Tuesday, June 7, 2011

High School Valedictorian Appeals to 5th Circuit to Allow Prayer at Graduation

As valedictorian, Angela Hildenbrand had planned to say a prayer during her speech at graduation on June 4.

That was before the parents of one of her classmates sued, claiming her prayer would violate the U.S. Constitution. A federal district judge agreed, and now the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been asked to intervene to allow the prayer to go on.

“I had hoped to use prayer to encourage my fellow graduates to trust God’s plan for their lives,” said Angela, one of 238 graduates at Medina Valley High School, near San Antonio. “I am horrified that after all that I have learned about the freedom of speech and religion in our country, I would be asked to remove a reference to my faith. I pray that the 5th Circuit Court will overturn this judge’s ruling and allow me to freely express my religious viewpoint.”

The Liberty Institute, the school district and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed emergency appeals after Judge Fred Biery issued the decision May 31. He ruled that students cannot: “present a prayer” or “end their remarks with ‘amen’ or ‘in a (deity’s name) we pray.’” In addition, “they shall not otherwise deliver a message that would commonly be understood to be a prayer, nor use the word ‘prayer’ … to encourage others who may not believe in prayer, to join and believe the same concept.”

The district was ordered to remove “invocation” and “benediction” from its graduation program, and replace them with “opening remarks” and “closing remarks.”

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