A valedictorian from Hillsdale High School will now be allowed to mention her Christian faith in her graduation speech for next week.
This happens after the school’s principal considered it was “not appropriate” to include it. The good news is that the student is no longer censored, and the decision has been reversed.
“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. 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,” Keisha Russell, Counsel for First Liberty Institute, stated.
Turner pointed out that she is grateful to “be able to share my faith with my classmates, and I pray that God uses this situation to advance His kingdom.”
How did the reversal come about?
As First Liberty notes, a section of the student’ speech emphasized that, “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.”
A legal firm got involved and said that Amy Goldsmith, the school’s principal, had highlighted that paragraph and another one and told the valedictorian that “you are 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. I know this will frustrate you, but we have to be mindful of it.”
The firm sent the principal a letter outlining that she was “violating federal law, which permits private religious speech at school events, and demanding that she allow Elizabeth to reference her faith.”
In the letter there was also a clear request to “allow Elizabeth Turner to express her private religious beliefs at the graduation ceremony on June 6, 2021. Please confirm that you agree to our request by Friday, May 28, 2021, at 5PM.”
It appears that the deadline worked well, and the Hillsdale student can speak freely about her faith in the upcoming graduation speech.