- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2013

An atheist group is pointing fingers at the school board for a South Carolina valedictorian who ripped up his prepared remarks at a graduation ceremony and instead recited the Lord’s Prayer.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation said the Pickens County School District is actually at fault for creating a pro-Christian atmosphere that encouraged proselytizing — and that tone indirectly prompted the 18-year-old graduate, Roy Costner IV, to recite the prayer during his podium address, Raw Story reported.

“The valedictorian who so insensitively inflicted Christian prayer on a captive audience at a secular graduation ceremony is a product of a school district which itself has set an unconstitutional example by hosting school board prayer,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF, in Raw Story.

FFRF has been attuned to the Christian atmosphere at the school for some time, she said. Members have sent several letters to school administration officials, warning that the prayers spoken during board monthly meetings are unconstitutional and accusing of discriminatory job practices that favor Christians, Raw Story reported. In the face of looming lawsuits, the school cut prayers at graduation ceremonies.

But Mr. Costner went rogue during his graduation remarks — sparking a supportive cheer from graduation attendees that grabbed the ears of the nation, but angered the atheist group further.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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