Schiller Hill

Schiller HillRuth (“Dixie”) Jokinen Memorial

Introduction by Catherine Fahringer:

Most of you know that I live in San Antonio, Texas. We have one newspaper. Our one newspaper loves to put the pope on the front page or the local archbishop, or people who have seen Jesus in a screen door, or the Virgin Mary in the bark of a tree.

That’s all front page news, but imagine my surprise one day when there was an article by John MacCormack, who was a speaker at our 1999 convention in San Antonio. He had written an article about a young man from Bracketteville, Texas, a brilliant young man who was top in his class–his grade point average was 4.392–and so naturally he was valedictorian.

However, a few days before his graduation, he said: “I cannot accept and I will not give a speech because I know there will be prayers entailed in this ceremony and I can’t do that.”

Well, my eyes just popped out of my head. Schiller Hill is the young person we are speaking of and Schiller is 18.

After he refused, of course, he got big press and made gutsy comments to the press on the importance of the separation of church and state, and on religion, such as saying, “I believe in a rational means to everything, not in some all-powerful being.”

He’s enrolled now at the University of Texas-Austin, majoring in electrical engineering, and it seems fitting to us that this valedictorian who was essentially muzzled by his school’s disregard for the First Amendment is joining us to tell his story.


Photo by Brent Nicastro

Freedom From Religion Foundation