Graduating seniors at East Liverpool High School in Ohio outsmarted atheists who had forced the school to eschew its 70-year-old tradition of singing the Lord’s Prayer at graduation ceremonies – the gutsy students simply read it aloud, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd.
The school in the tiny town of 13,000 had been threatened by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF). Because the school simply couldn’t afford the legal fees it would incur from a legal battle, it capitulated, agreeing to remove the song from the ceremony. School Board President Larry Walton said, "We said, 'Okay, we just won't do it anymore.' It was a decision made because we don't have a lot of money and we'd rather hire teachers than pay lawyers.”
Pastor Rodney Ohler, Salineville Assembly of God expressed his disappointment, saying, “The idea of one person or 2 or 3 standing up and saying they don't want prayer back in school or even singing or reciting is sad.”
There were hints that something might happen. Student Vice President Cami Post stated before the graduation, "I know a lot of my student body was uncomfortable with it, just because it is tradition to have prayer at our school … We're really big at traditions at this school and I think it would've been nice to have the same as my brother had whenever he graduated ... I think my class is very gifted. I think my class is super talented and that should be the focus.”
The gutsy students simply read it aloud, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd.
Sure enough, the 2016 valedictorian, Jonathan Montgomery, joined his class in reciting the Lord's Prayer, which reads:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
FFRF was co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter Annie in 1976. Gaylor has authored Women Without Superstition: No Gods - No Masters ; her husband Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose-Filled Life Without God and Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children.