rebelling against low expectations

Roy Costner IV, Age 18: Rips Up Approved Speech, Recites Lord’s Prayer Instead


(Christian News Network) – A high school valedictorian from South Carolina ripped up his approved speech on stage this past weekend, and minutes later, delivered the Lord’s Prayer in defiance of the school district’s decision to no longer include prayer at graduation ceremonies.


Roy Costner IV drew loud applause and cheers when he surprised attendees of the Liberty High School graduation at Clemson’s Littlejohn Colliseum on Saturday.

“From the ACLU sending FOIA requests to every district in the state this year after the Chesterfield County case, then the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent us a complaint about religion at board meetings and some other issues as well,” Pickens County School District spokesman John Eby said, the district has been under fire.

Therefore, officials decided to end invocations at all school functions and replace prayer at high school graduations with a moment of silence.

However, Costner wasn’t going to let activist groups kick God out of his graduation. After taking the podium, Costner took his approved speech and ripped it in half for all to see.

“They write their speeches,” Eby told local television station WYFF. “They send them to someone on staff to have them approved.”

After speaking from a separate script for a few minutes, Costner then began to thank his parents for his Christian upbringing.

“Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today,” he said. “I’m so glad that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age.”

“And I think most of you will understand when I say…” he continued, surprising the crowd with what came next.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name,” Costner declared. “Thy Kingdom come…”

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Leave a Comment: What do you think of Roy’s decision? What would you have done? Share your thoughts below. There are currently __ Comments.


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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Amen brother! Roy, you’re more of man, and just showed more courage, than most of the “males” sitting in their robes behind you.

  • That’s what i’m talk’n about!
    I hope more and more Christian men and women will do that this year.

  • I understand the support from Christians because I’m a Christian. I wonder, though, what the response would be if the guy was Wiccan? If a Wiccan exercised his right to free speech in the same manner, would he be given the same support from Christians? Or does the support only come if the person shares the same religious beliefs as you? How should a Christian respond when someone of another religion exercises his rights in our free country? Those were the thoughts I had when I read this article living in an area where Christians are the minority.

    • Good questions, Julie. Thanks for contributing to the discussion. I think I’d need to know more about the situation before judging Roy’s decision, but the news story provides an opportunity to think about when/why/how/where we should stand up for our faith — and to answer questions like the ones you’ve raised. God bless you!

    • Every time a law is passed to remove prayer from a ceremony, a Bible from a hotel, creation from the curriculum or Jesus from Christmas, this has an impact on what life will be like in the future in America – and in other Western countries like mine (Australia).

      I don’t know enough about Wiccans to use them as an example but I know that in countries practicing the Muslim religion, Westerners are expected to conform to their cultural code of conduct – in dress, by not holding hands in public etc. The Muslims have not changed their country’s laws recently so people with Christian beliefs don’t get offended by their laws.

      A couple of months ago a three year old Muslim boy in Australia held up a placard demanding that someone be beheaded. Australians were gobsmacked by this exercise of freedom of speech in their “free country” but tolerated it. More recently an English citizen was beheaded in his own country – by people of another religion exercising their “rights”.

      How should a Christian respond when someone of another religion
      exercises his rights in your free country? In a manner which will ensure
      that your country remains free. Irrespective of whether that person’s
      religion is Wiccan, Muslim or something else. If ever there was a need for salt to preserve the Christian underpinnings of your nation & other Christian nations – there’s a need for it now.

      • Excellent response Beau Cornerstone! I am heartily tired of these “What if?” people posing this type of question, almost as a reason to sit silently when your rights are being slaughtered, in your own school, in your own country.

        • In the USA, you do not have the right to lead all the attendees of a taxpayer-funded public school in sectarian prayer. Not a Christian prayer, not a Muslim prayer, not a Satanic prayer, not a Wiccan prayer. The law is very clear. Nobody’s right to anything is being slaughtered here.

      • “The Muslims have not changed their country’s laws…” – You do realize that there are 1.62 billion Muslims in nearly every nation on Earth, right? You can’t just claim that “the Muslims” refuse to accommodate people of other faiths; there are too many of them living in too many places. You just made that up. We call that “lying”. You’re lying again when you suggest that the beheading in the UK had anything to do with the exercise of religious rights. I feel weird having to explain this, but killing people in the street is illegal in the UK. Allowing people to practice their religion DOES NOT MEAN you have to let them commit murder.

