Oh, come on. This is no surprise. Public schools mostly take religion for granted—it’s rife in athletics, in particular, but many of the ceremonies have prayers and ministers involved—so when a valedictorian speech damns her godless classmates to hell, it’s just a reflection of the culture.

The valedictorian’s speech was about Jesus Christ and suggested those who don’t believe would go to hell.

“I want to tell you that Jesus Christ can give you eternal life in heaven,” Spaulding said before the crowd. “If we die with that sin on our souls, we will immediately be pulled down to hell to pay the eternal price for our sins ourselves.”

One good sign: while many of the quoted people in the article think it was just fine for the class valedictorian to stand up and babble like a lunatic, the school superintendent was not one of them, and he called it “offensive and insensitive to some.” Also, there’s a poll associated with the article, and 2/3 are so far calling her harangue inappropriate.

As someone who has sat through more than my fair share of graduation speeches, I know that 99% of them are complete crap, with some, like this one, much worse than others. I detest the idea of administrators regulating what the kids are allowed to say, though, and think there are only two reasonable alternatives: give the speaker complete freedom to say whatever they want (within a strict time-limit), or get rid of the time-wasters all together. Seriously, if the class valedictorian wants to get up and demonstrate that she’s a mindless idiot, let her.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, parents sued (with the aid of a legal group endorsed by Jerry Falwell) to have the right to have teachers send religious flyers and brochures home in their students’ backpacks. They won. Except…well,
the local Unitarian Church and the secular summer camp, Camp Quest took advantage of the policy, too.

…the religious groups who shrieked about persecution when they were denied access to public schools are now shrieking just as loudly that the schools are “promoting atheism” by giving atheists the same access to a public forum as everyone else. Rick Scarborough called it “outrageous” that teachers have to hand out material with which they might personally disagree (a concern, I note, that was entirely absent when Christians like Scarborough were trying to force their way into the school). Some of the teachers are deeply concerned that handing out such material might imply that the school is officially endorsing or establishing atheism. Some are going even farther by refusing to hand out the flyers that they personally do not agree with.

Poor babies. I think the only just reward would be for their class valedictorian to get up to the lectern and announce that she’s an atheist, and that she then harangues them for 20 minutes on the inanity of religion.

Does anyone know of such an event? I doubt that Ms Spaulding’s pious diatribe will trigger any changes in policy, but I suspect that the first atheist in a school to use the graduation ceremony to speak out for reason and rationality would bring a swift end to any student speeches ever after…which wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing.


  1. #1 Caledonian
    June 3, 2007

    Those of us who were going on to good graduate schools or had other interesting plans sent him a flurry of emails explaining how he ruined our graduation.

    Ooh, rational expressions of how he harmed others! I’ll bet that not only bypassed his general disregard for the welfare of others, but penetrated his emotive-high over what I presume was his engagement!

    You should have done something productive, like hold a blanket party.

  2. #2 nicole
    June 3, 2007

    Makes me want to go back to school, and do a lot better this time around, so I could give this speech. Youth is so wasted on the young.

    Makes me wish I hadn’t wasted my speech as valedictorian when I had the chance…man, I could have pissed a lot of people off.

  3. #3 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 3, 2007

    I never had to sit through a high-school graduation. When it came time to leave Virgil I. Grissom High behind, I stayed in bed and slept. Then I woke up, read some Nabokov and went to a post-graduation party at a friend’s house. I don’t remember the party terribly well, so it must have been a blast.

    I like the idea of comparative religion classes, but I tremble (metaphorically speaking) at the thought of how they can and probably will be abused.

  4. #4 Ichthyic
    June 3, 2007

    A high school class’s top student took the show at her graduation with a nearly 20-minute speech urging her fellow students to find God

    ah, that explains the odd picture of the guy with the long white beard on my milk carton this morning.

    I’ve heard that if missing more than 48 hours, there is usually little chance of recovery.

  5. #5 David Marjanovi?
    June 3, 2007

    That seems to be the general European attitude these days — religion is a private affair –, except maybe in Poland, but even there I doubt it.

    But then, I’ve never heard of graduation speeches existing in Europe. Do they exist anywhere there?

  6. #6 David Marjanovi?
    June 3, 2007

    That seems to be the general European attitude these days — religion is a private affair –, except maybe in Poland, but even there I doubt it.

    But then, I’ve never heard of graduation speeches existing in Europe. Do they exist anywhere there?

  7. #7 Raging Braytard
    June 4, 2007

    The Culture Wars are being lost because of people like PZ, Dawkins, and most who comment here. Thank Wicca that we have Brayton and his mighty phallus of reason to fight for us.

  8. #8 Ichthyic
    June 11, 2007

    I agree that the children should be taught some religion for the sake of the society

    much like they should be taught about sexually transmitted diseases, for the sake of society.

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