Sermon Illustrations

The Graduates vs. the ACLU

This story took place in Calvert County, Maryland, where a senior named Julie Schenk was asked to lead a prayer at her high-school graduation. Of course, it’s perfectly legal for students, as opposed to school administrators, to lead classmates in prayer. But all too often, schools refuse to allow students to pray for fear of provoking a pricey ACLU lawsuit. And sure enough, a graduate named Nick Becker objected to the prayer. The ACLU swooped in to back him up--and school officials backed down. Julie was told that instead of a prayer, she could invite the graduates and their families to participate in 30 seconds of "silent reflection."

It turned out to be the noisiest "silent reflection" in history. When Julie asked the crowd to stand and begin the reflection, a man in the audience began to pray out loud: "Our Father, Who art in heaven . . ."

Instantly, large numbers of the 4,000 parents and students in attendance picked up the prayer, until it echoed all over the auditorium. Nick Becker, the student who had objected to prayer in the first place, stormed out of the building.

It appears that anonymous man in the crowd had decided he’d had enough. So he simply followed his conscience, regardless of the consequences.

In the aftermath of the prayer, the ACLU, knowing it didn’t have a legal leg to stand on, resorted to meaningless rhetoric. One spokesman said the "real loser here is the Constitution and the right of people to express dissent." Another said he would be "investigating the incident." (Chuck Colson, excerpted from a BreakPoint Commentary - June 30, 1999. Copyright (c) 1999 Prison Fellowship Ministries.)