        I get that you’re afraid of people who don’t practice exactly the same religion as you, but the proper response to that fear is to learn something about the reality of those other faiths and worshippers, not just make up stories that kinda sound true to you and post them in a public forum.

        • I’d like to point out a few things. Last month the IRA singled out and audited every single organization and business in the country with the word, “Christian” in the title? That sort of sounds, just a bit, like persecution.

          And why is it that students who where t-shirts supporting their religion are asked to turn them inside out at school, while muslim girls can where their full outfits (another obvious expression of faith, just as much as the t-shirts)? It’s the exact same thing.(I’m sorry I don’t remember what they’re called, I mean no disrespect)

          Or why is it, that because a majority of home schoolers are Christian, the government is allowed to persecute them (us) and violate our rights. I can’t even list half the crap they do, and the numbers of false charges against them every year is completely ridiculous.

          Christian faith considers homosexuality a sin. Thats a fact I agree with. But now, simply keeping silent is not good enough. If business leaders do not publicly affirm approval of these lifestyles, the government officially considers them biased. Hello? I love Big Brother? I’m not making this up. I believe all faith is under attack, but the Christian faith leads the Revolution, and is also the leading target.

          Also, on homosexuality.Yeah, I believe it is a sin, but remember Jesus said hate the sin not the sinner. A pretty good summary of my belief regarding gay people is Don’t judge people for sinning differently from you. I was every bit as bad as they were before I got saved, and I want to share the gospel with them as much as with any body else. Just in case you were wondering.

    • Also Julie, please note the difference between giving support and respectfully remaining quiet while someone else speaks. They are not one and the same.

      • When I said “support”, I was not necessarily implying “endorse.” I was more referring to respect.

        Another issue that concerns me (and it may have been covered here), is following rules/laws (Rom 13:1). If this young man disobeyed any laws, his witness is compromised. If the response from the audience was poor, it would not be persecution if he made the choice to disobey the laws/rules governing him.

        If someone of another religion went against established rules/laws, most people would have a problem with it. Sometimes I get the sense that Christians think they are of some elite group that gets special exemptions. Just because this young man graduated in a place that is predominantly Christian and ripped up his speech to pray a Christian prayer does not make him a hero to me. He disobeyed established rules. Doing hard things while obeying the civil authority speaks much louder and presents a much better witness. My $.02.

        ~Julie Anne

        • Julie,

          For an example, look at Daniel 6. The king made this rule : all is to worship the king only. So they were not allowed to pray to God.

          But Daniel broke their law and prayed.

          Should He give up his prayer so that he may not break their law?

          For the Rom 13:1, it depends on the situation whether its for or against God. If a government tells you not to pray, what will you do ?

          • Context, bran. The king making a rule to only worship him is quite a bit different than school officials saying no prayer during a very specific and limited timeframe. The school officials aren’t saying “don’t pray,” just don’t pray during this ceremony.

            And, are you okay if Costner’s classmate reads a Wiccan incantation, too?

          • I have to agree with Bran, Daniel was told that he could not worship God for only a certain amount of time. He was told not to pray. I think Bran hit the nail on the head when he gave this example.

          • What does that have to do with the laws of this country? The laws in this country are very clear about prayer in publicly funded venues. If you object and want prayers in your school, then attend a private school. You have the freedom to do that. No one is forced this family to send their child to public school. He did nothing admirable. Christians are not persecuted in this country just because they don’t get their way.

          • The laws of our country say that we have religous freedom. Is it religous freedom to say that you cannot pray, even if it’s just for a certain amount of time in a certain place? The government is taking away our constitutional right to worship God by not allowing prayer in school. There was a school teacher who had pictures and signs up in his class that had the American flag on them and said “God bless America.” and othe patriotic sayings. The school asked him to remove them while letting another teacher leave pictures in his class of the Koran and Islamic sayings up in his classroom. Now, please tell me, if the public schools are government run why is it the place where you have the least amount of religious freedom?

          • The laws in this country also say the government – and schools are part of the government – may not establish a religion. It is freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion. What people seem to not understand is that that dichotomy is what protects their religious freedom. The minute a government entity sanctions ANY religious expression, then your own religious liberty is as stake. And what is Christianity?Whose brand of Christianity wins? Episcopal? Catholic? Methodist? Charismatic Pentecostal? These are all very different forms with different forms of prayer.

