Class President Objects After Ky. High School Cancels Graduation Prayer

The decision by a central Kentucky public high school to have student-led prayer removed from its graduation ceremony has caused some students to protest, arguing that they wish to not break the years-long tradition of having a prayer at their graduation ceremony.

"If I want to pray, the school can't stop me," Jonathan Hardwick, senior class president of Lincoln County High School, located in Stanford, Ky., recently told the local WKYT.

Hardwick is one of the students at the local high school who would like his graduation ceremony to contain a student-led, Judeo-Christian prayer.

"It's a way of celebrating an important event in our life with a prayer to something that has helped us and guided us through a major part of our life," Hardwick told the local news station. "If I want to have a prayer the school can't stop me, but if the school can't say come up here and pray that's the school supporting prayer, but if I want to pray they can't stop me."

As student class president, Hardwick will speak at the graduation, and although a student-led prayer cannot take place at the ceremony, a speaker at the event may incorporate prayer or God into their speech due to First Amendment rights.

According to Central Kentucky News, six students at the high school reportedly came forward to Principal Tim Godbey to protest a student-led prayer at the upcoming May 24 graduation ceremony.

Godbey told Central Kentucky News that this "marks the first year we've had dissension" regarding the traditional prayer led by students every year at the high school.

Legally, the school's faculty cannot sponsor a Christian prayer, but the students have the right to lead one out loud at the ceremony.

The students reportedly vote each year on whether they would like to participate in a student-led prayer during their graduation, and because six students came forward to contest, the prayer will not take place.

Bradley Chester, a self-proclaimed atheist and senior at Lincoln County High School, told WKYT that he suggested to Principal Godbey that a moment of silence be observed instead of a student-led prayer because he feels "you shouldn't force your religion upon anybody."

"This is a place for school not a church. I feel like I'm graduating from Lincoln County High, not Lincoln County church," Chester added.

Although evidently the majority of students at this central Kentucky high school prefer for a student-led prayer to be delivered, the students contesting the prayer have been hailed by some as "brave" for speaking out in a predominately Christian community.

"I call these students brave because, in a predominantly Christian area, they're still willing to put themselves on the line and risk becoming social pariahs for the sake of doing the right thing," atheist blogger Hemant Mehta wrote on his Patheos blog recently.

Others, however, argue that the high school should maintain its tradition and continue its observance of student-led prayer, especially because so few students contested the act in the first place.

"Let's be praying for Lincoln County High School that they will allow prayer at their school graduations!" Mark McFadden of Corbin, Ky., recently tweeted.

As Godbey told the Central Kentucky News, the class of 2014 will once again be able to vote on whether to have a student-led prayer.