The controversy over a student’s objection to a prayer being offered at tonight’s Bastrop High School graduation has gone global.
People from Bastrop, across America and in several foreign countries have sent e-mails of support for the student who e-mailed school officials on Tuesday, telling them he would notify the American Civil Liberties Union if the graduation ceremony contained a prayer.
Morehouse Parish School System attorney Steve Katz advised school officials that case law supported the student’s objection to prayer at a school-sanctioned function.
Within hours after the public learned that the prayer had been removed from the program, principals in the story began receiving hundreds of e-mails of support for the student’s decision to, as Christina Niermann stated, “... finally gain the courage to speak out.”
Niermann, of Green Bay, Wisc., said she understands through first-hand experience what it’s like to be persecuted when you don’t believe what others believe.
“As an atheist, I can completely understand what it feels like to be surrounded by religion and prayer,” Niermann wrote. “Although religious people may feel like it is unoffensive, it really feels like drowning. There is little escape from it, and when you finally gain the courage to speak out, there is no response except for people lashing out at you.”
Roxanne Murray of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as did others, feels the student should be lauded for taking an unpopular stand.
“I hope that the town of Bastrop is proud of [the student],” Murray wrote. “There aren't many young men of his age who have the courage of their convictions, and who would be willing to take an unpopular public stance in defense of those minority rights which prevent majority rule from becoming mob rule. I hope to live long enough to see the day when this sort of self-sacrifice is not necessary to make schools comply with federal law.”
Michelle Robinson of Bastrop was chosen to represent a portion of e-mails received from people who identify themselves as Christians who support the decision to take prayer from the program.
Robinson wrote that she felt the student “ ... received torment from the whole community just because of [their] wish to be free of religious influence while in a school setting.
“I am a Christian, and while I wish that Duncan would convert to Christianity and accept Jesus Christ as his LORD, I also acknowledge the fact that this is America and people are free to worship how they want.”
Robinson closed her e-mail by stating she personally would not mind a Christian prayer being offered at the ceremony.
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“... I shudder to think of what would happen if a MUSLIM or JEWISH prayer was read. Because of that we must be free of all religious influence in our public institutions. My church will always stand strong and so will my faith. Keep your government out of my religion and I will keep my religion out of your government.”