Prayer Banned from Texas High School Graduation: Amen or Say What?

Graduating seniors
A boy at a Texas high school has experienced "a great deal of anxiety" over the idea of a prayer at his graduation ceremony

At my public high school graduation ceremony once upon a time, a rabbi — the dad of one of the graduating students — was the first person to take the stage. He lead a short prayer in Hebrew and then another in English. Everyone said “amen” and moved on to the more pressing matters at hand, namely valedictorian speeches and diploma distribution.

I’m not one who advocates prayer in school, but a benediction at the beginning of something like a public high school graduation by a clergyman of any faith doesn’t get my knickers in a twist. A federal judge, however, feels differently.

A Texas school district has been forbidden from allowing public prayer at a high school graduation ceremony this weekend. They can’t even say the word “prayer” or “amen.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery ruled there could be no prayer at tomorrow’s graduation ceremony at the Medina Valley Independent School District in response to a lawsuit filed by parents of a boy scheduled to participate, saying he would “suffer irreparable harm” otherwise. The school district is appealing the ruling.

The ruling also dictates that the school removes the terms “invocation” and “benediction” from the graduation program, and other banned phases include “join in prayer” and “bow their heads.” They may be replaced with “opening remarks” and “closing remarks.”

A violation of the order could result in legal trouble, with the judge vowing that the ruling will be “enforced by incarceration or other sanctions for contempt of Court if not obeyed by District official [sic] and their agents.”

The Texas attorney general, however, calls the ruling “unconstitutional and a blatant attack from those who do not believe in God ‘attempts by atheists and agnostics to use courts to eliminate from the public landscape any and all references to God whatsoever.'”

He claims it’s an “ongoing attempt to purge God from the public setting while at the same time demanding from the courts an increased yielding to all things atheist and agnostic.”

The attorney representing the student and his parents, on the other hand, said the boy has been caused great anxiety in anticipation of the prayer and is therefore delighted with the judge’s decision.

I’m not a religion fanatic by any means, but I fail to understand in this circumstance how a blessing at a graduation ceremony can cause undue stress to any student. I’ve been to plenty of full-blown religious ceremonies of faiths that are not my own in which I’ve stood when others stood and said “amen” along with everyone else. I think it’s the respectful thing to do, even if the beliefs are different than my own.

Either way, sounds like the boy graduating tomorrow will not have to deal with any extra anxiety other than the possibility of tripping as he walks on stage to receive his diploma. Best of luck to him in dealing with life in college.

Do you think a blessing should be allowed at a public school graduation?

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