Kentucky's Lincoln County High School’s graduation ceremony included a student-led prayer last Friday, despite objections from at least six of the school’s students.
A YouTube video of the prayer, led by the 2013 class president Jonathan Hardwick, shows Hardwick receiving a standing ovation after he thanked the Lord for blessing the class of 2013 with many talents.
Earlier this year, several students complained to school officials that including a prayer in the graduation ceremony would infringe on their constitutional rights, according to WKYT. At least one student, who identifies as atheist, reportedly asked the school hold a moment of silence instead.
In previous years, the school relied on a unanimous vote to determine whether or not a prayer would be held during the graduation ceremony. This year, amid students' objections, the school did not hold a vote or include a prayer in the ceremony's schedule, principal Timothy Godbey told The Huffington Post.
At the same time, Godbey noted that Hardwick's First Amendment rights allowed him to include a prayer in his speech.
When The Interior Journal contacted Hardwick earlier this month, the student hadn't decided "whether he will pray during his speech to classmates. He said he listened to the six students who don't want prayer and can empathize with their situation."
"Student speakers [including Hardwick] turned speeches into me, and there was no prayer in the speech," Godbey told HuffPost.
Local activist Ricky Smith told The Advocate-Messenger that he feels the prayer violated the rights of non-Christian students. He said he plans to notify the American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom From Religion Foundation.
On the other hand, some YouTube commenters voiced support for Hardwick’s decision to lead the prayer.
“Good lookin out! Way to go mr. Hardwick standing up for your Christian beliefs.. If we had a handful more like you in this world it would be a lot better of a place!,” wrote TonyaTR Sizemore-Bishop.
“I though all was lost but you have given me hope in the new generation. Thank you for standing up for what you believe in,” wrote EandD Torres.