ICC Note: An eighth grade student from Illinois’ Akin Grade School was recently banned from including any Christian content in his graduation speech, including a prayer. The superintendent and principal of the school issued a statement saying that this type of religious content cannot be present during a public school event. In response, the student, who was also the school’s salutatorian, delivered his original speech and a prayer across the street after the graduation ceremony ended.
By Heather Clark
05/20/2017 United States (Christian News Network) – An eighth-grader in Illinois was recently prohibited from delivering a speech and a prayer during his graduation ceremony due to their religious content.
Seth Clark, the salutatorian at Akin Grade School, instead presented his message and invocation across the street following the service.
According to reports, Clark submitted his speech for prior approval as is the standard procedure, but was told that some of his planned remarks posed an issue. Clark had included text in his address surrounding “God-like forgiveness” and also cited a Scripture. He additionally wanted to pray.
“I would like to apologize to all of you that I have hurt at any time in any way,” Clark was to have stated. “I am not perfect, but as found in 1 Peter 1:16, ‘Be holy as I am holy.’”
Akin Superintendent and Principal Kelly Clark contended in a statement that while the religious beliefs of students are respected, those sentiments cannot legally be a part of a public school ceremony.
“While students are welcome to pray or pursue their faith without disrupting school or infringing upon the rights of others, the United States Constitution prohibits the school district from incorporating such activities as part of school-sponsored events, and when the context causes a captive audience to listen or compels other students to participate,” she said.
“Because graduation is an official, school-sponsored event, the law would prohibit incorporating prayer or worship into the schedule of events,” Clark continued. “We respect the diverse beliefs our students and their families hold, and we strive to educate all such students in compliance with the law.”