“They wanted me to make sure I was doing it for God and not myself,” he said.
So Costner spent the next few days in deep prayer and Bible study.
“I asked God exactly what He wanted me to do,” he explained. “I was trying to think of a prayer that would suit all denominations. That’s why I went with The Lord’s Prayer.”
And on graduation day a very nervous Costner took his place at the ceremony – with a serious case of the jitters.
“I was extremely nervous,” he said. “I didn’t know what kind of reaction I was going to get. I didn’t know which way it was going to go.”
And there was another problem. Costner’s speech had already been placed in a binder – on the platform. He would not be able to bring a copy of his replacement speech on stage.
What happened will be remembered in Pickens for quite some time – when an 18-year-old boy defied a group of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.
“I was always taught to stand for what I believe in,” he said. “That’s what I believe in. I was thanking my God before everyone. I wanted to give him a shout-out.”
As for his critics, Costner quoted a passage of Scripture from the Gospel of Matthew.
“If you deny me among men, I will deny you to the Father,” he said.
He also had a special message to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“We are not in a country where we have freedom from religion,” he said. “We have freedom of religion.”
Costner said he will be attending Clemson University in the fall where he will study computer science.