          • Actually, it’s teachers who are not allowed to exercise religion/religious free speech in a publicly funded school (although they tend to be allowed more freedom if it is a public college or university) because that would be a conflict on so many levels. Students are not restricted in excising their religious freedoms (for example, Muslim female students are allowed to wear the hijab at public schools and to share about their religion), and they are allowed to have student-led groups of prayer hosted at school regardless of their religion. Students do have to be careful about explicitly offensive material, but a prayer is in no way offensive to most rational people, regardless of their own beliefs.

    • I just realized that this was in my hometown school district and Liberty
      was a rival of my school (I live far away from this community now). I
      loved going to schools in this district because of the witness of the
      students and the teachers who truly believed in Christ. This community
      is full of “Christians” – but Gospel sharing followers of Jesus are free
      to share in the classroom. I owe it to this district for “showing a
      blind eye” to when religion was brought up because their witness is what
      planted my first seed of belief. And people who were not followers of
      Christ were accepted and their beliefs were respected – because I was a person who was not a Christian, and these schools are full of non-Christians (and actually a good majority are unfortunately racist). I never felt unaccepted just because I didn’t follow Christ.

    • And to answer your question more explicitly, if he had been Wiccan and shared from Wiccan rites unknowingly, the crowd (students and student families) probably wouldn’t have booed him off the stage. Southerners in this area tend not to know what to say/do when something said is against their beliefs, and they tend to be very proper in action. If a Wiccan just flat out said “I’m a Wiccan and this is what I want you to hear” it might have been met with resistance from families/friends but the students and teachers would have just sat there and listened. If he didn’t announce he was Wiccan and just read from the rites – no one would have known what he was doing anyway. This school district requests every year that people hold applause and keep from using loud sound makers (cowbells & air horns), but every year people do it anyway – no one gets in trouble. Also, racist people and bigots there are not pleased with African American or homosexual valedictorians; they might make a derogatory remark privately but no one stood up and said something to prevent these specific valedictorians that I have in mind from speaking.

  • While its great that he stood up for what he believed, I am not sure I would have done the same thing. Giving a speech other than the one submitted for approval, seems deceptive to me. Taking that a little further, I don’t think the ones who approved his speech would have a positive impression of his beliefs.

    • And there you have the lesser of two evils. Being told what you can and can not say, in a FREE country, at your own graduation and choosing to not sit down for that usurpation of power. I applaud him.

      • Kristine – Our country may be free, but there are rules that must be followed. I have personal knowledge of that. I was sued by my pastor for defamation for $500,000. Google Julie Anne and lawsuit and you will find my story.

        • Not interested in your story. The discussion here is Roy Costner and his story. He stood up for what he believes in. Sometimes we have to do that.For 12 years Adolph Hitler made the rules and all of the good, obedient, rule followers did nothing to rock the boat or challenge the rules. We all know how it ended. So you just be a good little girl and follow the rules. I will follow my heart and my intuition.

          • Wow – this is hardly a Hitler situation. He didn’t have to do anything. This was not life/death situation. This was a graduation. Exaggeration, much?

          • I think Julie you have a problem with what your pastor did to you and the others, the court case. Just because he took you to court about something you said OUT OF FREE WILL. dont you think that you are doing the same now with Roy. What he did was not out of disrespect but i think he did it out of greatfullnes to God. you have to thank God for what he has done for you and it was only because of God that Roy came that far.

        • I may not know your story but read 1 cor 6:1-8. I dare you to forgive and love one another. Look at Joseph, he was sold by his own brothers. Should he take them to the court and sue them? No, he forgave and loved them.

          Why do you mention about money? is it really important?

          • bran – Read it again. I didn’t take anyone to court, my pastor did. He sued me and 4 others for $500K.

        • I looked up your story, and everywhere I looked it said that you were being sued for defamation of the church and the pastor, not defamation of God. It seems to me that the only reason you won the case was because it was a frivolous lawsuit.

          • Genesis – Apparently you did not read the judge’s ruling. We won the case for the simple reason that our words were not defamatory. It had nothing to do with the monetary amount (although it is true that it was certainly a frivolous amount of money).

          • Yes, but you were being accused of defamation of the church and the pastor, not defamation of God.

