“Thank you for helping us get here safely today, Lord, and thank you for the many blessings you have given us because we are a very talented class,” Class President Jonathan Hardwick said on Friday, ending his prayer with the traditional saying, “in Jesus name, amen.”
Hardwick received a standing ovation for his prayer, but not everyone was pleased by the religious act. Prior to the graduation, several students told school officials they were uncomfortable with having a prayer at their ceremony.
“I feel like you shouldn’t force your religion upon anybody. And a lot of people are saying if there are prayers at graduation, you don’t have to participate, you can sit there and not listen, close your ears. Well, one, it’s my graduation. I shouldn’t have to close my ears,” student Bradley Chester told WKYT earlier this month.
The student voting process allowed the school to circumvent a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that held public schools could not offer prayers at graduation ceremonies. The First Amendment prohibits government officials, including public school faculty, from advancing or endorsing religion, but student-led religious activity in schools is considered free speech.
Watch video of the prayer, uploaded to YouTube, below:
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