Today I received another one of the questionable forwards. The story in a nutshell is that a court ruling had prohibited prayer at a graduation ceremony. When one of the speakers approached the podium, the entire graduating class simultaneously sneezed. Then the speaker simply said, “God bless you, each and every one,” and the crowd erupted with applause. A heart-warming ‘screw you’ to those anti-Christian courts.
The first clue that it’s not entirely true might be the mass simultaneous sneeze. The fact that it’s talking about prayer in school should at least make you wary about potential bias. The fact that it has to conclude with “This is a true story; it happened at the University of Maryland,” should also be a hint that’s something not right—how often does the newspaper have to assure you something is a true story? I also couldn’t help but wonder why the University of Maryland had a principal.
I looked this story up on Snopes.com, the go to site for questionable e-mail forwards, and found that the story is in fact true. With some notable exceptions.
The biggest exception is probably the role reversal: the graduating class didn’t sneeze, the speaker did. And a handful of prearranged students replied “God bless you!”
So the story as e-mailed isn’t exactly true. In fact, it’s rather misleading. Which is a bit disturbing considering the proponents of such a story are presumably Christian and therefore presumably
interested in the truth, not a skewed, fictionalization version of the truth.
But the true story from Washington Community High School in Washington, Ill., is even more interesting. Before the ceremony students organized a prayer vigil where 50 seniors gathered around the flagpole and about 150 underclassmen and members of the community prayed for them. Several students put religious slogans on their mortarboards in protest. The student who actually sneezed at the podium also paused on his way to the podium and bowed in silent prayer—which prompted a standing ovation.
All of this seems like a more appropriate response. I’ve never understood why Christians get so up in arms about prayer in school. Nobody can stop you from praying in school. I attended a public school and did it all the time. What they’re stopping is your teacher or your principal forcing you to pray. If the roles were reversed I’d think Christians would be horrified if teachers forced students to pray to Allah or if the graduation ceremony included a blessing from Buddah (does Buddah bless people?). How outraged would Christians be if a Muslim student conspired with his friends to sneak in a blessing?
Let the students do it themselves in an optional way, like these real life students from Washington Community High School did.
Unfortunately, the true story gets ugly. The student who prompted the lawsuit that banned prayer at the graduation ceremony was booed when her name was called to receive her diploma. Again, it’s not exactly consistent with the principles that also called for prayer. Oops. And we wonder why Christians are perceived as hypocrites.
While the e-mail forward heralds this as some great success, the truth is a little more complicated.