent of restriction does exist. Secondly, this is a graduation ceremony, not a debate or an open public forum. And there is a captive audience and a school provided platform, so I think so an approval process is not unwarranted. Finally, this student deliberately mislead the adults in supervisory roles. Perhaps if he had submitted his intended remarks, they would have been approved. He has earned the right to speak about his god to some extent, but not to prostylitize to a captive audience. But he didn’t do that. He mislead the administrators, despite their warnings. He did NOT just go off extemporaneously on some tangent. This ceremony was for all involved and not just for some self-centered and self-righteous individual.

  • grevyturty

    I’m sure a Muslim would have been welcomed by the religiotard Christians LOL

  • Peter_FairMarket

    Christians love to quote the bible saying that the king (or in the case of the United States, the President) is God’s appointed representative on earth and that his authority must be respected–unless, of course, he is a Democrat, black, or both. Similarly, the bible insists that the laws of the land must be followed. There again, Christians play fast and loose with laws they judge to be “unjust”, such as the laws of the People’s Republic of China against smuggling bibles, or the agreements they make to keep within the guidelines of their prepared speeches. That makes them very poor “witnesses” for their faith.

    • Alice

      And all the verses about lying.

  • Nick Stark

    Speaking at graduation is not a right, it is a privilege. It is not a soapbox, on which to speak freely. If the predetermined rules cannot be followed, then the mic should be turned off. Administrators made the right decision.

  • DesertSun59

    Bravo. A school that proved that actions have consequences. THAT is the lesson these kids need to learn.

    In the future, those who have contact with Roy Costner will find out that that boy learned nothing in high school except how to be an asshole. He proved that he knows nothing about the Bible nor about US history. I can’t see how he became valedictorian after he proved that.

  • vadersapp

    “Just let him have his right. To speak.”
    “I think they should have let him say whatever he was gonna say.”
    Hmm. Wonder what they would have said if he was up there talking about his sex life in high school or how marijuana should be legalized or something else completely unrelated to and inappropriate at a high school graduation ceremony? Or what if he had been professing his gratitude to Allah, Yahweh or Vishnu or, *shock* lecturing about how he got that graduation at the top of his class WITHOUT religion! I’m betting it would have sounded a lot more like: “The school should have turned off his mic and removed him from the stage.” “They should withhold his diploma until he apologizes for such offensive language.” “This is America and we believe in Jesus. I was disgusted by the things he said.” “He doesn’t have the right to force me to listen to such an offensive and anti-Christian speech. He should be punished for that.”

    • blah

      Again, during school sponsored events, talk about drugs and sex are not NOT protected. Those court rulings have already happened. Any ruling against religious talk has NOT happened.

      • vadersapp

        I wasn’t speaking about legal protection of speech or constitutionality. What I spoke about in regards to religious speech was the reactions by people attending the graduation. The people who were mad that they cut off his speech. They wanted him to be able to go off his approved speech, to be able to pray and deliver a message about Christianity as part of an official school event. Those things are not illegal or punishable, but they aren’t relevant or appropriate for that event either. The point I was making is that anyone who DOES think it was appropriate, I question how they would feel if he instead tried to speak about how drugs and sex became an obstacle for him during his attendance in high school, or how Islam or atheism helped him achieve get to the top of his class, all of which are also inappropriate for an official school graduation ceremony. I was not talking about the legality of religious speech. I was talking about the bias and hypocrisy of the people interviewed.

        And in case there was any question, what the school did was perfectly legal and appropriate. The school has the right to pre-read and approve or reject speech content and expect that student to hold to that speech. He was not cut off for talking about religion, he was cut off for not following his pre-approved script.

  • Frank Mitchell

    “Free speech” means you’re free to say what you like. It doesn’t mean that everyone is obliged to publish whatever you say without cost or restriction. If Patheos required Hemant to submit his blog posts for prior approval, it’s his choice whether he abides by those restrictions or ponies up $75 (more or less) to a Web hosting company for his own site and domain name. [EDIT: yes I know there are other options.] Either he abides by Patheos’s requirements or he doesn’t; he can’t circumvent the editors to publish the blog he REALLY wanted to post without repercussions.

    The same principle applies to a student speaking at a podium. He’s given a podium and a mic on the understanding that he’ll stick to the speech he agreed to give. The moment he broke that agreement, he lost his mic. He can still give his “real” speech somewhere else … in the parking lot, in front of the flagpole, on a street corner, whatever.

    Put another way, freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee a captive audience.

  • Nate Frein

    Yeah. Funny how they’re white and male, too.

    • wmdkitty

      I bet they’re all straight and cisgendered, too.

      • Nate Frein


  • Nick Steinberg

    Funny how 94% of MENSA members are atheists. Just saying.
    All the Valedictorians? Most Valedictorians in actually reputable schools are raised in Secular households.
    Also funny how most Nobel Prize winners are mostly atheists or Jewish secularists.

  • TCC

    Funny how all of the valedictorians who get attention for showing Christian privilege are Christians. Yeah.

  • Mick

    On the following Sunday I’ll bet Remington got to church an hour earlier than usual – because he was expecting to be the center of attention and he didn’t want to disappoint his audience.

  • m6wg4bxw

    The title suggests his mic was turned off because he began speaking about Jesus […]

    “After” — not “because” — is in the title.

  • Tobias2772

    You are one prolific troll – the headline could be misunderstood, but that’s on you. The content is quite clear and can only be misread deliberately.
    AQs far as your valedictorian remark, it is not until college that atheists surpass christians in their pursuit of academic excellence – sort of the difference between basic indoctrination and actual understanding and critical thinking.

  • Xzamilio

    Meanwhile, if you go to a Yahoo board comments section, they are lauding Costner for standing up for his Christian convictions….I just thought I’d mention that because Yahoo’s Comments Section is indicative of the particular venomous and hatred mentality of a lot of Christians in this country…and don’t get me started on how they comment on gay articles….

  • CultOfReason

    The fact that this happened in Texas is all the more amazing.

    This is not a dig on Texas, per se, but just an observation that Texas is a Bible-Belt State.

  • Beet LeRace

    Most statements that use the word “all” tend to be poorly thought through. Unless by “Funny how” you meant “I would be incorrect to assume…”.

  • Captain Cassidy

    So in your world there’s some kind of justification for a Christian to make non-Christians feel threatened and excluded? And also in that world reading comprehension isn’t taught?

  • blah

    Why can’t a student talk about God during a graduation speech? For the “separation of Church and State” camp, does he represent the state somehow in an official capacity? No. So how his message violate this?

    What is happening is that his free speech rights are being tamped on. Does his message somehow interrupt the graduation ceremony? No. If that’s the case, then his message should be legally allowed.

    As long as the student is discussing drugs or sex then the school has to allow it. It doesn’t matter what the school’s policy is or isn’t. The law trumps a school’s policy.

    • Spazticus

      “The students were told that if they deviated from their speeches, the microphone would be turned off, regardless of content.”