Don’t Mess with Prayer in Texas

Students can still thank God in Texas.

As has been the case for commencement ceremonies at most schools for most of the history of the United States, Medina Valley High School in Castroville, Texas sought to have an invocation or benediction at the beginning of their graduation ceremony. At this school it has often been customary in recent years to allow class valedictorian to lead the benediction so as to not ruffle the feathers of those who would deny school officials the job of doing so. But apparently some think even this will bring “irreparable harm” to some faint-hearted students. And last week, one Federal District judge in Texas agreed:

The original lawsuit was filed last week by an agnostic family whose son attends Medina Valley High School in Castroville, about 30 miles west of San Antonio. The Schultz family said their son would suffer “irreparable harm” if anyone prayed at the graduation ceremony.

[U.S. District Court Judge Fred] Biery ruled in favor of the Schultz family and ordered the school district to remove the words “invocation” and “benediction” from the program of ceremonies, replacing them with “opening remarks” and “closing remarks.” The judge further ordered that students and other speakers to refrain from asking those in the audience to “stand,” “join in prayer” or “bow their heads.”

“They shall not otherwise deliver a message that would commonly be understood to be a prayer, nor use the word ‘prayer,'” Biery wrote in his ruling.

This being Texas however, such things aren’t taken lightly. And after an emergency appeal was filed, a more sensible group of judges on a Federal Appeals court overturned the lower court judge.

The reality is that school functions like graduations aren’t merely ‘state’ functions. They are community functions that serve families and neighborhoods and individual students. They are celebrations of success and a rite of passage into adulthood. As such, they should be free to reflect the values and beliefs of the community. Any family who claims their child will be ‘irreparably harmed’ by exposure to a certain communities values should probably choose to send their child to another school, though I think such a claim is nonsensical on its face. If an 18 yr-old graduate is harmed by seeing a fellow student pray, then he or she probably isn’t ready for the bigger world anyway. And if an agnostic student ends up as valedictorian and gets to lead the ceremony of students and families at a public ceremony, they should be free to thanks whomever they think got them to the place they are, even if they think it is mere chance and luck.

Either way, it’s good to see freedom reign in Texas.

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11 Responses to Don’t Mess with Prayer in Texas

  1. kenetiks says:

    Freedom does not equal majority rules. I also do not feel that just because a person or communities sense of value equate to them being reasonable.

  2. The big outrage in this whole thing was the claim of irreparable harm and the prohibition on student speeches, literally court censorship of them.

    I may not agree that prayers at public functions are state endorsements of religion, but I can at least understand the argument. I don’t understand how anyone could consider the valedictorians speech a state endorsement of religion, even if she included a request for prayers or something like that. It is not any of the states business what students say in their speeches, personal appeals or reflection of their personal beliefs are not offensive in anyway that needs to be regulated.

    As for this claim of ‘irreparable harm’ that is just blatant foolishness.

  3. Nate says:

    Wrong account.

  4. Tristan Vick says:

    As my old college roommate used to say:

    “Don’t mess with Texas!”

    He was from Texas.

  5. Justin says:

    Another example of an atheist God-fit in which atheists somehow believe they have the constitutional right not to hear the word God, prayer, Amen, etc., in public.

    So, the initial judge, a Clinton appointee, decided as other judges have that it’s okay to violate people’s freedom of speech for the convenience (but not constitutionally protected convenience) of some.

    The student speakers who were affected by this decision are not employees of the state, nor do their speeches represent any endorsement of any views of the state, yet their freedom of speech was limited. The student speakers are not selected based on religious views, they’re selected based on academic performance. If a Jewish or Muslim or atheist student was valedictorian, I’d sit there respectfully and listen to their speech in honor of their academic acheivement and the platform to speak that they earned – whether I agree with them or not. It’s called tolerance. You don’t have to agree with someone, and the constitution does not guarantee people equal time, a platform, or insulation from being offended or inconvenienced.

    Unfortunately, militant atheists like this family aren’t interested in tolerance. They’re interested in having atheism be the state religion.

  6. kenetiks says:

    Another fail by Justin. Nice attempt to bear the fangs but only showing how biased your motivations truly are.

    However, the “irreparable harm” bit is fairly absurd, even to an atheist such as myself. But let’s be fair, the term was probably used by the legal representatives in this case and probably should(Although it won’t. Ammo baby!) be taken with a grain of salt.

