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I wish I could have been there to witness it myself.
After Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. issued a restraining order barring Russell County (Ky.) High School and senior Megan Chapman from including prayer at the school’s graduation ceremony, students decided to take matters in their own hands. (Miss Chapman was elected by students last fall as the senior class chaplain.)
In an act of protest to the court order issued just hours before the graduation, about 200 seniors spontaneously stood and began reciting the Lord’s Prayer, prompting a standing ovation from a standing-room only crowd at the ceremony.
The student message: We will not be silenced.
The religious freedom organization Liberty Counsel, which is representing Miss Chapman, reported that thunderous applause drowned out the last part of the prayer.
“The revival-like atmosphere continued when senior Megan Chapman said in her opening remarks that God had guided her since childhood,” Liberty Counsel reported. “Megan was interrupted repeatedly during her speech by the cheering crowd as she urged her classmates to trust in God as they go through life.”
What an amazing scene. But it’s a scene that never should have transpired because the court order, according to Liberty Counsel, is “invalid, wrong and limited.”
“First, the court had no authority to order Megan to refrain from prayer as she was never made a party to the case,” said Mathew Staver, the founder of the organization who is also the interim dean of the Liberty University School of Law. “Moreover, a temporary restraining order which restricts a person’s speech cannot be issued without first providing the affected person notice and an opportunity to be heard. Second, the court order runs contrary to the best legal precedent established in Adler v. Duval County School Board, a case successfully litigated by Liberty Counsel. Finally, the order was limited because it only addressed prayer. It did not, nor could it, prohibit Megan from thanking God or sharing her religious viewpoint during her speech.”
I never cease to be amazed at how activist judges and militant leftists are bent on forbidding even the most basic expressions of faith from the American landscape. In this case, students had voted, under no duress, to have Miss Chapman act as their chaplain. But because a couple of people express offense and bring in the ACLU, the entire class loses its right to have the graduation they wanted, solely because God and/or prayer was to be mentioned.
Mr. Staver noted, “It is a clear violation of the First Amendment to require a school to intentionally censor religious viewpoints of student speakers at graduation. Religious speech has just as much protection as secular speech. In fact, the First Amendment elevates religious expression to our first freedom.”
I am pleased to partner with Liberty Counsel in the “Friend or Foe Graduation Prayer Campaign,” which is designed to help students like those at Russell County High School to be able to pray if they so choose. Liberty Counsel, which is comprised of hundreds of affiliate attorneys in all 50 states, has offered its services to defend the school board and to work on behalf of Megan Chapman to protect her right to free speech against the ACLU’s lawsuit.
Any students in America who face similar problems (or any type of religious-freedom problem) should immediately contact Liberty Counsel to receive pro bono legal help.
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