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Graduation Prayer Report

From: user 3.
Sent on: Friday, May 25, 2007 11:24 AM
Friends in Atheism,

I just sat through the first 20 minutes of the Round Rock High School 
graduation ceremony at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Here is my report:

A prayer was said to "God" and the word "God" was only mentioned once in the 
prayer, though the entire prayer was directed to "God" from everyone in 
attendance, or at least that was the implication from the wording of the 
prayer. It was "God" help us be strong and brave in the face of 
adversity...etc. It lasted about 40 seconds and was thoroughly offensive to 
me. All kinds of secular concepts were attributed to the universal control 
of that "God," as if no one there could possibly have graduated from that 
public school without being a devout Christian.

No one disrupted that I could hear, and it took great strength for me not to 

I got a graduation program and it doesn't mention the prayer. Instead it 
says "Our Thanks, Tulsi Gajera, Student Council Treasurer."  That's the 
person who said the prayer. I suspect that the reason it was called "Our 
Thanks" instead of "Benediction" is that the vote over whether to have the 
prayer or not happened well after the programs were designed and printed. (3 
of the 4 high schools' seniors voted to have the prayers at their 
graduations. None of the votes were landslides.)

I also don't like prayers to flags, which they also had in the form of the 
Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Also before that, the school band played 
one stanza from America the Beautiful. Ugh.

I've attended several graduation ceremonies, only two of which directly 
involved me, and every time I go to one, I am made to feel like a total 
alien, a foreigner in someone else's land. It's hard to think of America 
being for the free after that. All because of someone's religion being 
injected into what should be a secular graduation for a secular public 

One interesting note was that at least 150 of the graduates' chairs went 
unoccupied well into the ceremony. I theorize that some of them couldn't 
make it, didn't care, or were boycotting over the prayer. I thought of lots 
of good reasons to not attend one's own graduation, and it reminds me that 
those who didn't show up didn't get to make their views known there and 
then. That works and worked out fine for the religion pushers in public 
schools. Religion is a way to segregate people with the effectiveness of a 
criminal law. It's not 100% effective every time, but it sure seems that 

I hope we as a movement learn something from each of these religious public 
school situations. I've learned that in public schools, where democracy 
doesn't normally exist, it doesn't work their either. Today's prayer pushing 
faculties were once students themselves, so there's no sense in expecting 
fairness out of either, just because of some silly election scheme. 
Christianity will shove itself in where it doesn't belong, honesty be 
damned. It's no mistake that there's no commandment that says "Thou shalt 
not lie."

Other than that, it's a beautiful rainy day in Austin! :o)

If you'd like to help me with Atheist activism in Texas, please contact me!

Joe Zamecki
Texas State Director
American Atheists
Austin, TX
[address removed]

"I don't care whether I succeed or whether I fail, as long as I'm trying!" 
Madalyn Murray-O'Hair"

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