The Pottstown Mercury News is reporting that a video of a 2015 graduation prayer that triggered a complaint and ban has been released.
The prayer was delivered by student Bernard Steyaert and took place at the Pottsgrove High School in Pottsgrove, Pennsylvania.
According to the Mercury, the complaint about the prayer was lodged by Rick Rabinowitz, the president of Pottsgrove School Board. After hearing the prayer Rabinowitz wrote in an email to School Superintendent Shellie Feola:
As a person who was raised in the Jewish faith, I am very sensitive to efforts by Christians to veil their expressions of religious belief in "non-denominational" prayer. Last year, the invocation and benediction did, at best, a poor job of doing this and I was mightily annoyed. But I did not want to rain on the parade of good feeling, and thus, said nothing directly after the ceremony, and then the issue dropped out of my consciousness until today when the subject came up during dinner...And, that was before the OBNOXIOUS invocation by Bernard Steyaert.
Feola consulted District Solicitor Marc Davis, who informed the school board that the graduation prayer was unconstitutional. As a result, prayers will be forbidden at the 2016 graduation on June 15. Instead there will be a "moment of reflection."
The Mercury reports that there had been "years of tradition" of a benediction or invocation at the Pottsgrove graduation. Now, prayers will only be allowed at events that are student-organized and led. On June 13 students from Pottsgrove High School organized their own baccalaureate service. It was described by the Sanatoga Post as an hour long and filled with prayer and song.
The full 2015 graduation ceremony can be seen here. Here is the text of Steyaert's prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, we gather here on this day that you have so graciously given us. You are all powerful and all knowing. You know each one of our hearts.
We recognize that without you none of us could have made it to this treasured day. You know us better than we even know ourselves. You know the exact number of hairs we have on our heads and you know every thought we’ve ever had. You created this world and each one of us. Help us to always remember that.
Lord you rock us to sleep as we lie in bed, you sing to us through the birds in the morning, and you bless each one of us with life through each breath you give. Sometimes we forget just how mighty your hand is in our lives. Lord, we pray for humility in the presence of a God worthy of all praise.
Lord, we come now as a marred people. Underneath this cap and gown and all the glamour we cover ourselves in is a sinful, imperfect person. We pray for forgiveness for all our shortcomings and faults in your eyes.
Lord give each one of us the humility to repent for our flaws against you and against each other. We pray that you would break our hearts for what breaks yours. Thank you for giving us this indispensable opportunity to speak directly to you through prayer. You so graciously have offered the gift of eternal life to each and every person in this stadium. Lord we are forever indebted to your offer for forgiveness and cleansing.
Help us to each remember your mighty love. You offer to take the burden of sin from our hearts and offered us a new beginning and we thank you for that. Give us a heart to repent and always seek your will first in our lives.
Lord we gather now to celebrate graduation. We pray for smoothness in this transition in life. Help us to remember that you are in total control, and that everything that happens is for a purpose. Help us never to forget that in life you have a plan for each one of us and it’s our job to seek your will and carry it out. Take away our selfish egos and our pride. Help us to always see the big picture that you are painting.
We pray for understanding as we go through the uncertainty that is sure to come in adult life. We pray for guidance in the decisions we make. We pray for steadfast devotion to you in the face of temptation. Give us clean hearts and minds to make the choices that honor you Regardless of what the world demands of us. Give us strength to stand in the face of adversity in the world. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.