Student Allowed to Quote Bible in Graduation Speech After SC High School Reverses Course
By Grace Oshiro - Crossmap On June 9, 2012
The student of the year in a South Carolina high school has been allowed to cite a Bible verse in her graduation speech Saturday, after the school district has reversed itself.
Michal "Mariah" Kirby, 16, was earlier told that she could not use Proverbs 13:4 in her graduation speech at Provost Academy South Carolina, an online public charter school in Columbia, South Carolina.
Like Us on Facebook
It was May 31 when she emailed a draft of her speech to school officials, only to receive an email response telling her to remove the sentence stating "Proverbs 13:4 says 'The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.'"
The email indicated that she could not "use a religious quote because we are a public school."
After receiving a letter from Alliance Defense Fund, which argued that their ban on the use of the proverb constitutes viewpoint discrimination, school officials changed course and allowed her to "deliver her speech as written."
"Mariah's speech addresses a topic that is commonly addressed at graduation ceremonies: having the courage and drive to chase your dreams. Mariah's speech expresses her religious perspective on this topic through her quotation of Proverbs 13:4. Censoring this religious reference from Mariah's speech violates her First Amendment rights," according to ADF.
"Removing the voice of faith from schools sends a message to all students that religion is something to be ashamed of," Jeremy Tedesco, an ADF attorney, said in a statement Friday. "The First Amendment forbids schools from singling out and excluding religious speech and speakers in this way."
"Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas, and that includes individual student expression contained in a graduation speech," Tedesco said.
"School officials have wisely decided to allow Mariah to include the proverb, and we hope other schools will follow their example in acting quickly to respect the constitutionally protected rights of their students."
Kirby's speech will be delivered along on June 9, with the school's valedictorian and salutatorian.