Christian Student Cheered for Prayer, Native Student Snubbed for Feather
A user-generated post titled “So a Native American girl gets no diploma and a $1,000 fine for putting a feather in her cap, while a Christian valedictorian disobeys rules by reciting prayer and gets standing ovation” on Reddit has been pushed to the front page of the site by other users with more than 15,000 upvotes and 1,630 comments. And those numbers are steadily increasing.
The original poster on Reddit says, “It’s just frustrating to me that when reading these two stories side by side, it comes across as ‘Hey you Indian, stop expressing your culture! This is no place for your savagery. No diploma for you, and now you owe me money for some reason! Oh, hey Christian kid, you weren’t supposed to be inciting prayer at this event. Ahh well, whattya gonna do? You little skamp, hehehe.’”
User Azbug on Reddit says, “What kills me is she worked for four years to get those grades and walk with her class. Somehow, showing one small bit of honor and pride in her ancestry automatically erases her four years of achievement... The other sad commentary is that young man had the opportunity to speak directly to his class, faculty, and the families of the graduates. Instead of saying something interesting or profound, he chose to cough up something that shows no introspection on growing up... On the other hand, the native girl merely whispers deep personal convictions, and is mercilessly stepped on.”
I said I was pretty sure this conflict raised freedom of speech and religion issues. I'm glad to see a lawyer agrees with me:
Student fined $1,000: Attorney Says First Amendment Rights Were Violated
In addition to First Amendment rights, Alex Alvarez, Ramer's former tribal teacher said the private school violated the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
"We should be allowed to wear our feathers," said Alvarez.
He added, "It has a lot of ties into our spirituality as well."
Phillips said he agrees. He stated she can sue the private school for breach of contract.
He stated, "Chelsey Ramer agreed to attend class. She met her commitments for graduation."
Phillips said, "Who breached the contract? The school breached the contract."
Poarch Creek Student’s Fine Raised by Online Donations
The “Chelsey Ramer can’t graduate because she is proud to be Native American” campaign was started by Dan Morrison, communications director at First Peoples Worldwide. Yesterday, the fund had $177, today it’s overfunded at $1,050. Morrison says on the campaign site that if more money is raised or if the academy doesn’t make the family pay, the money will go toward Chelsey’s education.
Chelsey is the 17-year-old member of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who wore an eagle feather on her graduation cap May 23 and been in the news since.
Contributions listed on the site ranged from $2 to $476 per person and comments were positive. Natalia Corres reminded Chelsey to know she is supported and Jeremiah LaRoche said “represent and always be proud.”
Below: "Valedictorian Roy Costner IV of Liberty High School in South Carolina rips up his speech before reciting the Lord's Prayer instead."