Missouri Superintendent Placed on Leave for Praying at High School Graduation

Photo Credit: KSPR-TV

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Missouri superintendent who already planned on retiring at the end of his contract has been suspended for leading parents in a prayer of blessing over their children at a recent high school graduation.

According to reports, the Willard School Board voted to place Superintendent Kent Medlin on a paid leave of absence until his contract expires at the end of this month.

“The leave will continue through June 30, 2017 when Dr. Medlin’s contract expires,” it said in a statement. “The board’s action was based upon the board’s belief that Dr. Medlin’s high school commencement speech violated Board of Education policies regarding prayer at school-sponsored events.”

As previously reported, in addition to offering general encouragement, Medlin mentioned “the Savior” and referenced the Bible during the May 13 graduation ceremony for Willard High School. He also invited parents voluntarily to stand for a prayer of blessing over the students.

However, following the ceremony, four students took to the media to state that the religious content of his message made them uncomfortable, and they felt “pressured” to stand up for the prayer when others did so.

“I was upset by it. I thought it was offensive to anyone who was attending who was not of the Christian faith,” graduate Joseph Amundson told the Springfield News Leader. “I didn’t stand because it made me so mad that he did that.”

Some students came to Medlin’s defense, stating that they were blessed by his contribution. They also noted that students were never asked to stand for the prayer—only parents.

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“It was clear to me that Dr. Medlin had no intention of making any graduating seniors uncomfortable when he invited parents to stand with him. We stood on our own. It was our choice. He made no indication to the class of 2017,” graduate Sam Bird wrote to the Springfield News Leader in response to the initial report.

Medlin likewise told reporters that he never meant to make unbelievers uncomfortable and that he rather found the evening to be beautiful.

“If my behavior was offensive to anyone then I am truly sorry,” he said. “I in no way wanted to offend anybody. That was not my intention.”

Medlin told television station KYTV following the suspension that he “thought the best thing that [he] could do was write in a blessing for the graduates” in his speech.

Word of the punishment has disappointed some hearers.

“Unbelievable! God will surely remember!” one commenter wrote. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do! Have mercy on those students and that board!”

“What a shame!” another remarked. “Glad he did what he did and good for him! He got to start enjoying life a month early! Shame on those of you who suspended him. God will remember!”

As previously reported, in 1828, just 52 years after the nation’s founding, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

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  • Grace Kim Kwon

    It is abnormal that Western culture hates Christianity that much. If people get punished for praying, those who don’t pray should be punished, too, for the sake of fairness. It is unfair for the Western culture to single out the Christians for punishment.

    • Ginger

      This country was founded by Christians for Christians.
      Where has the Christian backbone gone?
      Harvard was founded by Puritans with their early seal “Truth for Christ and the Church”.
      I John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth the Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not the Jesus Christ in come into the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. [KJV]

      • Worf

        “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”
        -President (and founding father) John Adams, Treaty of Tripoli

        • Grace Kim Kwon

          John Adams was Christian, too. Americans have no idea how their every single good thing has been from Christianity. The world is not grateful to America because Americans are not grateful to Christianity.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        So true. Amen.

      • Trilemma

        This country was founded for all, Christians and non-Christians.

        • Grace Kim Kwon

          Non-christians are parasites. Non-christians have no concept of valuing human life unconditionally. Americans repay the good with evil to Christians this century; therefore the world does not acknowledge America’s contributions but just uses her. Ingratitude comes back. USA should repent and be thankful to God.

    • Nidalap

      Sadly, it’s not abnormal at all.
      Since the fall of Man, humankind has suffered from a spiritual compulsion to fight against God. Now, Christians are the oddball outcasts for taking the stand that they do. “A peculiar people” one might say…

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Yes, so sad, even in America, the nation which Christians created for Christian happiness and freedom.

    • Judith A Rodda

      Humans are not born religious. Religion is taught. Western culture will always single out any and I mean any religion that tries to shove it’s idea’s down our throats. Separation of church and state, whether you like it or not is the law of this land. This country was not created for Christians by Christians. This country was founded by people who were trying to practice religious freedom. Religious freedom means all religions, not just the one you practice. If his prayer made just one person uncomfortable then it is wrong. Why wasn’t anyone from the Muslim or Jewish community invited to pray? That is religious freedom not that thing you holier-than-thou fanatics practice.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Americans don’t know about the real world because they’ve been always protected by the nicest Protestant Christians since the start. American atheists should all immigrate to North Korea, the purest form of atheism, as they wish. Even Eastern Europeans and Russians and Chinese know how brutal evil atheism is.

  • Colin Rafferty

    As I said the last time this new site posted this story, I am very glad to hear that he seems to be honestly sorry about his transgressions.

