Federal judge lifts ban on prayer at graduation

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by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on June 3, 2011 at 8:53 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 3 at 10:27 PM

A ban on prayer at graduation was lifted late Friday.  Prior to that decision by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Medina Valley High School valedictorian, Angela Hildenbrand, was confident.

"I do intend to pray at my speech on Saturday," said Hildenbrand.

Earlier this week, a Federal district judge ruled Hildenbrand would not be allowed to pray.  He also prohibited the district from using the word invocation and benediction in the graduation program. But that decision was overturned Friday afternoon.  

"What this court decision does is perfectly consistent with the United States Constitution in recognizing these students' First Amendment rights," said Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott.

Before Reagan High Graduates tossed their caps in the air, they listened to their valedictorian, Antonio Lopez.  While he did not pray or refer to God in his speech, he says his faith is important to him and he supports Hildebrand's right to pray if she wants to.

"Some people might not believe in God, but others do and they might be strong about it," said Lopez.  "I think it should be allowed."

Many in the audience agreed.

"If she's proud to say, hey, 'God helped me through this,'  I don't see why she shouldn't be able to say that," said Jackie Ochoa, who attended graduation.

"We allow so much other garbage to go on, but we're not going to let a girl pray," said Sean Davis, who attended graduation.  "What's that all about?"

Others, even Christians like Lori Williamson, disagree.

"You have to draw the line somewhere between religion and the rules how people feel," said Williamson, who attended graduation.

"What if 20 of the kids in there are Jewish and don't believe in her same beliefs?  The separation of church and state is tantamount to our constitution, but freedom of religion is right along there with it. We just need to keep them separate," said Michelle Powell, who attended graduation.

The Medina Valley High School graduation is Saturday. Medina Valley is located west of San Antonio.  Attorney General Abbott says it's possible the parents of the agnostic student who filed the suit could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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