An atheist college professor is going after a Missouri high school principal who delivered a faith-themed graduation speech that referenced prayer and the nation’s history of celebrating a higher power.

Principal (Image source: YouTube)

Principal Kevin Lowery invoked God in his graduation ceremony speech. (Image source: YouTube)

Principal Kevin Lowery of Lebanon High School, a public school in Lebanon, Missouri, can be seen in a YouTube clip reminding graduates of America’s religious history before holding a moment of silence.

“In fact, I’d like to remind our graduates that our nation’s motto is, in fact, ‘In God We Trust.’ If you’re ever in doubt, just take a quick look at our nation’s currency and you’ll find out for yourself,” Lowery told students.

He continued: “A similar phrase appears in the final stanza of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ Written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key and later adopted as the U.S. national anthem on March 3, 1931 by U.S. President Herbert Hoover, the song contains in early records to a variation of this phrase: ‘And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’”

Lowery went on the cite the inclusion of a “creator” in the Declaration of Independence. After delivering the brief history lesson, the principal said that despite a rich faith-filled history, many say that mentions of God in the public square are inappropriate.

“And even though God is reflected in the very fabric of our nation, we are told that it is inappropriate and even illegal to mention God at high school graduations, let alone say a prayer,” he added. “So while it would not be politically correct for us to have an official prayer this evening, I would like for us to have a moment of silence in honor of tonight’s graduates.”

He proceeded to hold a moment of silence. Then, when it was done, he described for the audience how he used the seconds of quiet to thank God for the students, parents and teachers in the community.

And he wasn’t done there.

“I asked God to protect these students as they go their separate ways into the world. I asked God to avail himself in every possible way,” he continued. “And I asked God to watch over them, to protect them, and to bless them with self-fulfillment, with compassion, inner peace, and personal prosperity.”

Lowery told the students and families in attendance that “God is still important.”

Watch a portion of his speech below:

The context and exact date of the principal’s full remarks are unclear, as the published video, uploaded May 30, only offers a small section of the speech.

Lowery’s comments, though, attracted a response from Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, who wrote that they constitute a First Amendment violation.

He complained to Lowery, the school board, the local superintendent and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church-state separatist group.

But Hemant Mehta, an atheist blogger, had a different take, saying that while the comments were inappropriate, he’s not sure they posed an illegal constitutional violation.

A voice message and email seeking comment from Lowery have not been returned to TheBlaze.

What do you think? Let us know below.

(H/T: Friendly Atheist)