The high school valedictorian who bucked school board rules by inserting the Lord's Prayer into his commencement speech hopes his decision—captured on a viral YouTube clip and covered by national media—inspires other Christians to stand up for their faith.
"Taking prayer out of schools is the worst thing we could do," South Carolina grad Roy Costner IV told CNN.
He said God led him to the decision to stray from his approved speech and pray, despite his county's new policy against sectarian, student-led prayers.
But is the Lord's Prayer a sectarian one? Courts and Christians have debated whether the familiar prayer actually represents multiple faiths since no Christian tradition existed when Jesus introduced it in the New Testament. From some perspectives, Costner's prayer would fit the non-sectarian types allowed by the district, which isn't planning on punishing him.
Some states have recently adopted policies that support certain student-led prayer. Louisiana now allows students to use school space during non-instructional time to gather and pray, and Missouri now permits the free expression of religious beliefs in classroom settings and school events.