Try to imagine a high school valedictorian of the Muslim faith, being told she cannot mention her religion in her graduation speech.
Yet that’s what is happening to the valedictorian of a high school in Michigan, who says the principal of her school has barred her from speaking about her belief in Jesus Christ during her graduation appearance in June, reports DailyMail.com.
First Liberty, a legal nonprofit, drafted a letter on behalf of Hillsdale High School senior Elizabeth Turner to principal Amy Goldsmith directing her to let the teen “express her private religious beliefs” by May 28.
First Liberty says Goldsmith committed “unconstitutional censorship” by allegedly commenting in an edit of the speech that Turner would be “representing the school” and would thereby violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Turner does not appear to be employed by the school or school district.
First Liberty contends that the speech is not subject to the Establishment Clause because it is private speech and not government speech, and that Turner should be allowed to deliver it as originally written. “Ms. Turner’s statements do not transform into government speech simply because they are delivered in a public setting or to a public audience,” the letter says. The group included three exhibits in the letter, including a screenshot of the first draft of Turner’s speech.
In the speech, Turner wrote: “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.”
One of the principal’s edits of the electronic document reads: “This is better and you fixed the language, but 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.”