(4/18/2003) The separation of church and state, as it applies to prayer in school, is a hotly contested (and often greatly misunderstood) debate. Tales of students and school officials who have stood up against the system are popular, but often misreported, as in this case.
SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT
They walked in tandem, each of the ninety-three students filing into the already crowded auditorium.
With rich maroon gowns flowing and the traditional caps, they looked almost as grown up as they felt.
Dads swallowed hard behind broad smiles, and moms freely brushed away tears.
This class would not pray during the commencements ----- not by choice but because of a recent court ruling prohibiting it. The principal and several students were careful to stay within the guidelines allowed by the ruling. They gave inspirational and challenging speeches, but no one mentioned divine guidance and no one asked for blessings on the graduates or their families.
The speeches were nice, but they were routine.......until the final speech received a standing ovation.
A solitary student walked proudly to the microphone. He stood still and silent for just a moment, and then he delivered his speech. An astounding-- SNEEZE!
The rest of the students rose immediately to their feet, and in unison they said, "GOD BLESS YOU."
The audience exploded into applause. The graduating class found a unique way to invoke God's blessing on their future with or without the court's approval.
Isn't this a wonderful story? Pass it on to all your friends......... and GOD BLESS YOU!!!!
In God We Trust, United We Stand
END CHAIN LETTER TEXT
Aside from a liberal application of creative license, the story above is basically true and was reported by local and national press.
The commencement ceremony described was for the Washington Community High School class of 1991. Class valedictorian Natasha Appenheimer and the American Civil liberties Union won a court injunction the day before graduation that banned any type of prayer at the event. Even though the Benediction and invocation were suggested by the students and intended to be student-led, U.S. District Judge Joe B. McDade ruled that, since the prayers were subject to teacher review and would be promoted in school-printed programs, that the prayers violated the constitutional separation of church and state.
During the ceremony, Ryan Brown, a fellow student and one of the scheduled speakers, paused on his way to the podium to bow in silent prayer, which was greeted with cheers. During his speech, he faked a sneeze, and a few students, with whom he had previously arranged, shouted "God Bless You" in response.
Subtle protests by students were seen throughout the ceremony. Many used tape to spell out the words "Let's Pray" and "Amen" on their caps, while others wore cross necklaces passed out before the ceremony.
When inspirational stories like this are often criticized because they omit verifiable facts, you'd think that the author of the above would have been certain to include the "who, what and where" of this one. But, he or she didn't, causing this rare bit of truth to fall into the realm of urban legend. For this reason, I must recommend you break this chain