The Expository Files

Stranger and Stranger

It was at the Bradley Central Elementary School's 1992 eighth grade spring graduation ceremony that I had been invited to give the benediction. I offered a prayer for the graduating class at the end of which there were several "amens" from the parents, most of which were sincere, a couple of which were made in derision. As the principle and I talked afterwards, he shook his head and said that he was afraid that we would not be having benedictions for much longer. He said the only reason we continued to do so is because no one had bothered to raise an objection, but if anyone did, then they would quit. It would be too expensive to go to court with it, so he was sure the school board would simply prohibit such "outrages" in the future. He also commented about the changes he had seen over the years in the students. So many more had serious discipline problems. He saw a connection between the decline in spiritual interests and the decline in morality.

No one ever objected locally, but that was the last benediction after all. A month afterwards the United States Supreme Court officially ruled that what I had done had been a constitutional violation. No more mixing prayer, the Bible and public schools together. Never mind that the original intent of the drafters of our constitution had in mind the protection of the church from governmental influence, not the protection of the government from the influence of the church.

So, imagine my surprise at hearing that our vice president was invited to make a commencement address, and in it read from the Bible. He read the account of Cain and Abel and discussed the obvious need to curb violence in the schools. It occurred to me that if I had taken it upon myself to read from the Bible at a commencement address and draw lessons from it that I would be in deep trouble. There have been several reports of valedictorians wanting to thank God for their achievements and being prohibited by school authorities. It makes me wonder.

Don't get me wrong. I think there are good and valid points to be made by the vice president or anyone else about hate and violence from the pages of Scripture. I just do not understand why it would be permissible for one person to do so and not another.

By  Jon W. Quinn
The Front Page
From Expository Files 6.6; June 1999