STANFORD, Ky. (AP) — A student-led prayer went on at a central Kentucky high school graduation, despite the opposition of at least six students
Lincoln County High School 2013 Class President Jonathan Hardwick received a standing ovation after he prayed for about a minute during Friday's commencement ceremony at the school. The Advocate-Messenger reported (http://bit.ly/Za3Sz5 ) many audience members echoed his closing of "Amen."
Part of the class president's prayer was the following, "Thank you for helping us get here safely today, Lord, and thank you for the many blessings you have given us."
A video of Hardwick's prayer quickly hit social media websites such as YouTube and Topix.
Six students, including at least one atheist, pleaded with school officials to stop the planned prayer.
Earlier this month, Principal Tim Godbey acknowledged that six students asked him not to allow student-led prayer to be a part of the school's graduation ceremony. Godbey, a self-professed Christian who says he prays for each of his students daily, said under separation of church and state, faculty members have never been able to pray publicly on school grounds or during school-sponsored functions. However, he noted that the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit students from doing so as long as they are not otherwise disruptive.
Atheist activist Ricky Smith attended the graduation at the request of several parents. Smith 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.
"Every student should feel safe at their graduation and should not have to worry about religious bullying," Smith said.
Information from: The (Danville, Ky.) Advocate-Messenger, http://www.centralkynews.com/amnews