A high school valedictorian in Michigan is being prohibited by the school from mentioning her Christian faith in her graduation speech, the Daily Caller reports.
The student, Elizabeth Turner, is the valedictorian of Hillsdale High School in Hillsdale, Michigan. Upon submitting the draft of her speech to the school, the speech was returned to her with several passages censored due to her mentioning Jesus Christ and her Christian faith. The justification given by the school’s principal, Amy Goldsmith, was that discussing Christianity was “not appropriate” and would not be “representing the school.”
“You are representing the school in your speech, not using the podium as your public forum,” Goldsmith said in her comments on the Google Doc version of the speech. “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 public school setting.”
The original version of Turner’s speech included the following excerpts:
“For me, my future hope is found in my relationship with Christ. 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. Whether we want to admit it or not, not one of us can be certain of how our lives will unfold, but we do know that trials will come. The reality of this is that we face an unpredictable future, and while we are making all these plans to prepare, ultimately none of us are promised tomorrow, making it all the more important to make today count.”
Following Goldsmith’s efforts to censor the speech, Turner’s family hired the law firm First Liberty, which subsequently sent a letter to Goldsmith on Wednesday demanding that Turner be allowed to give her full speech. Turner, the firm reminded Goldsmith, has a right to “express her private religious beliefs” due to the “the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clause” of the First Amendment.