But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29
There were a number of reasons why Sean Rickert, superintendent of the Pima Unified School District in Arizona, said the high school graduation ceremonies this year would have no invocation or prayer. Among those reasons were
1. he didn't want to violate the rights of any of the students, and
2. he wanted to be in compliance with the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and
3. the school district's legal counsel had advised they would be wise in doing so, and
4. they wished to avoid a potential lawsuit.
When the administration's decision became public, many parents and students showed their objections at a standing-room-only board meeting. Most of the voices heard at that meeting expressed a desire to restore the religious components of the graduation service.
Neither the school district nor its superintendent were willing to go that route. The service was set up without either the invocation or any prayer.
I am pleased to report the student body unofficially decided to disobey the instructions of the school district. Another way of saying that is the students decided to "obey God rather than men." According to those who were there, students Esperanza Gonzales and Calleigh Summers led the graduates in an invocation, prayer and benediction.
Reflecting on what had happened, Gonzales said, "My class wanted God in our graduation, and we weren't going to take no for an answer. The world keeps saying, 'No to God, no to God,' unless you're in prison, so we said yes to God because He has helped us through our entire high school career."
And what did Superintendent Rickert have to say? He told the media he actually applauded the student's rebellion. He continued, "I've been to lots of high school graduations and seen students do some pretty outrageous things to show their rebellious nature at this age. The fact that the students here at Pima High School felt that they wanted to show their true colors, as it were, by saying a prayer at the beginning and end of their graduation ceremony, makes me very proud."
In saying what he did, I think the superintendent also showed his true colors, which leads me to comment, good for him, good for the students, good for Pima High School, and good for the fact in some places there are still people who, like the apostles, are ready to obey God rather than men.
I pray the Lord, that the same may be said of all of us.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, the devil is always trying to silence the Savior's people. Grant the Holy Spirit may make us bold and ready to proclaim the wonderful love of the Savior, who gave His life so we might be forgiven and have life eternal. It is in Jesus' Name that we pray. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries