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Thread: School Censors Religious Words in Graduation Speech

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    School Censors Religious Words in Graduation Speech

    A high school valedictorian in Vermont was forbidden by school administers from delivering nearly half of his graduation speech in which he discussed how Jesus had changed his life.

    “I was just sharing a story about my life and how it was changed,” said Kyle Gearwar, the valedictorian at Fair Haven Union High School. “And as an American and as a valedictorian I felt that I should have been able to do that.”

    Gearwar, 18, said he had submitted his speech to the principal and the following day he was summoned to the office.

    “They told me my speech was going to be a problem – that the school wouldn’t allow me to deliver the speech and they would prevent me from giving the speech if it came down to it,” Gearwar told Fox News Radio.

    He said the principal told him to remove anything that “had to do with religion, God, talking about how He can help you. The thing that actually changed me, I couldn’t talk about.”

    “You can burn a flag but we’re not able to speak about God,” he said. “I just don’t agree with that.”

    Brett Blanchard, the principal at Fair Haven Union High School, defended the censorship and said public school must be careful about allowing some to talk about their religion at a school-sanctioned event.

    “We are absolutely strong supporters of free speech,” Blanchard told Fox News Radio. “The federal law limits the kind of religious speech that’s permitted at a commencement at a public high school.”

    The issue was whether Gearwar’s speech was a personal testimony of how Jesus Christ changed his life – or if it was an act of proselytizing.

    Among the many sentences that the school took offense to was this passage from Gearwar’s speech:

    “I have peace and can finally enjoy every moment God has given me, good or bad. I wouldn't be standing before you without the blessings God has given me through my tough situations. He is the reason I am the man I am today, made new through Jesus death on the cross.”

    During the graduation ceremony, several audience members encouraged Gearwar to read the censored and redacted portions of his speech. The Christian teenager declined to do so, explaining that he had given his word to the principal and the assistant principal that he would abide by their decision.

    “You’re supposed to respect your authority,” he said. “Even in the Bible it says you should respect the authorities of the land. I wasn’t going to disappoint these men.”

    That decision struck a chord with Blanchard.

    “He stuck to his word and his agreement,” Blanchard said. “I think it speaks highly.”

    Gearwar said he has nothing but respect for Blanchard and the school’s assistant principal.

    “They were very nice and they are awesome people and they were just doing what they were told to do,” he said.

    The censorship of Gearwar’s speech was also the subject of an editorial by the Burlington Free Press, chastising school administrators for “playing it safe.”

    “The school’s decision says much about how uncomfortable we all have become about discussing religion publicly,” the newspaper wrote. “We should be able to listen to others talk about their faith – those different from our own – without feeling threatened. Instead we live in a sad time when the risk of offending someone also carries the risk of being sued.”

    Gearwar, who will be attending the University of Connecticut, said he wrote the speech “for God’s glory” and said he’s been surprised by the attention it’s gotten.

    Principal Blanchard said he’s worried “the public dialogue will be misconstrued.”

    “I think it is a very valid topic to discuss and I’m hoping it doesn’t become misconstrued or simplified,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a simple issue.”

    Regardless, the Burlington Free Press summed up their take on the controversy by crediting Gearwar.

    “If anything is clear, it is that Kyle Gearwar, valedictorian of the Fair Haven Union High School class of 2011, conducted himself with honor and principle



    School Censors Religious Words in Graduation Speech - FoxNews.com

    If Jesus were alive today, it wouldn't be the Jews who kill him. It would be the ACLU (or some other left-wing nutjob). If this student would have praised Allah or Mohammed and the school tried to stop him, they would be tripping over themselves to defend him.

    Besides, whether you believe Jesus was divine or not, he had some pretty good ideas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kingstonsd View Post
    A high school valedictorian in Vermont was forbidden by school administers from delivering nearly half of his graduation speech in which he discussed how Jesus had changed his life.

    “I was just sharing a story about my life and how it was changed,” said Kyle Gearwar, the valedictorian at Fair Haven Union High School. “And as an American and as a valedictorian I felt that I should have been able to do that.”

    Gearwar, 18, said he had submitted his speech to the principal and the following day he was summoned to the office.

    “They told me my speech was going to be a problem – that the school wouldn’t allow me to deliver the speech and they would prevent me from giving the speech if it came down to it,” Gearwar told Fox News Radio.

    He said the principal told him to remove anything that “had to do with religion, God, talking about how He can help you. The thing that actually changed me, I couldn’t talk about.”

    “You can burn a flag but we’re not able to speak about God,” he said. “I just don’t agree with that.”

    Brett Blanchard, the principal at Fair Haven Union High School, defended the censorship and said public school must be careful about allowing some to talk about their religion at a school-sanctioned event.

    “We are absolutely strong supporters of free speech,” Blanchard told Fox News Radio. “The federal law limits the kind of religious speech that’s permitted at a commencement at a public high school.”

    The issue was whether Gearwar’s speech was a personal testimony of how Jesus Christ changed his life – or if it was an act of proselytizing.

    Among the many sentences that the school took offense to was this passage from Gearwar’s speech:

    “I have peace and can finally enjoy every moment God has given me, good or bad. I wouldn't be standing before you without the blessings God has given me through my tough situations. He is the reason I am the man I am today, made new through Jesus death on the cross.”

