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Student Pleas Ignored, Graduation Prayer Goes on E-mail
Written by Don Byrd   
Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The class president at Kentucky's Lincoln County High School received a standing ovation after praying during his graduation speech. Several were not cheering though, including the six students who begged their principal not to turn their only high school commencement into a religious ceremony.

In an interview with The Advocate-Messenger earlier this month, Principal Tim Godbey acknowledged that six students — including at least one atheist — had pleaded with him not to allow student-led prayer to be a part of the school’s graduation ceremony. Godbey, a self-professed Christian who says he prays for each of his students daily, said under separation of church and state laws, faculty members have never been able to pray publicly on school grounds or during school-sponsored functions. However, he noted that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit students from doing so as long as they are not otherwise disruptive.

If the prayer was truly student-initiated, the speaker was neutrally chosen and the content was not controlled in any way by school officials, then it pass constitutional muster. That doesn't make it a good idea. Prayers shouldn't be used as a public weapon to discomfort others; neither should public school students be required to choose between their faith and their graduation. Students can and do pray at school - during their graduation ceremonies to give thanks, in the hallways for guidance and help, in the cafeteria before lunch. That doesn't mean commandeering the school microphone to force prayer onto a captive audience at what is essentially a mandatory school event.

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