The Graduation Was Like ‘a Revival Meeting’ June 5, 2011

The Graduation Was Like ‘a Revival Meeting’

I know you’re all wondering what happened at the Medina Valley Independent School District’s graduation in Castroville, Texas yesterday since the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said prayers would be allowed there.

Have a look:

The headline at the Christian Post says it all: “Texas Graduation Takes Advantage of Prayer Ruling, Goes All Out

The graduation ceremony at Medina Valley High School in Castroville, Texas, on Saturday was filled with prayers and was likened to a revival meeting.

Or the headline at the San Antonio Express-News: “Medina Valley graduates hear prayers aplenty

Despite a disclaimer at the beginning of the ceremony by the school district’s superintendent that the students’ and speakers’ views were their own, the gathering at times resembled a revival as much as a small town graduation.

Applause erupted from the school’s packed football stadium with each “amen” — more so than during speakers’ frequent references to school spirit and claims of Medina Valley’s superiority over other schools.

… a student gave what were labeled opening remarks that began, “Those who wish, would you please pray with me?”

[Valedictorian Angela] Hildenbrand also led the audience in prayer, thanking God “for the freedom to be here today.”

As if anyone was trying to take away her freedom?!

However, Hildenbrand and her friends on the Religious Right made it so that Corwyn Schultz, whose parents filed the lawsuit against the district in the first place, wasn’t present for the graduation.

I can understand why he chose not to attend. It’s not like they made an effort to make non-Christians feel welcome.

So this is what happens when prayer is allowed at graduation. The stage becomes a substitute pulpit for the Christians who get up there, and it becomes a lonely couple of hours for all the Jews, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, and students of other faiths who happen to be members of the graduating class but just aren’t praying to the most popular deity of them all.

Well done, administration. You found a way to make one of the most memorable moments in a student’s life into a divisive Christian rally. If that’s your definition of leadership, I pity all those students under your control.

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  • Marguerite

    Grrr. It’s a shame there weren’t any Wiccans or Druids or (insert nonChristian religion here) to offer prayers. Maybe that might have helped shock these folks out of their unpleasant complacency, and made the point to them that there ARE people with other viewpoints out there, who might just be entitled to not have Christian prayers crammed down their throats.

    Nah… that was never gonna happen, was it? They know those other viewpoints are out there; they just don’t believe they deserve consideration.

    My sympathies to anyone who had to sit through this. It’s a real shame to use one of the biggest days of a kid’s life at a PUBLIC institution to make a political and religious statement.

  • Heidi

    I would LOVE to see the reaction if a Wiccan kid stood up there and asked people to pray with him/her. I really hope there are kids of other-than-Christian faiths who will start doing that.

  • Rainne

    @Heidi I agree with you – that would be the BEST way to get this stopped in a hurry.

  • Sinister

    You tell a whole school that they cannot pray because one atheist says it is illegal. Come on people, what did you expect would happen? All of you would have done the same thing had the positions been reversed. You may have the legal high ground but in this case it’s worth nothing. How about hanging all the offenders to teach them a lesson they’ll never forget? Surely there is more to be concerned about in this world.

  • JW

    Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe established that: “The delivery of a message such as the invocation here-on school property, at school-sponsored events, over the school’s public address system, by a speaker representing the student body, under the supervision of school faculty, and pursuant to a school policy that explicitly and implicitly encourages public prayer-is not properly characterized as “private” speech”

    “[t]he majoritarian process implemented by the District guarantees, by definition, that minority candidates will never prevail and that their views will be effectively silenced.”

    Who established that? Why, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2000, of course.

  • Just me

    I encourage atheist students to do their best in school, so they may acheive the honor of speaking at their graduation. I can’t wait to hear the story of the atheist kid who gives the valedictorian speech.

  • JD

    Sinister, I agree that it’s one of the possible reactions that you risk happening. As for the same thing happening if the tables were turned, I’m not convinced. I’ve never seen a graduation ceremony where the nonexistence of god is affirmed. That’s a stupid thing to have go on in a graduation using public money. I don’t think that even happens in the overtly anti-theist countries. Besides, that would be just as inappropriate as making religious proclamations. The ceremony is about the students, not whatever religion they believe or arguing about metaphysics. If they want a religious graduation ceremony, they should have been in a privately funded religious school or go to their churches.

    Why you mention hanging people, I have no idea. It’s out of place.

  • Steve

    Why you mention hanging people, I have no idea. It’s out of place.

    Yup. The proper punishment for Christians is feeding them to lions 😉

  • fiddler

    Perhaps a school that wants to allow student parayers should make a very reasonable request that anyone who wishes to do so must read a bible passage first. That bible passage would be :
    “Matthew 6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
    6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

    Then we could agree with them that they are hypocrites!

  • Gordon

    How are they not ashamed of themselves?

  • Annie

    I think we should all go over to Castorville and have a Constitution burning party… since they don’t seem to really need it there.

  • Priscilla Evans

    Does this school get taxpayer dollars? Can they be revoked?

  • Alan

    Can’t wait until they have Muslim speakers.

