A Missouri high school principal has gained national fame after a viral video posted online shows his clever and dedicated attempt to reference God during the commencement speech for his graduating class of students, ultimately telling his audience: "God is still important."
Principal Kevin Lowery made the speech late last month at the commencement ceremony for students graduating from Lebanon High School. The three minute speech, recently posted to YouTube, shows the graduating class erupting in thunderous applause after Lowery finishes his heartfelt address.
During the speech, the principal manages to sneak "God" into parts of the address, while trying to avoid a violation of Separation of Church and State. Lowery mentions that one can find the phrase "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency and in the original version of "The Star Spangled Banner."
Lowery also mentions the reference to a "creator" in the United States' Declaration of Independence.
The principal then calls for a moment of silence, telling the students that he will be praying to God for their future. "And even though God is reflected in the very fabric of our nation, we are told that it is inappropriate and even illegal to mention God at high school graduations, let alone say a prayer."
"So while it would not be politically correct for us to have an official prayer this evening, I would like for us to have a moment of silence in honor of tonight's graduates."
Following the moment of silence, Lowery told the students that he prayed for them on their future paths."And just in case you're interested, during my moment of silence, I gave thanks to God for these great students, their parents, their teachers and for this community."
"I asked God to protect these students as they go their separate ways into the world. I asked God to avail himself in every possible way," he continued. "And I asked God to watch over them, to protect them, and to bless them with self-fulfillment, with compassion, inner peace, and personal prosperity."
"God is still important," Lowery added. The principal's speech has already gained over 100,000 views on YouTube since it was uploaded on May 30, and several of the comments praise the high school principal for standing up for his beliefs.
National atheist groups have condemned Lowery's recent comments, with American Atheists spokesperson Dave Moscato telling Fox News that he found the speech to be "extremely objectionable."
"I think it's clear that Kevin Lowery violated the spirit of the First Amendment separations of religion and government. This was an underhanded and dishonorable way for him to forcibly inject his personal religious views onto his students and the others present and into his role as a government official."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation also sent a letter to Lebanon School District Superintendent Duane Widhalm, calling Lowery's speech a "serious constitutional violation."
"It is well settled that public schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion," the letter reads. "The Supreme Court has routinely struck down prayers at school-sponsored events, including public school graduations."