Prayer at Pennsylvania High School Graduation Ended Over Objection From ‘Annoyed’ Board Member

Rabinowitz-compressedPOTTSGROVE, Pa. — A 20-year tradition of including prayer at one high school graduation in Pennsylvania has come to an end this year following the objection of an “annoyed” Jewish board member who believes the invocations could be offensive to non-Christians.

According to reports, Rick Rabinowitz, who complained as a board member and now serves as board president, sent an email to Pottsgrove Superintendent Shellie Feola and Assistant Superintendent William Shirk to complain about the prayer at the Pottsgrove High School graduation ceremony.

“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,” he wrote according to The Mercury. “Last year, the invocation and benediction did, at best, a poor job of doing this and I was mightily annoyed.”

Rabinowitz cited his annoyance at student Bernard Steyaert’s use of the word “sinners” and reference to Jesus Christ.

“You are all powerful and all knowing. You know each one of our hearts,” Steyaert prayed. “We recognize that without You none of us could have made it to this treasured day.”

“Lord, we pray for humility in the presence of a God worthy of all praise,” he continued. “Lord, we come now as marred people. Underneath this cap and gown and all the glamour we cover ourselves with is an imperfect sinful person. We pray for forgiveness in all our shortcomings and faults in Your eyes. Lord, give us the humility to repent for our flaws against You and against each other.”

“When Bernard proclaimed us all ‘sinners,’ I nearly lost it. This, again, is a specifically Christian notion. It certainly does not exist in Judaism and I strongly suspect it doesn’t exist in any other non-Christian religion,” Rabinowitz said. “And then, finally, the reference to Jesus Christ at the end, while clearly not approved (at least I hope it wasn’t) was rude, ignorant and self centered.”

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He stated that he “did not want to rain on the parade of good feeling, and thus, said nothing directly after the ceremony” but waited until a more opportune time to express his objection and appeal to the superintendent to end the prayer practice.

Attorneys for Pottsgrove High School agreed last August that the prayer could present a legal problem and therefore the invocation was scrubbed from the ceremony. However, parents did not find out about the decision until recently, which drew controversy.

Some board members soon requested a public meeting so students and parents could make their opinions heard over the issue, and Rabinowitz agreed.

“While the district cannot endorse a prayer of any sort, the students have a right to freedom of speech and we cannot censor their speeches, or anything they might choose to say,” board member Bill Parker told CBS Philadelphia.

“It should be up to the students,” also remarked board member Patty Grimm. “I’m sure there’s other ways it can be done, but then again I would like the students’ input.”

Board member Matt Alexander, along with Parker and Grimm, “felt that we should allow the public to air its points of view to us and that we should deliberate in public and make any decisions in public,” Rabinowitz explained.

A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at the high school.

As previously reported, in early America, 123 of the first 126 colleges established in America were founded on Christian principles. Harvard University, named after Pastor John Harvard, held the motto “Truth for Christ and the Church.”

“Let every scholar be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life. Therefore, to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning…” its student manual read.

Princeton’s motto was “Under God’s Power She Flourishes.” The first president of Princeton, Pastor Jonathan Dickinson, said, “Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”

Yale also wrote in its requirements in 1745, “All scholars shall live religious, godly and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s word, diligently reading the Scriptures…”

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  • bowie1

    Such is the direction many formerly Christian institutions take over the course of their history – even the protestant (public) schools.

  • Amos Moses

    Boo hoo – i need a safe space so i can watch puppies play while someone says something that MIGHT cause me to “trigger” ………… i am not an adult ………. i am a child that needs to be coddled …..

    • Ambulance Chaser

      I don’t know why you’re putting quotes around the word “trigger.” Rick Rabinowitz didn’t use it. Only you did.

      • Amos Moses

        So what?

  • Slidellman4life

    So basically what we have here is a Jew with a chip on his shoulder that has a problem with a student praying.

    I would hope someone on that board would have the sense to do the right thing and make a motion to remove Mr. “Annoyed” Jew from the board effective immediately.

    However, if the position is elected, I would hope someone will stand up and tell this guy he has overstepped his bounds in wishing to restrict the constitutional rights of students out of “annoyance” and if he wishes to continue in his actions they will be met with legal action against the board in general and him specifically.

    In any case, he is placing himself at Ground Zero in a losing proposition and the best way to rectify this is his immediate resignation.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      Uh, no. His constitutional law is spot on. The prayer is illegal.

      • Slidellman4life

        Uh, no, pedo defender. Student led prayer is legal.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          I don’t know who pedo defender is.

          Anyway, it isnt. Read Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe.

          • Slidellman4life

            Dude, this is why you have no credibility here. You openly defended the pro-pedophilia Rind study, saying “it doesn’t say what you think it does” even if the face of the presentation of facts that made the intent and motivation behind it as muddy as Waterford crystal.

            You defended that study and yet you continue to lie about it. As God is my witness you should be thankful the mods have allowed you to get away with it, because if I were a mod, after your first post in defense of the study I would have banned you so fast there would have been a hole ripped in the space/time continuum.

            As for the case in question, read the First Amendment. It makes Santa Fe unconstitutional.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            The First Amendment doesn’t mention prayer in school. How does it render a Supreme Court ruling unconstitutional?

            I don’t even know what that means. An “unconstitutional Supreme Court ruling.”

          • meamsane

            He most likely means that the SC screwed-up by going out of bounds in regards to the US Constitution, and in this case screwed around with the meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Well, reasonable minds can differ on whether a given ruling came down correctly, but there’s no debating that once it’s handed down, it’s the law. For reasons known only to him, Slidellman4life thinks that his interpretation of the Constitution is legally binding when it diverges from SCOTUS’s.

