LIBERTY, S.C. – When Roy Costner IV, this year's Liberty High School valedictorian, took the stage at his commencement ceremony, he did so with a plan unknown to school officials and classmates in the building.
NBC-affiliate WTFF reports that when Costner reached the podium at Littlejohn Coliseum on the campus of Clemson University, he tore up his school-approved speech and surprised the crowd by going in a different direction.
He defied the pressure to keep religion out of the public-school event.
"Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today," Costner said. "I'm so thankful that both my parents led me to the Lord at a young age. And I think most of you will understand when I say ..."
He followed up by reciting the entire Lord's Prayer.
Audience members cheered uncertainly at the start of the prayer, but once they realized what the young man was doing, the applause grew until it drowned out his voice.
Costner finished his speech by stating "Amen," which sent the crowd into another round of enthusiastic applause.
People sitting behind Costner did not join in the clapping, likely because they were school officials and teachers.
Brian Hoover, a local man, described why Costner did what he did, and why the crowd appreciated it so strongly.
"From the ACLU sending FOIA requests to every district in the state this year after the Chesterfield County case, then the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent us a complaint about religion at board meetings and some other issues as well," Hoover told WYFF. "That is why the reaction to the prayer at graduation was loud."
After defying the religious restrictions at the commencement ceremony, Costner was received like a hero.