Judge Powerless to Stop Prayer

Sunday, May 21, 2006

This First Amendment case is a great example of how powerless the judiciary is to enforce its own rulings. When U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley told a high school graduating class that they couldn't recite a simple prayer, the students responded in mass defiance to a standing ovation and approval from the administration.

If only more graduation ceremonies were as exciting as this one:

RUSSELL SPRINGS, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge on Friday blocked a southern Kentucky high school from including prayers in its graduation ceremony, prompting students to begin reciting the Lord's Prayer during the opening remarks.

About 200 students interrupted the principal's comments with the prayer, drawing thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Earlier in the day, a judge banned prayers from the ceremony in response to a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit sought a restraining order on behalf of an unidentified student at Russell County High School in Russell Springs, 90 miles south of Louisville.

Later in the ceremony, senior Megan Chapman told the crowd that God had guided her since childhood. She was interrupted repeatedly by cheering as she urged her classmates to trust in God as they go through life.

A sign across the street from the high school at a garden center declared "We believe in prayer" in response to the judge's ruling.

The student mentioned in the lawsuit had appealed to Principal Darren Gossage to drop the prayer from the ceremony, but the principal refused, ACLU attorney Lili Lutgens said.

Lutgens argued that any prayer would be unconstitutional because it would endorse a specific religion and religious views. U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley granted the temporary restraining order, prohibiting the school district from having even a student representative say a prayer during the ceremony.

Superintendent Scott Pierce said he was pleased with the students' response to the ruling.

"This was a good learning process for them as far as how to handle things that come along in life," Pierce said. "They exhibited what we've tried to accomplish in 12 years of education — they have the ability to make these compelling decisions on their own."
I am not the least bit sympathetic toward atheists who are so full of themselves that they would attempt to keep a harmless prayer out of a high school graduation ceremony. Lest it's been awhile since you last read your copy of the U.S. Constitution, the Establishment Clause plainly states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
The ACLU has for the last century depended on liberal judges to expand the First Amendment in such a way that "Congress" also means: neighborhood associations, courthouses, teachers, attorney generals - and now, high school students.

The argument that religious commencement speeches violate the Constitution is a silly one. For the three or so tedious hours family and friends come together to celebrate the graduation of the senior class, church and state remain in their respective corners. So now that we've got that out of the way, there's no rational reason to fiercely oppose such speeches in such a way that one would go to the lengths of filing a federal lawsuit.

And I know. Not everyone is Christian. Not everyone believes in God. But just because you don't believe in what's being espoused in a planned sermon, doesn't mean you have the right or authority to censor it. It's not as if you're compelled to submit yourself to a specific religion when it's the subject of an oration. Like the pointless valedictorian speeches with hackneyed directives to make "the most of yourself" and "the world a better place," the remedy for the person who doesn't want to hear anything about Jesus or the path to God is to simply block it out.

Yes, we must tolerate the minority, but we must also tolerate the majority (and in Kentucky where the crowd got so enthusiastic - it's a pretty big majority), and it's absurd that the interest group with the word "liberty" in its name finds more of it in a shield against religious exposure than the ability of free persons to practice it as they see fit