The story and video of a high school valedictorian from South Carolina who, to the surprise of his graduation audience, invoked God and uttered the Lord’s prayer, has gone viral. Roy Costner IV spoke with TheBlaze about his speech and the public’s intense reaction to it.

Costner, 18, had planned to deliver a secular address devoid of any mention of the Almighty, but he made a bold and controversial decision to ignore his school district’s mandate that God not be mentioned.

The former Liberty High School student said that his decision to say the prayer was pre-planned — something that he decided to do as an encouragement to his community. Plus, his devotion to a higher power helped fuel the contentious action.

Roy Costner Ripped Up His Speech and Delivered the Lords Prayer    and He Tells TheBlaze Why He Did It

Roy Costner (Photo Credit: Facebook)

“God’s such a big, important part of our life with everything going on, our community really needed it,” he said. “Our community is really strongly opposed to the school district’s decision to remove prayer.”

Previously, TheBlaze reported that the School District of Pickens County decided to axe prayers after complaints from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church-state separatist group, among grievances from other organizations. Naturally, the debate has led to some negative emotions on both sides.

As for Costner, he believes that the removal of God and prayer from public schools will have negative consequences.

“Originally, they were only supposed to take away prayer in the school district before meetings — [but then] they blew it way out of proportion, taking prayers out of anything,” he said, noting that teachers aren’t even allowed to participate in invocation events before the school day begins.

All if this in mind, Costner felt compelled to take action.

The valedictorian said that his original speech didn’t mention the Lord, but that he told his family before delivering the commencement address that he would be deviating from the approved, secular script. While his father, a youth pastor, supported the decision, he was worried that the controversial action would cause the district to deny his son’s diploma.

In the end, no punishment was given, as district officials had no real recourse to punish Costner.

“I didn’t know what kind of response I was going to have,” the former student told TheBlaze. “I was tearing up on stage. I was overwhelmed on the stage. I did not expect a response of that magnitude.”

The choice wasn’t one that was rooted in self-praise or an urge to gain attention. In fact, Costner said that he spent a great deal of time praying and reflecting over whether he should do it in the first place.

“One thing I wanted to make sure of was that I wasn’t doing this for myself, but for God,” he continued. “After studying the word, I felt led to have the prayer at our ceremonies.”

And have the invocation he did. Throughout his speech, the audience cheered him on, with the majority clearly overjoyed with his decision to say the Lord’s Prayer. While Costner noted that he has received negative feedback, he says the positive far outweighs it.

Watch the speech, below:

Regardless of how people have reacted, Costner is glad he spoke his truth — and he has some advice for others who may want to do the same, but may be holding back.

“Don’t let the few hold you back. Stand up for what you believe in,” he said. “We have freedom of speech for a reason.”

Costner will be attending Clemson University in the fall to study computer science.

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