A public high school principal is under fire for a graduation speech in which he flirted with violating the First Amendment on numerous occasions.
According to Dr. Jerry Coyne, Principal Kevin Lowery of Lebanon High School in Missouri delivered a speech that “blatantly disregarded the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to impose his religious beliefs on a captive audience.”
Lowery “not only called for a moment of silence (a common way around the prohibition of prayer in public schools), but then told the audience that he used his own moment of silence to ask for God’s blessing.” In a video of the graduation ceremony, Lowery can be heard saying that “while it would not be politically correct for us to have an official prayer this evening, I would like for us to have a moment of silence in honor of tonight’s graduates.”
After the moment of silence ends, the principal said “just in case you’re interested, during my moment of silence, I gave thanks to God for these great students, their parents, their teachers, and for this community.”
“I’m not finished,” he added. “I asked God to protect these students as they go their separate ways into the world. I asked God to avail Himself in every possible way. And I asked God to watch over them, to protect them, and to bless them with self-fulfillment, with compassion, inner peace, and personal prosperity.”
According to Dr. Coyne, Principal Lowery’s remarks were “an unconstitutional display,” for which the school has been put on notice by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for violating the First Amendment. Noted atheist Hemant Mehta was not convinced that the principal’s words constituted a First Amendment violation, but wrote that it was “completely inappropriate for a public high school graduation. Had a Muslim principal or non-religious principal or Wiccan principal done anything even remotely similar to what Lowery did, it would be national news.”
Dr. Coyne also said that he “would appreciate hearing whether Mr. Lowery’s display was sanctioned or approved by the Lebanon School Board, even in retrospect. If not, I would appreciate hearing how you are going to deal with this Constitutional violation.”
Watch video of Principal Lowery’s remarks via YouTube below.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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