Student Obeys God Rather Than Men in Graduation Speech
I love it when someone stands up for the truth when the whole world is watching and powerful sinister groups want to shut him down.
Valedictorian Roy Costner IV of Liberty High School — note the name — tore up his “pre-approved speech,” dismissed legal threats from the ACLU and Freedom From Religion Foundation, thanked God, and recited the Lord’s Prayer before the graduating class.
The school district was under pressure to keep prayer out of meetings and gatherings, but this did not stop Costner from saying what he wanted to say. He thanked his parents who led him to Christ at an early age.
He went on to say, “I think most of you will understand when I say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven. . . .’” as he began to recite the Lord’s Prayer in defiance of the school censors and the threats from the anti-Christian bullying organizations.
“Brian Hoover, who is from Liberty and attended the graduation, said, ‘You couldn’t even hear him doing the prayer anymore because everybody was clapping and cheering.’
“Costner finished, pointing his finger in the air for emphasis, saying, ‘For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen,’ followed by more cheers and applause.”
Here’s the question: Did Costner do the right thing biblically and constitutionally? The simple answer is yes and yes.
The Bible is clear that there are certain times when we “must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), and this was one of those times. Peter was given “strict orders not to continue teaching in [Jesus’] name (v. 28).” He ignored the order and continued to preach. Of course, there were consequences, but in terms of what the Bible indicates, Peter followed the biblical directive.
Some people might point to Jesus’ directive that we must always “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matt. 22:21). This statement implies that not everything is Caesar’s. There are limitations to Caesar’s jurisdiction and authority.
Taking a stand for Christ does not mean that there may not be religious and/or civil repercussions. Doing the right thing before God could have terrible legal consequences when we consider how anti-God governments and oppressive religious systems function.
While the principle of rendering under Caesar is valid, we do not live under Caesar. We live under the Constitution. The Constitution is our Caesar.
The First Amendment outlines five freedoms: religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. Costner’s defiance was constitutional in that there is no South Carolina law prohibiting him from expressing his religious beliefs, the First Amendment cannot prohibit “the free exercise of religion,” or the right to speak freely. Since he wrote out his speech, he is also protected under the “freedom of the press” clause.