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
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!
Texas State Director
"I don't care whether I succeed or whether I fail, as long as I'm trying!"
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