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.