    As a minority, atheists are accustomed to having to endure the religiosity of our countrymen. But this doesn’t make it correct. It simply means the majority gets to do pretty much do what they want and make the decisions for the rest of us.

    I notice the suggestion is that the atheist student can go somewhere else. You can’t possibly be serious. This statement is tragically inept.

  7. Nate says:

    No one was demanding he pray, no one was even suggesting he do so. The valedictorian wanted to do something religious in her speech, if she was a Muslim she would be just as free to do so regardless of the religious views of the audience.

    This kid took it from separation of church and state to censoring a private citizens speech because he simply didn’t want to hear it. That’s the tragedy.

  8. kenetiks says:

    I seriously doubt being a Muslim would have had an impact.

    The real shame is everyone rattling their sabers over it.

  9. Nate says:

    Atheists included. There was no issue to begin with and someone decided to invent one.

  10. Justin says:

    Another fail by Justin. Nice attempt to bear the fangs but only showing how biased your motivations truly are.

    I don’t think you’ve previously demonstrated a fail, but anyways….

    However, the “irreparable harm” bit is fairly absurd, even to an atheist such as myself. But let’s be fair, the term was probably used by the legal representatives in this case and probably should(Although it won’t. Ammo baby!) be taken with a grain of salt.

    The premise seems to be that irreparable harm happens when someone has to witness something they disagree with (either by hearing it or seeing it). Besides being nonsense…. If that’s the case, why do atheists think it’s then okay to put ads on the sides of public transportation? A little bit hypocritical I think. But the irreparable harm is ridiculous. The constitution simply does not grant people insulation from having to hear or see something they disagree with.

    As a minority, atheists are accustomed to having to endure the religiosity of our countrymen. But this doesn’t make it correct. It simply means the majority gets to do pretty much do what they want and make the decisions for the rest of us.

    Strawman. If it were an atheist, a Jew, or a Buddhist that was valedictorian, as I clearly stated, I wouldn’t mind listening to their speech. I wouldn’t get my panties in a wad over having to listen to it, either, simply because I disagree with what they say. They earned the platform from which they speak based on academic performance and they should be able to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights, minority or majority. The plight of the minority tripe is pretty irrelevant in this case.

    I notice the suggestion is that the atheist student can go somewhere else. You can’t possibly be serious. This statement is tragically inept.

    Seeing as how that was not my suggestion at all, nor was it even mentioned in my post, I think it’s your reading comprehension skills that are inept. Another strawman.

  11. kenetiks says:

    I don’t think you’ve previously demonstrated a fail, but anyways….

    One second, hilarity to ensue.

    This is what I said:

    However, the “irreparable harm” bit is fairly absurd, even to an atheist such as myself. But let’s be fair, the term was probably used by the legal representatives in this case and probably should(Although it won’t. Ammo baby!) be taken with a grain of salt.

    To which you reply:

    The premise seems to be that irreparable harm happens when someone has to witness something they disagree with (either by hearing it or seeing it). Besides being nonsense…. If that’s the case, why do atheists think it’s then okay to put ads on the sides of public transportation? A little bit hypocritical I think. But the irreparable harm is ridiculous. The constitution simply does not grant people insulation from having to hear or see something they disagree with.

    Moving right along…

    As a minority, atheists are accustomed to having to endure the religiosity of our countrymen. But this doesn’t make it correct. It simply means the majority gets to do pretty much do what they want and make the decisions for the rest of us.

    To which you reply:

    Strawman. If it were an atheist, a Jew, or a Buddhist that was valedictorian, as I clearly stated, I wouldn’t mind listening to their speech. I wouldn’t get my panties in a wad over having to listen to it, either, simply because I disagree with what they say. They earned the platform from which they speak based on academic performance and they should be able to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights, minority or majority. The plight of the minority tripe is pretty irrelevant in this case.

    In your first response you aren’t even addressing what I’m saying. You are attacking a position that I’m not even taking(This my good sir is a strawman.)

    In my second quote I’m only commenting on the state of affairs. I’m not arguing what the student should or should not be allowed to do or how he should be allowed to express himself now did I? In fact, I haven’t even commented on what I thought about the student or what is permissible at all. I’m not arguing any position but my subjective opinion and you again are arguing a position that I’m not taking. With the mild exception of your last sentence, sort of.

    I have said that I feel that “irreparable harm” was absurd but probably a term used in litigation and you completely ignored that. You kept right on frothing and foaming as if I’d said nothing at all. Which only demonstrates that your only motivation is to disagree with anything I say without real regard to what I say.

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