Michigan High School Student Told To Remove Any Religious References from Her Graduation Address

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The 10 Commandments have been removed from parks, schools and courthouses. President Biden left the word “God” out of his proclamation of the annual National Day of Prayer in May.

What’s next?

A simple commencement speech. A Michigan principal told a teen valedictorian to get rid of God from her graduation speech. Principal Amy Goldsmith advised in a letter she is representing the school in the speech, “not using the podium as your public forum.” “We need to be mindful about the inclusion of religious aspects. These are your strong beliefs, but they are not appropriate for a speech in a school public setting.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education students or other graduation speakers may not be restricted from referencing religious content or even delivering prayers.

“For me, my future hope is found in my relationship with Christ,” Hillsdale High School senior Elizabeth Turner wrote in the speech.

“By trusting in him and choosing to live a life dedicated to bringing his kingdom glory, I can be confident that I am living a life with purpose and meaning. My identity is found by what God says and who I want to become is laid out in scripture.”

First Liberty Institute is one of the nation’s top religious liberty law firms, and was told by Turner about the censorship. They fired off a letter warning the school it violated the U.S. Constitution — the school soon changed their stance to allow Turner to recite the original text from her speech.

“We are grateful to school officials for acting swiftly to ensure that religious students can freely exercise their right to express their faith in a graduation speech,” said Keisha Russell, Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “Elizabeth is thrilled that she’ll be able to celebrate her graduation without being censored. We hope that future graduates will be free from religious censorship.”

“Graduation is a time for celebration not censorship,” added Russell. “Students retain their constitutional rights to freedom of expression from elementary school all the way through the graduation ceremony.  All public schools should protect the private religious expression of their students.” 

Turner said, “I’m grateful I will be able to share my faith with my classmates, and I pray that God uses this situation to advance His kingdom.”

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By Corine Gatti-Santillo

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