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

June 07, 2013

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



Pagans and Peons's picture
Pagans and Peons
Submitted by Pagans and Peons on

The focus groups who follow the tales of Jesus of Nazareth believe and spread, the idea that Native American are their enemy in spirit, if they do not believe in the same tales of the Jesus of Nazareth. So, it goes without saying the Crusade lives on.

jim's picture
Submitted by jim on

It's a horrible comparison. She was at a private school, he was in a public school. The schools are in different states. There's no similarity here.

Pediowoman's picture
Submitted by Pediowoman on

no racism or religious bias in the good ol' USA no sir eeeee..........

well as long as you are white and Christian...............

Milwaukee Mike's picture
Milwaukee Mike
Submitted by Milwaukee Mike on

It's a shame that the Christian community has to portrayed as the villian when in fact it's political correctness and the effort by the boisterous few who would do away with all spiritual and other religious tradition that most of our country's citizens observe.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Also South Carolina nad Alabama are two ifferent states. I could understand if the prayer happened in the same school and in the same state. But this one just doesn't make any sense. In stead of writing an artical like this. We just need words and articals that help support this girl more.

Kate Mabry's picture
Kate Mabry
Submitted by Kate Mabry on

It is a tragic state of affairs when our U.S. Constitutional "rights" of religious and cultural expressions are denied. There is still an ongoing attempt to suppress Native American culture which was attempted in the last several centuries and is sadly apparent in this century. Mr. Costner and Ms. Ramer both broke their school rules and I applaud both of these courageous youngsters for standing up for their religious and cultural beliefs. It is disappointing that Ms. Ramer did not receive her diploma nor applause from those present at her graduation ceremony. She certainly deserves proper legal representation to resolve this in her benefit.

Kate Mabry

Mr. Lee's picture
Mr. Lee
Submitted by Mr. Lee on

To me, it sounds like the young man read the Lords Prayer as a protest to those who want to stifle religious beliefs, especially christian beliefs. I commend him. I'm glad he got away with it. It also seems that she wore the feather in honor of her ancestry, and I commend her for that. That her school is penalizing her is criminal. The Dean and school board members that are denying her her earned diploma should be taken out to the public square and flogged. I am SICK of Atheists and the PC Police attempts to stifle personal beliefs.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on


Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

I am offended that they would snub and fine the young lady for wearing the feather on her cap.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

I am offended that they would snub and fine the young lady for wearing the feather on her cap.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

I am offended that they would snub and fine the young lady for wearing the feather on her cap.

Elaine Mitchell's picture
Elaine Mitchell
Submitted by Elaine Mitchell on

This is so darn unfair. When are the white people going to let us be ourselves. She had just as much right to wear that eagle feather as the young man did who recited the prayer. Grow up, this is America. Quit acting racist and let us live and learn our culture. We do not push it of on you. But you can wrong us.

Elaine Mitchell's picture
Elaine Mitchell
Submitted by Elaine Mitchell on

This is so darn unfair. When are the white people going to let us be ourselves. She had just as much right to wear that eagle feather as the young man did who recited the prayer. Grow up, this is America. Quit acting racist and let us live and learn our culture. We do not push it of on you. But you can wrong us.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Different schools, different states. It's not okay, but I think the argument is a stretch.

Echo's picture
Submitted by Echo on

read these two stories the other day and end up so angry and sick of the discrimination that i about choked. the story of the native american had the info that one other student wore their feather but was not singled out. the students who wore their christian religious symbols did not get in trouble either. the feathers are presented to the students by their families as a part of their graduation.

Shoshana Littlebear's picture
Shoshana Littlebear
Submitted by Shoshana Littlebear on

Isn't the reason why Europeans came to this country was to find "Freedom of Religion ? " FREE to express ones Faith ????...well that is what the young lady was doing and to deny her right to express her Spiritual "RIGHT". Instead of fining the Young lady, you should THANK her for allowing YOU to be able to stand on her land and say what you say !!!!!!

Terri Homer's picture
Terri Homer
Submitted by Terri Homer on

This is so sad to me , everyone has a right to their religious beliefs , oh yeah we live in the U. S. run by the people who stole our land , took away the language and massacred as many of our ancestors as possible . Remember WE SHALL RETURN ! Not only us , but many awakened ones .

Sassyfrass's picture
Submitted by Sassyfrass on

Ms Tamer should be afforded the same consideration as Mr. Costner...I'm quite certain that had they both resided in Mr. Costner' s school district she would have been given that consideration... Both were honest intentions and we should celebrate that in our young people...

