Valedictorian Roy Costner IV of Liberty High School in South Carolina rips up his speech before reciting the Lord's Prayer instead.

Christian Student Cheered for Prayer, Native Student Snubbed for Feather

ICTMN Staff
6/7/13

While a Native American student from Alabama could still face a $1,000 fine and has yet to receive her diploma for wearing a single eagle feather on her graduation cap May 23, the Christian Valedictorian of a South Carolina school was cheered for reciting the Lord’s Prayer during his graduation speech.

When Roy Costner IV took the stage June 1 to recite his speech to the graduating class of Liberty High School in Liberty, South Carolina, he ripped up his speech and instead recited the Lord’s Prayer.

As soon as he begins, the crowd erupts in cheers because the Pickens County School District had recently decided to no longer include prayer in graduation ceremonies. In the video you can see no visible reaction from the teachers seated behind him. According to reports on MSN and Yahoo News he was not disciplined for breaking the new rules.

“The bottom line is: We’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths,” John Eby, a spokesperson for the Pickens County School District, told Yahoo News.

Chelsey Ramer, Poarch Creek Band of Indians, wore an eagle feather to her May 23 graduation from Escambia Academy in Alabama. (Chelsey Ramer)Chelsey Ramer, a member of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, wore an eagle feather in her cap at her May 23 graduation from Escambia Academy in Atmore, Alabama. Before the ceremony the school board wanted all the students to sign a contract forbidding any “extraneous items during graduation exercises.”

Ramer never signed the contract but still faces disciplinary action for expressing her Native heritage during the ceremony. (Related story: “Poarch Creek Student Fined for Wearing Eagle Feather at Graduation)

So a white student decides to stand up and demonstrate his religious beliefs and gets cheered. A Native student does the same and can’t get her diploma and gets fined? A juxtaposition that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the online community.

A user-generated post titled “So a Native American girl gets no diploma and a $1000 fine for putting a feather in her cap, while a Christian valedictorian disobeys rules by reciting prayer and gets standing ovation” on Reddit has been pushed to the front page of the site by other users with more than 15,000 upvotes and 1,630 comments. And those numbers are steadily increasing.

The original poster on Reddit says, “It’s just frustrating to me that when reading these two stories side by side, it comes across as ‘Hey you Indian, stop expressing your culture! This is no place for your savagery. No diploma for you, and now you owe me money for some reason! Oh, hey Christian kid, you weren’t supposed to be inciting prayer at this event. Ahh well, whattya gonna do? You little skamp, hehehe.’”

User Azbug on Reddit says, “What kills me is she worked for four years to get those grades and walk with her class. Somehow, showing one small bit of honor and pride in her ancestry automatically erases her four years of achievement... The other sad commentary is that young man had the opportunity to speak directly to his class, faculty, and the families of the graduates. Instead of saying something interesting or profound, he chose to cough up something that shows no introspection on growing up... On the other hand, the native girl merely whispers deep personal convictions, and is mercilessly stepped on.”

Ramer’s family is currently not commenting on the events and Escambia Academy is closed until Monday. Maybe next week we will find out if and when Ramer will get her diploma and if the school board will in fact make her family pay the fine. At least she won’t have to pay the fine out of her college fund.

An indiegogo fund started by Dan Morrison, communications director at First Peoples Worldwide, raised the full amount to pay the fine in just five days. As of today, the fund has $1,070 in it. If the family does not have to pay the fine, the money will go toward her education. (Related story: “Poarch Creek Student’s Fine Raised by Online Donations)

Watch the video of Costner’s speech

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Comments

andrea myers's picture
andrea myers
Submitted by andrea myers on
freedom of religious expression should be across the board...and applies to all faiths...from saying a prayer or wearing a feather, at least that is what our Constitution still guarantees. Let's hope more brave souls like these two stand up for their beliefs.

Glamtrastic's picture
Glamtrastic
Submitted by Glamtrastic on
This is the same %$#@& religion they were always shoving down Indians throats for generation after generation. They can violate their own policies and practices simply because of their race, but the penalties of wearing a feather which symbolizing a religion of a minority is less significant and therefore the individual is subject to more serve public ridicule and punishment. Again, religion has no place within the public school systems unless it is a practice within a private school specific to that religion.

Esther Bolmanski-Wagner's picture
Esther Bolmansk...
Submitted by Esther Bolmansk... on
I'm not against people for having their religious beliefs but, that young man broke the rules and needed to have a consequence. Pushing your beliefs on someone else at a social function is just wrong. I bet there were some students who weren't the same religion as that young man. If someone did the "Lord's Prayer" at my graduation I would have got up and left. There is a time and a place to express your love for God or whatever you believe in. The young lady with the feather being fined $1000.00 is ridiculous. Don't fine her or "Hold her diploma". What's the point?

Jim Limbach's picture
Jim Limbach
Submitted by Jim Limbach on
One hypocrisy after another. Too bad folks choose exclusion when what is needed is inclusion of all the Human Family.

KL Anderson's picture
KL Anderson
Submitted by KL Anderson on
This is absurd. If the people of the school are not completely ignorant of the Native culture they have no excuse for their actions. If they are completely ignorant of the Native culture they have no excuse for being part of a school system that includes Native students.

twocrows's picture
twocrows
Submitted by twocrows on
i wonder what would have happened if he was in alabama and she was in south carolina? nothing different i am sure.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
The next time you see a Religious Liberty sticker or hear Christians complaining about being "oppressed", remember this article, and what happened to all the tribes.

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