Truthiness of E-mail Forwards; Or, Pray to My God or I’ll Heckle You

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, 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.

5 thoughts on “Truthiness of E-mail Forwards; Or, Pray to My God or I’ll Heckle You”

  1. Christians bending the truth in supposed service of God has always baffled me deeply. I want to say, “It’s OK, guys, God is in control. If he wanted a different script, he would have written it himself.”

  2. Why do we, as Christians, so often forget that the separation of church and state is meant to protect us, not persecute us?

  3. My guess is that many people do not question what is emailed under a Christian name. I have checked and stopped many such emails claiming statements of faith by famous people and so forth. I am glad Snopes exists. Have you considered that someone who is NOT a Christian can also twist stories to make the Christians look stupid? I have seen that happen as well. I suggest we all check the facts and then write back to the sender, as I do, letting him or her know the truth. Then they can notify all those to whom they sent the bogus information.

  4. Clueing folks into the truth is a great idea, but for me it rarely seems to work. People usually aren’t too thrilled at being corrected. I keep on getting forwards, or they wise up and stop sending forwards to me but keep on sending them to others. I run out of options (other than skewering the forward on my blog).

  5. Your title is one perspective… and criticizes a freedom of expression or speech that has not been taken away… yet. Although, Im sure that will be the next effort undertaken to squash freedom.

    As restrictions on freedom of religion come to bare… deal with the freedom of expression in response.

    Maybe you can understand Christians being up in arms because they’ve been told they cannot worship as they please… as they have done for decades… centuries in institutions that now cater to PC and fear of law suits set up by liberal courts and judges.

    Open minds nuture freedom… and not the restrictions and constrictions instigated and imposed by the narrow thought of a minority looking to have it their way. Because its not about the minority being forced to worship… its about shutting down the freedoms of christians and others to do so.

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