  • Linda Gulley

    No one said that anyone wasn’t allowed to pray. The Consitution of the United States prohibits public schools from sponsoring it, that’s all. Everyone can pray, that means to Allah, the sofa, Yahweh, Zeus and all the rest. The point that you’re missing is that it’s the law. The highest law of the U.S. Why do you hate America?

  • This makes me want to cry. Way to show the world how bigoted and selfish you are christians!

  • sagansong

    I encourage atheist students to do their best in school, so they may acheive the honor of speaking at their graduation. I can’t wait to hear the story of the atheist kid who gives the valedictorian speech.

    My son’s school decided the valedictorian would not be allowed to speak. The school that year decided the student council (all christians) would give speeches instead of the valedictorian (my son). My son had complained for years about the religious nature of events at the school but to no avail. Everyone in school knew there were going to be prayers galore – all student led of course, so the school could technically say they didn’t endorse it. My son got tired of the fight and decided not to show for graduation. That it embarrassed the school was even more rewarding – their valedictorian and recipient of several prestigious community scholarships and awards, and the kid who was to perform a solo musical performance was a no show. The school later called him to admonish him. My son cut them off and admonished them instead.

  • Tommy

    What happens in Religion and especially at this graduation is peoples need to feel the person next to them are thinking the same thing. I really think it just comes down to that. Mental Lockstep.

    If you stand in the way of the group, the group will contract its muscles shoring up it’s strength against foreign ideas, creating a stronger (temporary?) bond.

    You gotta imagine this is why religion survives the ages. Its like fast acting super glue for societies.

  • Vanessa

    This annoys me to no end. Graduation should be about the students accomplish something great, not worshiping something that not everyone even believes in.

    I am happy to report that at my cousin’s graduation, which I attended today, there was absolutely no mention of prayer. I was very pleased.

  • todwith1d

    They were galvanized by a common enemy and could not wait to stomp on us. They are emboldened and feel strong.

    Frontal assault on an enemy that outnumbers you 9 to 1 may get headlines but is no way to win.

    Attrition and guerrilla warfare got us this far and is the right plan for the future.

  • Annie

    @Sagansong- Congratulations to your son. What a wonderful accomplishment! I’m sorry the school decided to act so childish, but I am sure you know that your son is in a much better place than most of his peers. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

    My daughter (age 12) is a very outspoken atheist. Much more so than me. She is also an excellent student. We live in a tiny liberal pocket in a conservative state, and I wonder how things will be for her in the future. Luckily, she thinks there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an atheist (and doesn’t yet realize that most of the US doesn’t share her views). I’m not going to tell her, as I see her asserting herself and just demanding to be treated with fairness. Maybe this next generation will be it… I hope so.

  • @Hemant: Time to start another scholarship? I know this young man is not in as much need as he apparently has a supportive family, but it might be nice for us to reward him at least a little for his courage. I’d donate. (And the same for the other couple of atheist kids standing up for their rights.)

    Maybe you can get one of the variest atheist foundations to organize these things so you don’t have to?

  • Dan W

    If my high school and college graduations had been like this, I wouldn’t have wanted to attend them either. Ugh. What a disgusting display of disregard for the Constitution. Haven’t any of these morons read their own holy book? Matthew 6:5-6 springs to mind…

  • The Other Tom,

    I’d be wary of starting up another “scholarship” for this situation.

    The Damon case was unique in the sense that not only was he ostracized by his community but was also kicked out of his home by his parents! Damon ended up homeless, though his brother did step in to offer a place to stay, and we were rightly shocked at the outrageous behaviour of his parents; it made sense for the community to step up in their place and make sure a large chunk of his higher education, as well as moving / setup expenses, were covered.

    In this case Corwyn still has supportive parents, they filed the lawsuit on his behalf!, who are going to stand by him.

    Despite having his constitutional rights violated and electing not going to his graduation, in the larger overall picture he has actually lost little. He still has his family, his grades, his accomplishments, and he, likely with the help of his parents, will probably go off to a nice school and get a decent education. In fact he could still come out ahead with a nice cash settlement from the school board, if one the larger national organizations decides to go after the district for their clear violation of the constitution. In other words, he’ll be fine.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is we need to be careful in deciding what causes to support, the last thing we need is to start a “gold rush” of young adults who see a way to make a fast buck by thinking that standing up for the Constitution and their rights is automatically going to get them a free, or significantly reduced, ride to college / university for it.

    How many school districts are there in the US? Thousands? Tens of Thousands? It could add up to a lot of money and we run the risk of creating Donor Fatigue where charities constantly asking for funds result in people becoming indifferent to the need for them and simply stop donating.

    It might be better to help by having a generic ChipIn where people could donate and every quarter the funds are dispersed to the various national agencies helping these students with their lawsuits; once they have the funds if the agencies decide to hand out scholarships that would be their choice. That way we don’t run into the problems of “Donor Fatigue” so when another Damon comes along we’re still just as likely to help out.


  • Gordon

    On the other hand if someone sues in every school that does this, maybe they’ll learn their lesson.

    Maybe we need a Constitutional gold rush.

