Two thousand people at Calvert County's Northern High School graduation spontaneously burst into prayer, and God makes front-page news ["Prayer and Punishment," May 28]. That means "We the People" choose to pray. Consider those of us in Calvert County as constitutionally correct if not politically correct. While "securing the blessings of Liberty," a majority voiced its opinion. No one's constitutional rights were "trampled," as alleged. We were not "establishing" any religion, nor "abridging" any freedoms.

En masse, a group of peaceably assembled citizens asserted their right of free speech. One disappointed young man had his feelings hurt, while thousands decided that prayer has a place, "among ourselves and our prosperity." No law can force us to pray; yet no law can tell us we cannot. Americans have declared, in their "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and in their wonder of "America the Beautiful," their right to thank their God, and always will. I'll bet my money on it.

-- Lorraine Dusseau

So your paper commiserates with one malcontent and the American Civil Liberties Union and finds 4,000 Calvert County graduates and their families "uncivil and intolerant" for publicly acknowledging God at an important milestone in their lives ["Incivility in Calvert County," editorial, May 29]. Perhaps it has never occurred to anyone at your paper that only by acknowledging a higher authority can we escape the self-centered focus that lets an individual justify committing an atrocity such as Littleton. The graduates of Calvert County understand this. Such a shame your paper and the ACLU don't.

-- Rick Turpyn

Bravo to Northern High School in Calvert County! As far as I know, this country is still a democracy where the majority rules. Saying the "Our Father" at graduation proved that.

-- Susan Lynch

I find the Calvert County school officials' lax attitude toward discipline shameful. In an age where administrators constantly and consistently protest the "but everyone else is doing it" attitude of many of its students, Calvert County officials had a moral obligation to remain silent during the moment of silence they agreed to. Especially horrifying is the fact that they consider themselves to be Christians. Is it their intention to demonstrate to the world that Christians make agreements but feel no moral obligation to keep them? Do they really want the world to witness them sidestepping their own agreements with the lame excuse that "everyone else was doing it"?

I am no less offended by a crowd of Christians who could not respect the wishes of others, but in this, Calvert County school officials have a much higher standard of conduct that should be expected of them. They agreed to silence; they were morally and honor bound to remain silent. The superintendent is the only official to show even the slightest sign of regret over the incident, but he still did not intervene to bring student Nick Becker back into the ceremonies where he belonged.

I am a Christian. I believe deeply in the power of prayer. I believe equally strongly that the power of prayer was abused at this ceremony by school officials and was used to verbally bludgeon a student who had done nothing more than stand up for his constitutional right to request an alternative to a Christian prayer.

The right -- the moral -- the Christian thing to have done would have been for the officials to remain silent. In the absence of that, they should have immediately made the situation right again by personally escorting the young man back into the ceremony and ensuring his attendance at the post-graduation party.

That they did not do so and continue to insist that Becker was treated properly is an outrage. And it shows that the absence of discipline in Maryland schools begins right at the top -- with its administrators.

-- Karen Hammond

Regarding the recent incident of unauthorized prayer at a Calvert County high school graduation: What's the problem? The school authorities upheld the law by stipulating that there must be no officially sponsored prayers. The friends and families of the graduates responded by exercising their First Amendment right to free expression. This is no "problem"; it's a robust outbreak of constitutional freedom.

Even if the recitation by 4,000 constituted a kind of protest, protest itself is a constitutionally protected right, as even the ACLU surely knows.

Young Nick Becker has been unjustly penalized by being denied participation in a post-graduation cruise: This is a bit of meanness that needs to be rectified. But as to the prayer itself: It's speech. It's free. Get used to it.

-- Julianne Wiley