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This photo of teens praying on prom night is sparking controversy

Elise Solé
A photo of teens praying on prom night has sparked controversy. (Photo: Facebook/Frank Somerville)

A photo of teens praying on prom night has started a debate over the definition of a “good” kid. 

On Tuesday, Frank Somerville, a journalist at TV station KTVU in Oakland, Calif., posted a photo from a viewer featuring a group of teens sitting at dinner on prom night, clasping hands and bowing their heads in prayer. “I want to share a picture of my daughter and her friends from prom night,” read the note from a mom named Noelle Smith. “Now with the stories today about teenagers and Tide pods and condoms gathering headlines — this picture speaks for itself.”

Smith added, “So impressed with these young people on their prom date at Longhorn. They all said grace before eating and were all well behaved.”

Somerville wrote in the caption, “It sure does. And coupled with the post I did yesterday about the kids playing basketball who kneeled when a funeral procession went by, it says a lot about young people these days. It’s REALLY nice to see.”

The photo scored 1,400 likes and stirred emotions over the implications of the image. Some applauded the teens for praying. “Why is it that some of you want to start a rant over a simple photo?” commented Facebook user Debra Kiriu. “Just let it be and be grateful that people can join hands in unity and say grace, it is not something we see enough of anymore!” 

Lisa Henderson wrote, “Love this! Proud of (some) of the children today. Hopefully, the rest will catch up.” Lois Jennings added, “This what I mean when I say that parents need to be taking their children to church and Sunday School, instead of buying them violent video games, and taking them to violent movies. This is just a great example of respectful kids. Thanks for sharing.”

However, many didn’t agree that saying grace automatically means someone is a good person, while others felt the post was discriminatory against nonreligious people.

Anouck Green commented, “No offense, but saying grace doesn’t mean any of those things. I’ve known people who do exactly this kind of stuff in public, but who are the most hypocritical, hateful jerks in private. Not saying these kids are like that, but just assuming they’re great based on this is a) taking quite a leap and b) kind of implying people who don’t believe can’t possibly be on the same level.”

Added commenter Josh Gilbert: “My guess is their opinions on gay marriage, interracial families, equal rights, and other things we hold dear might not thrill you.”

Angela Marie Perez wrote, “Let’s be clear though, kids who don’t say grace are also good kids. Just because you aren’t Christian doesn’t make you a bad person.”

And Jason Ovalle: “Sorry but that’s not impressive at all try going to work paying bills and attending school matter of fact pay a mortgage or even a car note making minimum wage or not much more then that while living on your own and I will be impressed with no help at all from parents friends or colleague.” 

Eventually, the mother of one of the depicted teens interjected, “They conducted themselves as adults. Not because they prayed but because they sat up straight in their chair, they didn’t disrupt others, and [they] showed and used good manners which is the whole point…. and also that we as parents have done our job producing productive members of society!”

The mom added, “And for the rest of you…my daughter went to prom, twerked, probably said a few curse words, stayed at a prom house all weekend…that I waited for her at and chaperoned…. I couldn’t be more proud and blessed that she is a humble and kind person. That’s what this picture shows…maturity and good judgment.”

Somerville, who did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment, also wrote, “I’m honestly surprised by some of these comments … I wasn’t trying to imply that you have to be a Christian to be a good person. What I see from these kids is that they are respectful … that they are humbled … and that they are appreciative for what they have. … I could care less whether they are religious … but by saying grace it shows me that they have those qualities … and those are the qualities … regardless of whether you believe in god … that I admire.”

Scientists have questioned whether religion plays a role in positive outcomes — in March, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education released a study that found religious teens do better in school. “Generally, kids who are religious drink less, have less sex, and are more closely supervised by their parents,” study author Ilana Horwitz, said in a press release.

She later added, “Being religious helps adolescents in middle and high school because they are rewarded for being obedient and respectful and for having self-control.” 

However, another study, conducted by Drexel University College of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh, found that the teenage birth rate is higher in religious states, possibly due to a lack of sex education.

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