A Michigan high school has changed a decision that would have forbidden a graduating senior from referencing her Christian faith in her valedictorian speech.
According to The Christian Post, Hillsdale High School officials in Michigan said they would allow the speech after the school received a demand letter from the First Liberty Institute.
Initially, school officials told the student, Elizabeth Turner, that her speech was "not appropriate" because it contained Christian references. They asked her to change it before the June 6 graduation ceremony.
"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," Turner said in a statement Thursday shared by First Liberty Institute, a legal nonprofit that defends First Amendment rights.
First Liberty Institute reached out to Principal Amy Goldsmith after the religious liberty group heard about the situation.
"Graduation is a time for celebration, not censorship," First Liberty Institute Counsel Keisha Russell said in a statement.
"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."
Goldsmith had initially told Turner after she read a draft of her speech that "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 principal was quoted as saying.
Turner's speech reads, "By trusting him and choosing to live a life dedicated to bringing his kingdom glory, I can be confident that I am living a life filled with purpose and meaning … My identity is found by what God says and who I want to become is laid out in scripture."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Rattankun Thongbun
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.