          • The Last Trump

            No his understanding matches perfectly with the intentions of the original authors and with the 240 years of Christian American history backing that up. It’s just confused liberal folk who despise Christianity today who keep mixing that up. On purpose of course.

          • meamsane

            His interpretation is correct. See my answer above.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            You can use whatever definition you want to determine whether a given ruling is “correct,” but the only one that matters in our system is “comports with the current binding case law.”

            So feel free to sit and stew over whatever cases and decisions you want to, or congratulate yourself for being better at law than the Supreme Court, but at the end of the day, nome of that matters and to pretend like the outcome of any given case is in any way dependent on it is to deny reality.

          • meamsane

            The first Amendment to the Constitution is directed straight at the federal legislative body of the US called Congress. In 1925, the SC started applying, incorrectly, the Establishment Clause to the states, which it clearly was not. This was completely arbitrary on the part of the SC at that time, and is not given any authority to redefine the Constitution according to their personal biases or preferences.
            So yes, you could call this ruling un-constitutional.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            No, you really couldn’t because the Supreme Court, by definition, cannot make an unconstitutional ruling.

          • Amos Moses

            “I don’t even know what that means. An “unconstitutional Supreme Court ruling.””

            Yeah ……… like homosexual “marriage” …………. also an “unconstitutional Supreme Court ruling.” ……….. but we get it …… that you don’t get it …………..

          • Ambulance Chaser

            I get it just fine. It’s a ruling you disagree with, and is therefore, somehow unconstitutional.

            So, what part of Obergefell did not match prior precedent, again?

          • Amos Moses

            It is a ruling with no constitutinal basis ………….. so unconstitutional …………………… so of course i disagree with it ………….. and i get it ………… that you do not get it ……….

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Well, why don’t you tell me what I’m not getting then?

          • meamsane

            It means a serious lapse in legal and Intellectual Integrity!

          • The Last Trump

            Not necessary.
            The Constitution will do fine.
            And 240 years of Christianity front and center in the historical record where America is concerned. Not to mention this perfectly legal practice that has gone on already for two decades.
            Thanks though!

      • MARINE73

        You are wrong, prayer is not illegal. The First Amendment is clear, it states that the government cannot force it’s own particular religion on the people, the people have the right to choose which religion they wish to follow. To help you understand, an example would be how King Henry VIII, in order to validate his divorce from his first wife, established the Church of England and ordered all people to join that church, instead of Catholicism. The First Amendment guarantees American citizens that they have freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. Only those who want to change the simple meaning of the U.S. Constitution to suit their agendas, read more into that amendment than it’s original intent.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Again, I direct your attention to Santa Fe IS v. Doe, holding that student-led prayer using the instrumentality of a school, at an official school-sponsored event, is the same thing as school staff leading the prayer and is similarly unconstitutional.

      • archaeologist

        you do not know what you are talking about

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Yes, is there more to this comment or do you expect that I will just crumble before the power of your uncited assertion?

  • Theodore Fenton

    As George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy’s influential Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote in his book “The Changing of the Guard:”

    “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.

    But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.

    It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.

    It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.

    It is dominion we are after.

    World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.”

    In the Christian nationalist vision of America, non-believers would be free to worship as they choose, as long as they know their place. When Venkatachalapathi Samuldrala became the first Hindu priest to offer an invocation before Congress, the Family Research Council issued a furious statement that reveals much about the America they’d like to create:

    “While it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country’s heritage…Our founders expected that Christianity — and no other religion — would receive support from the government as long as that support did not violate peoples’ consciences and their right to worship. They would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference.”

    — The Huffington Post

    • Slidellman4life


    • Nidalap

      You can quote that all you want. It DOES appear to be folks on your side of the divide who are more likely to lock folks up if they don’t go along…

    • Amos Moses

      Dominionism is not part of christianity …… it is NAR nonsense……… like Theodore Cruz and company …… and apparently Teddy Fenton (ne: Mittuns)……….. who knows not of what he speaks ……

  • Georgie Franklin

    Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church!

    • Slidellman4life

      Which means…what?

    • Nidalap

      I DID make the effort to post in a Christian news site, after all! 🙂

      • The Last Trump

        The sting of hypocrisy claims another! 🙂

    • Amos Moses

      ” I don’t believe anything ………… i am a scientist……”…………

  • The Last Trump

    One person was “annoyed”!?
    Oh, well, cancel freedom of speech and religious expression then!

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Another individual repaying the good with evil to the Christians. The Jews should be thankful for the Christendom. The Christendom made names for them. In other civilizations, the Jews are nameless. The Jews should be thankful to the Christians instead of persecuting them in the former Christendom. They must for-ever remember the Christians who died in the process of rescuing and protecting the Jews from Nazis and the American Christians who helped them keep independence all because of their Christian conscience. Persecuting the Christians only hurts Israel. No one loves Israel more than the Christians who recite the Lord’s Prayer. The Jews get saved by trusting in Jesus of Nazareth, their only Divine Messiah, as any other humans do.

  • archaeologist

    the problem is that the unbeliever, the jew and the alternative religious adherent all think that they alone have the right and freedom to do as they please yet they do not extend that right or freedom to the believer in Jesus.

    they think everyone must endure their pet ways while they cannot extend that courtesy to the believer.

    this is not a constitutional issue but a personal one as those who do not follow Jesus still think they are good enough to get to heaven without bowing their knee and repenting of their sins.