A high school valedictorian in South Carolina got a round of applause after he tore up his speech at the podium during his graduation ceremony and delivered the Lord’s Prayer -- an act of protest in light of his school district’s decision that bans prayer from graduation ceremonies, the Christian News Network reports.
Roy Costner IV surprised the crowd who attended Liberty High School graduation at Littlejohn Colliseum in Clemson, S.C., on Saturday. He spoke for a few minutes about his family and thanked them for his Christian upbringing. He then said, "I think most of you will understand when I say, 'Our Father, who art in heaven ..." as he began to recite the Lord’s Prayer, KSBW reports.
"You couldn't even hear him doing the prayer anymore, because everybody was clapping and cheering," Brian Hoover, a Liberty student who attended the ceremony, told the news outlet.
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He finished the prayer by pointing to the ceiling for emphasis, saying, "For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen."
The school district said Costner won’t face punishment for saying the prayer. “The bottom line is, we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths,” John Eby, a spokesman for Pickens County schools, said. “He’s a graduate now. There’s nothing we can do about it, even if we wanted to.”
Costner says he was overcome by the audience’s reaction when he recited the prayer. "It was an emotional moment," Costner told Fox Carolina on Tuesday. "It was overwhelming to look out and see the crowd yelling."
Costner’s actions follow a Pickens County school board decision where Jesus’ name will no longer be mentioned in student-led meetings. The decision was approved by a 3-2 vote in March and has faced criticism from the local community.
"I believe it speaks to our freedom to pray and to call on Jesus. And I think we have that right," Rev. Paul Turner of Mount Carmel Baptist Church said, according to Fox Carolina.
The decision came three months after the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened legal action against the school district if it didn’t stop prayer at the beginning of meetings with school board trustees, IndependentMail.com reports. The school board compromised by issuing a policy that prayers will be nonsectarian, John Eby, a spokesman for Pickens County schools, said.
“I think it took a lot of courage to do that,” attendee Logan Gibson told the Christian News Network. “People were [supportive] that he stood up for what he believed in.”