When the Class of 2005 of Spencer, Wisconsin, High School gathered for its graduation ceremony this past Saturday, the seniors and their families heard that Jesus Christ is their hope for the future. That message was nearly silenced when Valedictorian Miriam Cattanach submitted her speech to school officials and was told that any reference to religion, God or Jesus must be removed. Miriam and her family contacted Liberty Counsel, which wrote a letter last week to the superintendent and school principal, informing them that their attempt to censor Miriam’s speech was unconstitutional. The next day, Liberty Counsel received a call from the school district’s attorney stating that Miriam would be permitted to give her speech as written.
As a result, when the students and family members gathered on Saturday, Miriam presented her speech free of censorship. After challenging her classmates to succeed, Miriam said: “There is Someone Who can make the journey seem a lot easier. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate source of success, love, laughter, dreams and the future. He is the Creator of the universe who longs to have a relationship with you.”
Students and invited speakers do not shed their constitutional rights when they step up to the graduation podium. Expressing faith in God does not disqualify a student from delivering a graduation message. Being designated as Valedictorian or Salutatorian is an honor, and students chosen for that honor should be free to share their gratitude to God with their fellow students and family members.
Mathew Staver is president and general counsel of the Liberty Counsel.