Russell County Student at the Center of Prayer Controversy Speaks Out

By: Kellie Wilson
By: Kellie Wilson

A south central Kentucky High School graduate who attempted to stop prayer at his school's ceremony is talking in his first interview.

A federal judge's order banned prayer from the Russell County High School graduation ceremony last Friday, but several students decided to pray anyway.

Now Derrick Ping is ready to talk. In Russell Springs Kentucky, you don't have to look for a sign to see what many believe in, they're right in front of you.

Ping is a self described Atheist and he says students constantly teased and called him names, but he says he learned to endure the taunting. He didn't feel comfortable with prayer at his graduation so he contacted the ACLU.

Then it went to a federal judge, Ping's graduation ceremony wasn't supposed to include prayer but he had heard differently. Ping watched as nearly the entire graduating class recited the Lord's Prayer and received a standing ovation. After that, Ping contact the ACLU to see what they would do

But Ping says people in the town still harass him for taking a stand. Ping wants people to know that being an Atheist doesn't make him evil, but what he believes in does put him in the minority. He just wants people to understand his belief that church and state should be separated.

Ping says his family did not support him in his attempt to have prayer banned from his graduation ceremony.

But he says his brother and mother are tolerant of his beliefs.


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