A Lebanon, Missouri resident called my attention to a post on Principal Kevin G. Lowery’s Twitter page, which indicated that he’s apologized yet again for having prayed at the Lebanon High School graduation.
The link goes to a Dropbox page that contains the following statement:
To those who are willing to listen, I offer the following:
First, it was never my intention to personally offend, alienate, or target any student or audience member at our recent graduation. Rather, I wanted my remarks to be heartfelt, full of compassion, and deeply rooted in the history, culture, and tradition of America and Lebanon, Missouri. In fact, I wanted my comments to reflect the values, hopes, and dreams of this great community. So, why then did I apologize? Not because of pressure from my superintendent or board of education and not because of pressure from social media bloggers. I apologized because it was simply the right thing to do. This gesture comes from a lesson my parents taught me early in life. For the last 27 years, I have endeavored to create learning environments where all students feel welcomed, accepted, and fully embraced for their individuality. Have I been successful with every student over the course of my career? Unfortunately, the answer is no. However, I have tried to learn from my mistakes in such a way that other students may benefit from my lessons learned. Therefore, to whomever I may have offended on May 23, I am hopeful that you will accept my sincere apology.
Second, I want to thank Dr. Widhalm and the entire school board for their continued and unwavering support of my leadership at Lebanon High School. With their unrelenting support, our school continues to be recognized for excellence in many areas at the local, state, and national levels.
Third, I want to thank the Lebanon community for also supporting my leadership at Lebanon High School. This community has embraced me with unparalleled love, generosity, and genuine appreciation. For that, I am forever grateful.
Fourth, I want to thank the Lebanon High School faculty and staff for helping me put into place a mission and vision that is truly student-centered. I have never experienced a faculty and staff that work so hard and with so much passion in order to bring out the best in kids each and every day.
Finally, to the public at large, I have received literally hundreds of letters, cards, emails, text messages, telephone calls, Tweets, and Facebook postings from people around the country. Please know that I truly appreciate your passionate support and your strong advocacy.
It is my hope that our students will have a safe, enjoyable, and relaxing summer and we can look forward to the coming school year with a strong unity of purpose and sense of pride. Go Yellowjackets!
The curious thing about this statement, which is not an official response to the letter of complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), is that Lowery refers to “mistakes,” adding that this statement was “the right thing to do,” but neither mentions his big mistake—praying at graduation—nor promises that he won’t pray in school again. As we know now, Lowery prayed constantly before school events, saying stuff like “The law says I can’t pray at school functions, but if I could this is what I would say,” and then proceeding to pray. That makes everything worse, for it shows that Lowery knew his act was illegal, but went ahead with it anyway. And I think his omitting a description of the “mistake” was deliberate, for many citizens of Lebanon are furious that Lowery had to apologize, and some have called for the resignation of the School Board because Lowery was supposedly “forced” to apologize. (More on that later.)
While I try to be charitable about these apologies, I don’t see a lot of contrition here, but rather lot of self-praise and fulsome, community-courting praise for his school. I don’t see that Lowery really grasps how much he offended some of his students, or that he did that by consciously and continuously breaking the law. Note, too, that he again apologizes “to whomever I may have offended.” May? That kind of qualifier always turns an apology into a notapology.
By all accounts Lowery is much beloved by his students and the community. And for that I give him credit. But he must learn that the oppressive atmosphere partially caused by his religiosity and enabled by his behavior has, as evidenced by the emails I’ve gotten and a few comments on this website, driven some of Lebanon’s brightest people away from his town.
This certainly doesn’t answer the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s complaint, which was addressed to the Superintendent of Schools and the school board members, not Lowery. But Lowery’s allusion to his continuing support by the school superintendent and school board doesn’t bode well for their legal troubles. If this is as far as they go in answering the FFRF’s complaint, I suspect they’ll face more trouble in the future.