Graduating student sneezes so fellow students can say God Bless you-Truth!

Graduating Student Sneezes So Fellow Students Can Say “God Bless you” at Graduation Where Prayer was ProhibitedTruth!

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.”

The Truth:

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