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Valedictorian Rips Up Preapproved Speech, Recites Prayer Instead

My high school graduation was so long ago (13 years to be exact) that I cannot recall one word that our valedictorian said in his speech. I'm sure some inspirational words were said, and we were told to go and make our way in the world. As well thought-out as the speech likely was, it did not become a news story.

That's not the case with a valedictorian's speech at Liberty High School in Liberty, South Carolina. When Roy Costner IV approached the podium, he ripped up his preapproved speech. The crowd seemed a bit stunned, not knowing what to expect next. That's when Costner began reciting a prayer, the Lord's Prayer, word for word. Many students in the audience began applauding. The teachers and faculty members seated on the stage behind Costner did not visibly react.

So why did Costner choose this time to say a prayer? The stunt was apparently in protest of the new decision made by the Pickens County School District to no longer include prayer at graduation ceremonies. As you can hear from the students' applause, many of them agreed with Costner pulling the switcheroo and standing up for what he believed was right.

John Eby, a spokesperson for the Pickens County School District, said, "The bottom line is: We're not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths." The YouTube video of Costner's prayer speech has been viewed more than 245,000 times so far since being uploaded just three days ago. Most commenters think highly of Costner and his courage to exercise his First Amendment right. Other viewers disagree and do not think that the graduation was the appropriate time or place to express his religious views to the student body and their guests.

[Related: Pennsylvania School Board Won't Let Transgendered Student's Male Name Be Read During Graduation Ceremony]

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