The Blogosphere is still debating Roy Costner IV’s decision last Saturday to defy his school district’s decision to exclude prayers from his high school’s graduation ceremonies. The South Carolina senior dramatically tore in half his officially approved graduation speech and recited the Lord’s Prayer.
Some bloggers are calling him courageous, others deceptive. Some are asking whether Christians would like it if a student Satanist prayed to his purported master. Some are citing U.S. Supreme Court decisions that call official prayers unconstitutional but student-initiated prayers A-OK, so school officials got the rebellion they deserved because they overstepped their authority.
Those are worthwhile discussion points, and it seems to me that one Bible text from Acts 5 is particularly relevant: “The high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’”
Even those who do not profess Christ, though, should grasp a crucial point: Officials all over the world are learning how hard it is to suppress the religious beliefs of millions. On the negative side, Muslims in many countries, and Hindus in India, persecute Christians even when the government says they should not. On the positive side, Christians in Eastern Europe often led the fight against their Communist governments, and Chinese government harassment has been unable to stop the spread of Christianity in China.
The U.S. lesson to take away from Roy Costner IV’s protest through prayer: Don’t try to suppress the religious beliefs of most Americans. Protecting minority religious rights is essential. Not giving government preference to one denomination over another is a central part of the Bill of Rights. But attempts to suppress expression of religious beliefs and create a naked public square will bring widespread disobedience—and if they do not, that’s when America will no longer be free.