The graduation ceremony at Medina Valley High School in Castroville, Texas, on Saturday was filled with prayers and was likened to a revival meeting.
The crowd applauded after speakers said “Amen,” a word that was prohibited until the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals late Friday granted an emergency appeal to allow prayer at the commencement ceremony.
“The judge of all judges commands us to pray,” said Rep. John V. Garza (R-San Antonio), according to The San Antonio Express-News. “I still cringe thinking some left group would complain or file a lawsuit … I thank God that all is well this evening and none of us will be thrown in jail.”
Garza noted that his daughter called upon God when she graduated last year.
Notably absent from the graduation ceremony is Corwyn Schultz, the senior at Medina Valley whose parents, Christa and Danny Schultz, filed a lawsuit against the Medina Valley School District to prevent prayers at his high school graduation. Corwyn had said he might not attend his graduation if other students are allowed to pray during the event, and apparently he really did not show up. The agnostic student did not walk across the stage to receive his diploma.
Initially, the Schultzes, with the help of Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, won their lawsuit and prayer was banned at Medina Valley’s high school graduation ceremonies. U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery favored the Schultzes and mostly agreed that allowing the school to hold an official invocation and benediction would be school sponsorship of religion.
But a firestorm of criticism broke out after Biery’s ruling, with the Medina Valley Independent School District, the state Attorney General Greg Abbott, and the Medina Valley High School valedictorian Angela Hildenbrand filing for an emergency appeal of the prayer ban.
News of the controversy even reached Texas Governor Rick Perry who criticized Judge Biery’s ruling as “reprehensible” and demonstrating “the increasing inappropriate federal encroachment into the lives of Americans …”
Perry said he fully supported Abbott’s effort to defend the right to pray, and stated that “Texas will continue to stand behind all those who wish to pray in our state.”
Although Medina Valley Independent School District won the emergency appeal on graduation prayer, the lawsuit is not over yet; it remains pending in federal court.