      • Very true. Good response. Also, aren’t we supposed to have ‘Freedom of Speech’? Would anyone disagree if I said that having to have your speech approved by someone wasn’t very free? Who else has the right to decide for me what to say and what not to say? Why should I conform to someone else’s opinion in a FREE country? This is my belief, my decision; will it really harm you if you just let me say my part?

  • I just want to bless Roy for doing what he believed was right. It doesn’t matter whether what he did was a strictly “correct” thing to do. Christianity itself has never really been socially “correct.” What matters is that he followed where he believed the Lord led him.

    As for what he did being “deceptive” the Bible does say to be “cunning as serpents, and harmless as doves.” I suppose you could also say that sneaking Bibles into foreign countries against their law is “deceptive.” It mostly depends on how you look at it.

  • David Thoreau spoke of civil disobedience. Ghandi used civil disobedience. Martin Luther King, JR used civil disobedience. This graduate used a form of civil disobedience to protest what he perceived as an unjust restriction on his rights.
    How would the audience have reacted if this person was a Muslim, Jew, or Buddhist?
    I do not know and people can only speculate.

    • My thought would be “Who cares?” This day was not celebrated for the audience. It was for the graduates. The young man studied for 13 years, earned his right to say what he chose by his grade point average, and he said what was meaningful to HIM.

      • Sure, he can say something if it is meaningful to him in a venue that allows him to say something meaningful. The article says he was in defiance of the school district’s decision. It sounds like he was saying “_____-you, school, I’m going to do what I want.” to the district’s decision, doesn’t it?

        • NONSENSE! This boys father is a minister and his attitude was not even disrespectful, much less an f u attitude. You have some real issues gal. deal with them before you implode. Ghandi broke rules in performing civil disobedience. As did Martin Luther King Jr. As did this young man. As will I should I be forced to.

          • His father’s being a minister has nothing to do with this – his father was not at the podium. He was disrespectful by not obeying the rules set in place. The article uses the word “defiance” (open resistance; bold disobedience) hmm, not godly traits that I can see. My brain sure didn’t go with an “f” word to fill that blank. Interesting.

          • Has anybody thought of the possibility that the article was written by people who were displeased at the young man’s bravery in standing up for his faith?

          • What word did your brain fill that blank with? Not many words out there that would need to be bleeped out…..

          • Please refrain from dishonoring Ghandi and MLK through intellectual dishonesty. This kid, who by the way showed his complete disrespect and disregard for everyone else by his silly “protest”, turning THEIR graduation day into his opportunity to make a statement about…nothing, were both leaders of minority groups whose very lives were endangered through oppression and violence. Christians are not oppressed in this country, either by law or deed. This child was arrogant and disrespectful. You spout NONSENSE, Kristine Kelley Bailey.

          • The OP used the word “nonsense” to describe the opinion of another. I was using her own words.

  • Roy, Regardless of what the school district thinks, you stood up for the Lord! That will bring Him glory, and that’s what we are suppose to do! God Bless You!

  • The graduation ceremony celebrates the accomplishments of the graduating class. It isn’t about appeasing the local atheist, the school district or anyone else in the audience. It was his day, he was true to himself and I applaud him. We don’t tell people what to say in their speech, their wedding vows, etc etc etc.

  • This young man comes from good religious back ground! More power to him for not being afraid
    to rock the boat! That’s more than what can be said about our Christian leaders across the country who don’t challenge their Congregation; the Catholic Church
    is the worst of them all!

  • Maybe Roy never read the Bible verses preceding the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:

    5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

  • I’m proud of Roy! To have a fellow brother in Christ do that is really exciting. Standing up for what you believe in is so hard yet he did it!
    God bless you Roy in your journey for Him!

  • Ah, yes. The “courage” to be publicly Christian in the USA, a nation where Christianity is a de facto requirement for holding high public office.

    Too many Christians here think that anything other than the universal promotion and celebration of Christianity is a restriction of some imagined rights, but in reality Christianity is just one of thousands of faiths on a planet also shared with many non-believers.

    If this was a Christian school, paid for by private donations, he could have gone buck wild with his faith, no problem. But this was a public school, paid for by taxes collected from all citizens. That means he broke the law by using it as a platform to promote his personal religion. The law is very clear on this point.

  • That’s awesome!! I am so glad that there are brave teens like him who would stand up for their faith in front of so many. 🙂

  • That is the calling of God Brett and Alex were talking about in their book “DO HARD THINGS” Amen, indeed!!!

rebelling against low expectations

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