Earlier this year, students at Indiana’s Greenwood High School voted — VOTED — to have a graduation prayer. A judge told them they couldn’t vote on such things at a public school. School officials responded by saying they wouldn’t screen student speeches beforehand (*wink wink nudge nudge*).
But one of the required speeches was from the school’s valedictorian, Eric Workman, a strong supporter of church/state separation. Here’s the transcript of his graduation speech.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation awarded Eric its Thomas Jefferson Youth Activist Award (along with a $1,000 scholarship) for what he did. A couple months ago, Eric accepted the award and gave a speech at FFRF’s annual convention. That speech is now available online and it’s worth a read.
During this entire process, I was of the Christian faith. This was not so much a religious issue for me as it was a legal one. The Religious Right, however, tried to turn it into a personal, religious issue. People would say to me, “The United States was founded by Christians,” or “You just want to attack Christianity,” or finally, “There is nothing wrong with prayer.”
After facing so much disdain from the vile Christian population of Greenwood and other religious persons throughout the United States, I began to deeply question belonging to a religion with such loathsome followers. Knowing that most individuals are born into a particular religion, I saw it as being illogical for one religion to be correct and for all others to be wrong, having their believers be eternally damned due to the circumstances of their birth.
Besides the loss of faith (and the gaining of reason), there’s another happy ending to Eric’s story:
After all this, I decided to settle with the School Corporation. We agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice under the conditions that I be paid nominal damages of $1 [a check, not “godless” currency] and the ACLU of Indiana be paid legal fees and court costs of $14,500.
I will be framing my check soon.
Aren’t high school activists the best? 🙂