  • PilgrimGirl

    As a believer, please keep public prayer out of schools. They are institutions of learning (math, reading, science, history, etc.), not places of worship. While people can be sincere, they can be sincerely wrong. I don’t want to be led, or have my children led, in prayer to a god who is nothing more than an idol. To be sure, many of those idols are called jesus but are not our Lord Jesus Christ as he is revealed in God’s word.

    • Herb Planter

      shame on you

      • PilgrimGirl

        Why? For having discernment? Or do you think everyone who calls themselves Christian actually knows the Lord?

        • Guest✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

          Oh the irony!

  • Honesty Counts

    Soon it will be illegal to say “God bless you after someone sneezes.”.
    America is heading in the wrong direction, and I am glad that my Grandparents are not alive to see how horrible America has fallen when it comes to religious freedom.

    • Colin Rafferty

      Whose religious freedom is being denied if the superintendent is not allowed to ask everyone at the graduation to pray to Christ? Certainly not the superintendent’s, who knew before taking the government job that he is not allowed to lead prayers in the school. The major decisions were in 1962 and 1963.

    • Parodyx

      Why do these stories keep turning into matters of religious freedom? There is an appropriate place for religious prayers and an inappropriate place. A graduation ceremony where the attendants are likely to have assorted beliefs, including no belief, is not an appropriate place.

    • Bob Johnson

      Yes, we certainly want to prevent the person from getting the plague. And a short prayer is always the best medicine.

    • Grace Kim Kwon

      Agreed with you, but people should not say “God bless you” after someone sneezes. The practice must be a superstition, although Christians are supposed to bless everyone always anyway.

  • Worf

    “The principle that government may accommodate the free exercise of religion does not supersede the fundamental limitations imposed by the Establishment Clause. It is beyond dispute that, at a minimum, the Constitution guarantees that government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise, or otherwise act in a way which “establishes a [state] religion or religious faith, or tends to do so.” 505 U.S. 577, 587.

    “As we have observed before, there are heightened concerns with protecting freedom of conscience from subtle coercive pressure in the elementary and secondary public schools. Our decisions in [Engel] and [Abington] recognize, among other things, that prayer exercises in public schools carry a particular risk of indirect coercion. The concern may not be limited to the context of schools, but it is most pronounced there. What to most believers may seem nothing more than a reasonable request that the nonbeliever respect their religious practices, in a school context may appear to the nonbeliever or dissenter to be an attempt to employ the machinery of the State to enforce a religious orthodoxy. 505 U.S. 577, 592”
    -Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

    • Amos Moses

      thank you for your gods words …………. SCOTUS will send you an indulgence blessing in the mail in a few weeks ……

      • Worf

        SCOTUS is tasked with making rulings on Constitutional law. When they rule, that is how the law is to be interpreted until SCOTUS overturns it.

        As a constitutional American, the supreme court helps define my rights.

        You can put your god above the law, but I am a proud American that respects our constitution and the systems built around it.

        • Amos Moses

          lol …… your rights do not come from SCOTUS ……….. although you seem to revere them as your god ………..

    • Ginger

      “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and
      the Bible.”-George Washington.
      Our Founding Fathers did not want a state sponsored church, which is what happened in the European countries that many had left, because of persecution.

      • Worf

        Watch out for false quotes:
        “Often misattributed to George Washington. Probably originated from a spurious quote in “A Life of Washington, Vol. II” by James Paulding, p. 209″

        Here is a real one:
        “…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
        -President (and founding father) John Adams, Treaty of Tripoli

        • Ginger

          The Prayer of George Washington

          O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this
          morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of
          my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep,
          whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the
          duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all
          perils of body and soul.

          Direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the
          immaculate blood of the Lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit,
          from the dross of my natural corruption, that I may with more freedom
          of mind and liberty of will serve thee, the ever lasting God, in righteousness and holiness this day, and all the days of my life.

          Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the Gospel. Give me
          repentance from dead works. Pardon my wanderings, and direct my
          thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation. Teach me how to
          live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy
          commandments. Make me always watchful over my heart, that neither
          the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin,
          nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual
          slumber. But daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son
          Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy
          appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life. Bless
          my family, friends and kindred, unite us all in praising and glorifying
          thee in all our works begun, continued, and ended, when we shall come
          to make our last account before thee blessed Saviour, who hath taught us thus to pray, our Father.

          William Penn founder of Pennsylvania said “a people not ruled by God will be ruled by tyrants.”
          We are ruled by tyrants.

  • Herb Planter

    end the evolution myth and make our schools great again

    • Judith A Rodda

      A little late with this comment but how do you know God did not create evolution? He created everything else on earth, why not evolution?

  • Lorne Zwelk

    Given the setting what he did was inappropriate. But I think placing him on leave is an excessive punishment.

    • Grace Kim Kwon

      USA needs Christian prayers. Only bad people hate Christian prayers.

  • NCOriolesFan

    Liberal crybabies like Joseph Amundson will never grow up to be a REAL man w/o complaining about something he’s so ill about.