A Kentucky high school continued its tradition of having a student lead a prayer during graduation ceremonies, despite objections by at least six students.
Jonathan Hardwick, Class of 2013 president at Lincoln County High School in Stanford, was given a standing ovation after he delivered a prayer during Friday’s commencement, the Advocate-Messenger reported.
A video of Hardwick’s prayer quickly hit social media websites such as YouTube and Topix, according to the paper, with most online comments supporting Hardwick’s decision.
“Thank you for helping us get here safely today, Lord, and thank you for the many blessings you have given us,” Hardwick said as part of the prayer.
Lincoln High Principal Tim Godbey, in an interview with the paper, acknowledged that six students — including at least one atheist — had asked him not to allow a student-led prayer as part of the school’s graduation ceremony.
Godbey, who is Christian, said under separation of church and state laws, faculty members have never been able to pray publicly on school grounds or during school-sponsored functions.
He noted, however, that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit students from praying as long as they are not disruptive.
Ricky Smith, an atheist who has been lobbying for a “moment of silence” to replace prayer during government meetings in the area, told the paper he intends to notify the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom from Religion Foundation about Lincoln’s public prayer, which he feels violated the civil rights of students who are not Christians.