By Bobby L. Graham
(Editors’ Note: The Florence Times (June 27, 1993] carried the following article about this march for freedom.)
Both in ancient times and in modem times young people have sometimes taken bold stands for right and truth on matters that were not popular with all of their peers. Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the food and drink regimen prescribed by the Babylonian king for the young men in training for places of leadership. The Bible’s emphasis on his purpose of heart is crucial in the understanding of this matter of conviction. Once one has learned what truth demands and God de-sires, he must act on that conviction. Doing so often requires courage, giving rise to the expression “the courage of his conviction.”
The young preacher Timothy had been taught and trained by a mother and a grandmother who understood their role. The result was a young man who became a Christian during Paul’s first missionary trip and a travel companion and helper in the gospel on the second such trip of the apostle. In a pagan society filled with the worship of idols and associated immorality of that society, it was not easy for Timothy to take his bold stand for Jesus Christ. His mixed religious background (father a Greek and mother a Jew) likewise did not make his turning to Christ easy. He became convicted by truth and then acted on it out of courage.
In the last few weeks two young men in the Florence area, Drew Jamieson and Steve Graham, Jr., took a stand that could have been unpopular and undoubtedly is in many instances. They chose to speak up for God and his gracious blessing in the lives of all and to pray during a graduation ceremony at a public high school. For their action they were criticized by some but praised by most. It was conviction and the courage of their conviction that worked to produce their stand. Later events related to this situation included a march for such freedom in Florence. It is gratifying to know of young people today who will take such stands.
Are you one who has convictions, strong beliefs based on the truth set forth in the Bible? Do you act out of conviction or out of convenience? To do the first is to please God, but to do the latter is to please self. Why not learn from the examples of young people who lived long ago and some who live now what it means to be courageous. Their examples surely inspire us to do what we should do.
In what police referred to as the city’s largest gathering of its kind in decades, several thousand people sang, prayed and carried signs with biblical references at a religious free speech march and rally in Florence, Alabama.
3000 Attend Prayer Rally, March – Florence police estimated the march crowd at 3,000 and said it was the largest single gathering they had seen in 20 years.
The march was held in sup-port of two former Bradshaw High School students, Drew Jamieson and Steve Graham, Jr., who violated school officials’ orders by saying a prayer and making religious references at their graduation ceremony June 3.
Jamieson, a youth minister at a local church, led the audience in prayer after a speech he made to his graduating class. Graham changed the graduation speech he was supposed to give and had supplied to Bradshaw officials. In his altered speech he made several religious references.
The prayer has prompted the threat of a lawsuit by the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union and a statement by school system officials that student involvement in graduation activities may be limited in the future.
Marchers sang songs such as “Lord, I Need Thee,” as they marched and several carried signs that said things such as “We believe in prayer,” “In God we trust,” and “Our nation needs to return to honor and respect for God.”
Graham said some Bradshaw officials supported the students’ desire to say a prayer at their graduation, but were bound by the law to put aside their personal beliefs. He called on those attending the rally to fight to change the laws.
“So let us come together to place blame not at the local level or on men who are but helpless pawns in this struggle, who are unable to take any other course due to rulings by the courts, each seemingly in an effort to outdo the other and take the prohibitions against religious speech to more outlandish limits.
“Let us not blame them, but let us take our fight and our cause to our homes, back to our communities, and finally into the halls of justice, where basic and important changes can be made.”
Some of those in attendance said they saw the march and rally as an opportunity to express their religious beliefs openly and proudly.
“I feel like this is a golden opportunity to get out and stand up for Jesus,” said John McDaniel of Florence. “Two thousand years ago he died for us. I believe I can walk a few blocks for him. In the past we have been too apathetic. I think this will get a lot more people to stand up.”
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: No 19, p. 1
October 7, 1993