Graduating Student Sneezes So Fellow Students Can Say “God Bless you” at Graduation Where Prayer was Prohibited–Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
The email doesn’t mention a time or place, but describes a graduation ceremony where prayer had been banned because of a court decision. All the participants were careful to stay within the guidelines until the final speech when a student merely stood before the microphone…then sneezed! The room was filled with the voices of students who responded with “God Bless you,” a sneaky way of invoking a blessing. Another version says the students all sneezed so the graduation speaker could say “God bless you.”
Although written in a way that feels like inspirational fiction and without the factual details, this is based on a true incident. It was a widely-publicized controversy surrounding the 2001 graduation ceremonies of Washington Community High
School in Peoria, Illinois. According to an Associated Press report from May 17, 2001, student-led prayer was going to be allowed at the graduation but a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the senior valedictorian, Natasha Appenheimer. On virtually the eve of graduation, they won a court injunction that banned any prayer at the event. It was the first time in the school’s 80 year history that a prayer would not be offered. Natasha was booed by the audience when she received her diploma. Another student, Ryan Brown, was one of the speakers. He paused during his speech to bow his head and pray silently. The Peoria Journal Star newspaper said that after the silent prayer, Ryan “feigned a sneeze” so the audience could respond with a “God bless you.”
last updated 5/27/02
They walked in tandem, each of the ninety-three students filing into the already crowded auditorium. With rich maroon gowns flowing and the traditional caps, they looked almost as grown up as they felt.
Dads swallowed hard behind broad smiles, and moms freely brushed away tears.
This class would not pray during the commencements; not by choice, but because of a recent court ruling prohibiting it. The principal and several students were careful to stay within the guidelines allowed by the ruling.
They gave inspirational and challenging speeches, but no one mentioned divine guidance and no one asked for blessings on the graduates or their families.
The speeches were nice, but they were routine; until the final speech received a standing ovation.
A solitary student walked proudly to the microphone. He stood still and silent for just a moment, and then he delivered his speech—-a resounding sneeze! The rest of the students rose immediately to their feet, and in unison they said, “God bless you.”
The audience exploded into applause. The graduating class found a unique way to invoke God’s blessing on their future—-with or without the court’s approval.