Student References Faith in Graduation Speech Against School's Policy

Carrie Dedrick | Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Student References Faith in Graduation Speech Against School's Policy

A high school graduate Brooks Hamby recently caused conflict when he wanted to thank Jesus in his graduation speech. The Stanford-bound senior was named class salutatorian; along with the title came the honor of giving a speech at his commencement ceremony. But the Brawley Union School District in Brawley, California said any reference to religion would be “inappropropriate” and a violation of “prevailing legal standards.” 

After writing two drafts of his speech, Hamby received a warning letter from the school district claiming his speech was a “violation of the Constitution.” A third draft was returned to Hamby with all faith references blacked out. The fourth version of the speech is what he delivered at graduation, religious references included. 

"I didn't want to compromise my faith,” Hamby said. "I wasn't interested in removing every trace of God or Jesus. I wasn't interested in conforming to those demands. I did not want to compromise my values. I didn't want to water down the message."

Though the school had warned him that the microphone’s sound would be turned off if he mentioned God, Hamby was able to deliver the speech in its entirety.

Liberty Institute attorney Hiram Sasser said that Hamby was legally in the right to mention Christianity. "It is outrageous that a government school official would demand that a salutatorian submit his speech for government review for the purpose of censoring religious speech.”

Hamby concluded his speech with scripture. "So I will leave you with this, with a quote from the biggest best-selling book of all time in history: 'You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.’ Be the salt of the earth, be strong and stand for your convictions and do what is right, ethical, moral and Godly, no matter the cost to you."

Publication date: June 17, 2014