  • Hayley

    After reading all these graduation horror stories, i was eager to see how my “little” brother’s Canadian grad ceremony would go. Before the dinner, we saw “give thanks” in the program. A student stood and asked us all to take a moment to reflect and give thanks to the hard work of the teachers, the sacrifices of the parents, and to be thankful that we have the opportunity to received such a good education. Credit where credit is due, thank the people for the hard work they put in to getting you through high school!
    Then, to my delight, the main speech was written by the English teacher, and was beautifully humanist!

  • James H

    I’m marginally on the side of the praying students from a legal perspective, but firmly on the side of the atheist from a manners perspective.

  • Adam L

    Never thought I’d actually see something on this site that was so local. My cousin was a member of the graduating class and I was at that ceremony. I can assure you it was just as bad as the articles above make it out to be. My parents of course, didn’t mind, but after the third prayer it just became ridiculous to me.

  • Love Hayley’s comment and wish that more schools would focus on actual humans that should be thanked and not some sky pixie that everyone seems to put so much of their life into.

    This majority vs minority seems to be a real issue in many areas.

  • T-Rex

    Let Texas secede and become the Xian theocracy they seem to desire so much. That would also keep any native born Texans from running for President. ie: no more Dubyas in office. F’tards.

  • James

    I was there and it was horrible. The low point had to be State Rep John V Garza’s reference to “OUR Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” assuming that everyone in the crowd shared his religious beliefs. How arrogant can you get?

  • Leeloo

    Anytime someone says to me that prayer should be allowed on school grounds and Creationism should be taught alongside the Theory of Evolution, my reply is that there is a church on every street corner (where I live, anyway), and a religious education is contained therein for whoever craves it. And if you don’t like that particular church’s dogma, you can walk 10 steps across to the next church and try them.

    I respect a Christian’s right to pray at school if they want to, but multiple public prayers at a school graduation does not a church, or a point make, except to those who think that Christianity is “losing” in the United States.

  • Aquaria

    “[t]he majoritarian process implemented by the District guarantees, by definition, that minority candidates will never prevail and that their views will be effectively silenced.”

    Who established that? Why, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2000, of course.

    But that was because other Christians filed that suit. In this case, it was a bunch of atheists, and who cares about them?

    If only William Wayne Justice was still alive and lording it over the 5th Circuit, kicking bigot asses and taking names. I lived in the town he was from, and the poor man had to have bomb sniffing dogs and rails over his windows and doors to keep bombs out of his house because the bigoted racist douchebags of Tyler wouldn’t quit terrorizing him.

  • You didn’t accept the mind-virus inoculation? That was the whole point of the ceremony.

  • The sky-pixie needs lots of committed minds to keep him aloft.

  • TED 2008: Humans Are Just Machines for Propagating Memes, Susan Blackmore Says

  • Pat

     If the praying is limited to students expressing their views only, I would agree. If any teacher, town councilman or even invited outside speaker does this, that is wrong. No government official or anyone invited by the school to speak can espouse a religious position. Otherwise, you could have them inviting Pat Robertson or Ted Haggard to make the commencement address.

  • Pat

     So, when I was at Michigan State University, and nearly everyone smoked pot at some time or another, you would agree that it was wrong to try to prosecute anyone, just because some saw this as objectionable behavior? After all, enforcing the law is not important at all if you happen to be in an area where people don’t like the law.

    Perhaps in some of the areas around Detroit, where Muslims are a majority, they should just have Islamic graduations? I am sure no one would object.

    I a law is a good law (as the 1st Amendment is) you enforce it because it is RIGHT. Some things, like basic civil rights are not a matter of majority rule. If that were the case, blacks in the South would still be banned from learning to read, and would possibly still be slaves. Attitudes changed only because some people were dragged, kicking and screaming, into accepting the basic tenets of our constitutional form of government.

  • Pat

     Exactly. My niece was commissioned as an officer in the US Army after graduating from Michigan State. At the ceremony, conducted by the US Army, on the grounds of a public university, there were not one, but three explicitly Christian prayers. Fortunately she is not the type to let such a big day be ruined by such offensive behavior, but I could see that she, like me, was uncomfortable with every prayer. And, as she was standing in the front row of cadets, in front of the audience, she felt compelled to pretend to pray each time out of respect for the senior officers leading the prayers and for her fellow cadets.

    The ceremony would have been just as solemn, important and honorable (or more so) had this divisive intrusion into the realm of personal belief been left out. Why do these people think it is so important to have their personal beliefs publicly reinforced every time people gather for anything? I think they would demand an opening prayer for a cicle jerk if they could.

  • JR

    Where is the “turn the other cheek” in all of this?  What I see in this ceremony and what I read in the responses is a shameful abundance of Pride.  Lest you forget, before the Original Sin there was a sin So Great that even the Greatest of all Angels was struck by it. I’m talking about Lucifer and Pride.  If you are a Believer – you should display a great abundance of Humility.

    THAT is what is plainly m i s s i n g in ALL of these so-called “Christians” who are more interested in verifying that theirs is the only club in town or at least the one firmly in control than actually following the teachings of Christ.

    Think about it.  Read your Good Book.  Let those without sin cast the first stone.

    In other words, all Good People STFU.  There is room for Everyone in a Public School.

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