Missouri principal wows crowd, angers atheists with guarded 'God' references

A Missouri high school principal who garnered thunderous applause and a starring role in a viral video for a commencement speech in which he repeatedly invoked God in ways to dodge First Amendment objections has atheists seeing red.

Lebanon High School Principal Kevin Lowery can be seen on a 3-minute YouTube clip reminding graduates that the nation’s motto of “In God We Trust” can be found on U.S. currency and in Francis Scott Key’s original version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Lowery also wryly noted during the May 23 commencement that even though “God is reflected in the very fabric” of the nation, it would be inappropriate to mention The Almighty at a secular ceremony.

“So 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,” Lowery told students. “Thank you. And 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.”


Thunderous applause followed Lowery’s statement and the video was closing in on 100,000 views.

"If you were "offended" by this..I'd have to ask you HOW you could be offended by someone praying for nothing but wonderful things for this student!" wrote one commenter. "He wasn't asking anyone to join a church, a religion or to leave one...he simply asked that they would be protected and blessed."

But dozens of others commenting on the video blasted Lowery, as did Dave Muscato, a spokesman for American Atheists.

“I find this extremely objectionable,” Muscato said. “I think it’s clear that Kevin Lowery violated the spirit of the First Amendment separations of religion and government. This was an underhanded and dishonorable way for him to forcibly inject his personal religious views onto his students and the others present and into his role as a government official.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation also voiced concerns on Lowery’s speech, characterizing it as a “serious constitutional violation” in a letter to Lebanon School District Superintendent Duane Widhalm. District officials, meanwhile, told FoxNews.com they had no comment on Lowery’s speech.

“It is well settled that public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” the letter reads. “The Supreme Court has routinely struck down prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations.”

Lowery did not return requests for comment. But the high school principal, who has more than 1,700 followers on Twitter, thanked his students for the “special” ceremony on the social media platform, where some students referenced Lowery’s speech.

“My favorite part of LHS graduation is when @KevinGLowery ‘doesn't pray’ for the graduates,” Aaron Stewart posted. “We are blessed to have such a faithful leader!”

Another student, Sadie Ashton Staver, said she would miss the “best principal” in America.