Graduation is an important milestone in life. It is a day to celebrate the success and achievement of every student – especially at a time when graduation rates are dropping across the nation. If you are one of the roughly 7 in 10 students who have actually made it to graduation this year, you deserve congratulations.
And you deserve a ceremony that welcomes and affirms you, whatever your religious beliefs.
If I were a Jewish person graduating from a public high school, I would not want a spot of Hindu worship to anoint my day of triumph. If I were a Christian, I would not want a muezzin to call the graduating class to assembly, before reading from the Koran. And, if I were an atheist, I would protest the sanctification of my graduation with a Christian prayer.
That’s what Damon Fowler, a graduate student at Bastrop High School in Louisiana, has done this year. He has taken a stand for his constitutional rights and declared “Even though I am in a minority, I deserve respect and inclusion from my public high school on graduation day”. He has requested that his graduation not be blessed with words representing a faith he does not share. The school, realizing they are on the wrong side of the law, did the decent thing and decided to forgo the prayer this year, and instead hold a ceremony welcoming all students, whatever their beliefs.
The Bastrop High School Community see things differently.
There’s no other way to say this: it’s disrespectful, arrogant, blithe, insincere, sneering, rude, bullying, and plain unamerican.
This is the rule of the mob. An attempt to intimidate a young man, a member of a religious minority, into silence through bullying from the pulpit and hectoring from the crowd. Each and every person who cheered the sneering speaker should be ashamed – they betrayed fundamental American principles and showed themselves in an ugly light. They’ve demonstrated that prejudice against Humanists is one of the last socially acceptable prejudices left in this country, and they should hang their small-minded heads.
It is a fundamental principle of this great nation that individuals should have the choice to practice whichever religion they choose, and none. The right to practice your religion or nonreligion without interference from government is part of the Constitutional guarantee the Founders gave all American citizens.
Damon Fowler is an American citizen. Bastrop High School is a public institution. His request is reasonable and just.