Vicki Jimerson's picture
Vicki Jimerson
Submitted by Vicki Jimerson on

How absurd! can America get!!~ ""Land of the FREE home of the Brave".. and money should not have been raised to pay the fine, that student is entitled to her diploma regardless.. And the other male student was also entitled to read what ever he chooses.. Shame and disgust and mockery this system has made of education...

Billy Wescogame S.r(Havasupai)'s picture
Billy Wescogame...
Submitted by Billy Wescogame... on

This kind of acts toward our people has gone on for many centuries, so this proves that RACISM does exist in today's society,I am one individual who can vouch for this too,because I was threatened also to have to stay in School Two more extra years because I didn't follow a dress code,I had hair down past my back pockets,I quit and studied at a local university's Law library,I eventually ended up getting a GED>

Helen France's picture
Helen France
Submitted by Helen France on

When will it ever end? Why would anyone fault someone for being proud of their heritage and or their beliefs? I applaud this young lady for loving who she is and being proud. She deserves the right! She is a true American, she is a Native American. She did nothing wrong and whoever say's that it is wrong is just an ignorant jackass! By the way, I am a middle aged white woman and I totally believe that the Native Americans are the only true Americans. We are the foreigners and always have been.

ned harper's picture
ned harper
Submitted by ned harper on

The American program in its many permutations to destroy Native American culture is fascistic. Here's an example that it's still alive and well, though no longer espoused by almost everyone. That is progress, all be it partial.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

This article makes no sense. The Indian went to a private school, and he went to a public school. That the vast majority of the audience agreed with the Christian of SC is wholly irrelevant as that rule presumably came from the Board of Directors. Though faculty has to answer to them, they're not obligated to enforce their rules. Had the same individual put a cross on his band, the private school almost certainly would have fined him too. The Indian knowingly broke the rule, even if that rule is dumb and should have been broken.

Whatever the case, this article makes no sense. It's typical of intellectually void journalists who think they're fighting against the very system that gives them a paycheck.

Miss Kaquoli Meli Reno's picture
Miss Kaquoli Me...
Submitted by Miss Kaquoli Me... on

This is wrong! She is a member of a tribe, our people were here first. We have a legal right to where an eagle feather! Give her the diploma she earned!

cuzsis's picture
Submitted by cuzsis on

Not news. Schools are super strict about what you can and can't wear to graduation and they enforce those rules quite thoroughly. When I graduated we got a very stern lecture about what the punishments would be for trying to skirt the dress code, they were more or less what this lady is now facing.

Graduation speeches, however, have always been given a bit of leeway. It's not a proper speech unless it's a bit edgy and would get you in trouble in other school places (I've frankly seen ones much "edgier" than his little prayer. :P )

This is apples and oranges. Had the native student given a speech and gotten in trouble, then I would be right with you guys. However, as anyone who's graduated recently (last 10 years or so) knows, you don't fark around with the dress code during graduation.

Sam's picture
Submitted by Sam on

Walking in right relationship is a good walk but a hard walk. It always has been and will likely ever be. The roots of wisdom are in this walk and will guide us accordingly. Our culture is given to us by one far greater than a school administrator. Keep walking Chelsey Ramer. In spirit I walk with you.

Shannon c Dawson's picture
Shannon c Dawson
Submitted by Shannon c Dawson on

This the dwn swng of the cycle of the cautrr of the destoryers, every 20 yrs or so it goes frm lax morels to extrem religious scary, or in the case of the 50s commie witch hunts, and ofcorse godless commies waz a hot target. then the late 60s it was free sex an social freedom movements, then back to the 80s win $ was god ,, an so on and so on.. Now we gots ta have som o dat ol "Good time ligion" !! I jest hope some religious nut dont blow up da world in a dunkun orgazum o spredin"DA WORD O ,??.

Lorraine Kay Kanosh Levi's picture
Lorraine Kay Ka...
Submitted by Lorraine Kay Ka... on

My Great Great Grandfather was and is a member of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. Wakara and his brother Chief Kanosh roamed the mountains and valleys of Utah. I am also half Shoshone and some of my family members were in the Bear River Massacre here again in Utah. It is just like The American Education Administration to side with a white person rather than a Native Ameican, always repressiong progress, it is just like when our anestors were told to refrain from speaking our native languages and to refrain from our traditional rituals, doning a Eagle feather is a symbol of honor. I thought that all Native American's were able to have an Eagle feather as part of there heritage, this is an outrage. Totally racist educators in Atmore, Alabama. She should wear her Eagle Feather proud, as a Native American I am proud of her stance.