It has been tradition at Russell County High School in Kentucky for graduating seniors to elect a “graduation chaplain” who delivers a Christian prayer at the graduation ceremony. This year, a Muslim student filed a lawsuit and a judge issued an injunction to prevent it. As the principal began his opening remarks, 200 students stood and recited the Lord’s Prayer. Most of the rest of the audience gave a standing ovation.
When the Muslim student went up to receive his diploma, he was booed.
Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars quotes David Guinn of Baylor Law School with what he calls “the perfect response,” and I concur:
First, the students (as approved by Prof. Duncan) are using prayer not as a religious devotion but as a political act — to express their disapproval of the one student and the “unelected judiciary” and as a weapon against others that don’t share in that faith. That strikes me as sacrilege as well as a perversion.
Second, why is it necessary to make these prayers public in a public forum? This sounds a little too much like the hypocrites of Mt. 6:5 If it is a matter of needing community, why not a community made up of fellow believers rather than demanding the audience of those who might not believe (or believe as they do)?
While it may be “their” commencement, it is also the commencement of all of the other students and their families present. Should everyone be allowed to interrupt the service and impose their religious exhortation on everyone else?
Graduations frequently involve not just commencement, but a series of celebrations over the course of the weekend. Why not reserve religious celebrations for a separate ceremony shared among their community of faith? The only justification I can come up with is the belief that their faith is so weak that it must be endorsed by the school in the public ceremony.
I find the whole thing offensive and sad…..
More at Ed’s blog.
On a related note, I was recently in Washington, D.C. for a visit that happened to coincide with the National Day of Prayer, about which I made similar reference to Matthew 6:5-7. Although I didn’t view the proceedings on the Capitol lawn, I did take a few pictures of the setup and of the Justice House of Prayer cult members with tape over their mouths in front of the Supreme Court building.