- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2013

Roy Costner IV — the South Carolina valedictorian who gained national attention after he ripped up his pre-approved speech and delivered the Lord’s prayer at his high school graduation on Saturday — told The Blaze today that he teared up onstage as the auditorium erupted with applause.

The 18-year-old Liberty High School graduate spoke told The Blaze that his decision to ignore his secular speech and say the prayer instead was pre-planned.

“God’s such a big, important part of our life with everything going on, our community really needed it,” he said. “Our community is really strongly opposed to the school district’s decision to remove prayer.”

The Washington Times reported Wednesday that the student’s act was to protest the Pickens County School District’s decision to no longer include prayer at graduation ceremonies. Officials said the decision was made after the district was barraged with complaints by atheist groups, Christian News reported.

“Originally, they were only supposed to take away prayer in the school district before meetings — [but then] they blew it way out of proportion, taking prayers out of anything,” Mr. Costner told The Blaze, noting that teachers aren’t even allowed to participate in invocation events before school.

The former student told The Blaze that he warned his family beforehand that he would be deviating from the approved, secular script. His father, a youth pastor, was in support of the defiance.

SEE ALSO: Crowd stunned after valedictorian rips up speech, recites Lord’s prayer

No disciplinary action was taken against the graduate, and he has received national attention after a  video of the exchange went viral. Social media networks exploded, lauding Mr. Costner as a champion of civil disobedience and the First Amendment.

“I didn’t know what kind of response I was going to have,” he told TheBlaze. “I was tearing up on stage. I was overwhelmed on the stage. I did not expect a response of that magnitude.”

Though the valedictorian said he has received some negativity since the event, the positive response has been overwhelming.

“Don’t let the few hold you back. Stand up for what you believe in,” he said to those who may be afraid to speak up. “We have freedom of speech for a reason.”

The Blaze reports that Mr. Costner will be attending Clemson University in the fall to study computer science.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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