    During the graduation ceremony, several audience members encouraged Gearwar to read the censored and redacted portions of his speech. The Christian teenager declined to do so, explaining that he had given his word to the principal and the assistant principal that he would abide by their decision.

    “You’re supposed to respect your authority,” he said. “Even in the Bible it says you should respect the authorities of the land. I wasn’t going to disappoint these men.”

    That decision struck a chord with Blanchard.

    “He stuck to his word and his agreement,” Blanchard said. “I think it speaks highly.”

    Gearwar said he has nothing but respect for Blanchard and the school’s assistant principal.

    “They were very nice and they are awesome people and they were just doing what they were told to do,” he said.

    The censorship of Gearwar’s speech was also the subject of an editorial by the Burlington Free Press, chastising school administrators for “playing it safe.”

    “The school’s decision says much about how uncomfortable we all have become about discussing religion publicly,” the newspaper wrote. “We should be able to listen to others talk about their faith – those different from our own – without feeling threatened. Instead we live in a sad time when the risk of offending someone also carries the risk of being sued.”

    Gearwar, who will be attending the University of Connecticut, said he wrote the speech “for God’s glory” and said he’s been surprised by the attention it’s gotten.

    Principal Blanchard said he’s worried “the public dialogue will be misconstrued.”

    “I think it is a very valid topic to discuss and I’m hoping it doesn’t become misconstrued or simplified,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a simple issue.”

    Regardless, the Burlington Free Press summed up their take on the controversy by crediting Gearwar.

    “If anything is clear, it is that Kyle Gearwar, valedictorian of the Fair Haven Union High School class of 2011, conducted himself with honor and principle



    School Censors Religious Words in Graduation Speech - FoxNews.com

    If Jesus were alive today, it wouldn't be the Jews who kill him. It would be the ACLU (or some other left-wing nutjob). If this student would have praised Allah or Mohammed and the school tried to stop him, they would be tripping over themselves to defend him.

    Besides, whether you believe Jesus was divine or not, he had some pretty good ideas.
    Do you understand what the ACLU actually does?

    Children's religious education should be directed primarily by parents, families, and religious communities — not the public schools. The ACLU defends students' free speech rights in the public schools and defends students' rights to pray in the schools. Additionally, whenever a teacher allows children to choose their own topics for an assignment (such as which book to read or which topic to study for a presentation), students may choose religious themes — and the ACLU has protected their right to do so.
    They didn't prevent this student from doing anything. Enforcement of the Bill of Rights did. Besides which ... this was a high school graduation not testimonial time at church camp.

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    Senior Member wingrider's Avatar
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    I have to give Kudos to the student..He did the right thing as far as giving way to those in authority ,, it is just what Christ would have us do in these circumstances..

    we must render unto Ceasar the things which are Ceasars and unto God the things which are Gods.. great Christian testimony.

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    I wonder how people would feel if a Muslim was a valedictorian and wanted to talk about how Allah had changed his life?

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    Quote Originally Posted by babba View Post
    i wonder how people would feel if a muslim was a valedictorian and wanted to talk about how allah had changed his life?
    Deport!!!!!!

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    Miss Mock Out jackalope's Avatar
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    Gimme a break -- he was going to spend half his speech proselytizing and giving testimony. As IF that would be appropriate for a public school graduation.

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    Council Member Djinn's Avatar
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    The school did the right thing. Courts have ruled repeatedly that free speech does not apply to students on public school property, or at school-funded events. The school administration has full censorship rights with school newspapers, yearbooks, signs posted in hallways, ... and speeches delivered by students at school events.

    There are many private schools that would welcome a student who wished to talk about the role of Jesus in his life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Djinn View Post
    The school did the right thing. Courts have ruled repeatedly that free speech does not apply to students on public school property, or at school-funded events. The school administration has full censorship rights with school newspapers, yearbooks, signs posted in hallways, ... and speeches delivered by students at school events.

    There are many private schools that would welcome a student who wished to talk about the role of Jesus in his life.
    That ruling clearly infringed on the students freedom of conscience.

    He was given the privilege of speaking about his own experience -- his faith being an important part of that experience. It is sad that ignorant bigots would rather censor a truthful speech rather than ask the audience to leave if they don't want to hear what the student have to say -- something he earned the right to say by being the valedictorian.

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    Council Member Djinn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingrat View Post
    That ruling clearly infringed on the students freedom of conscience.
    "Freedom of conscience?" Are you serious? If the school had told him that he couldn't wear a giant foam-rubber sombrero during his speech, you could make an equally valid claim that the school infringed on his "freedom of fashion."

    He was given the privilege of speaking about his own experience -- his faith being an important part of that experience. It is sad that ignorant bigots would rather censor a truthful speech rather than ask the audience to leave if they don't want to hear what the student have to say -- something he earned the right to say by being the valedictorian.
    He was speaking at the leisure of the school officials. The student had no legal right to give any speech whatsoever. He was being permitted to do so, if he wished, within the boundaries set by the school.

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    We are absolutely strong supporters of free speech,” Blanchard told Fox News Radio. “The federal law limits the kind of religious speech that’s permitted at a commencement at a public high school.”
    Wrong the school has no right to make a person believe or support his beliefs but the student has the right to share. He could sue the school.

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