- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An atheist at Lincoln County High School in Kentucky expressed discomfort — and a threat to sue — over a student-led prayer during graduation ceremonies.

The prayer, from 2013 graduating class president Jonathan Hardwick, lasted about a minute and included a simple expression of gratitude: “Thank you for helping us get here safely today, Lord, and thank you for the many blessing you have given us,” The Danville Advocate-Messenger reported.

But Ricky Smith, a Christian-turned-atheist, said the prayer was uncomfortable and possibly illegal — even though he left the graduation ceremony during prayer time, The Daily Caller reported. He said he felt intimidated by the brief prayer, The Daily Caller said.

“Having church groups at the entrance of the school makes non-Christian students as well as their family members and friends feel uncomfortable and even threatened,” he said to The Advocate-Messenger. “Every student should feel safe at their graduation ceremony and should not have to worry about religious bullying.”

Mr. Smith said he was going to alert the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Lincoln County High School Principal Tim Godbey said student-run prayers do not violate the Constitution and do not mean the government is pushing one religion over another, The Daily Caller reported.

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

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