A valedictorian’s speech in a Michigan high school is being canceled over concern that it is “very Christianized,” according to a letter (pdf) from First Liberty Institute.
First Liberty, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to defending religious liberty, is representing graduating senior student at John Glenn High School, Savannah Lefler. She submitted her speech on May 19 to the speech coordinator for the school’s “Honors Night.” It is critical of certain philosophies and maintained that “[t]he purpose of life is to live a life devoted to Christ.”
Michael Wegher, the school’s principal, wrote in an email to Lefler that the school needs to be inclusive and respectful of other beliefs.
“We have a diverse student body and staff. It is one of the things I love about the John Glenn community,” he wrote.
“That diversity goes well beyond race and ethnicity, it certainly would include religious beliefs as well. We have students and staff who would identify as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindi, Sikh, Jehovah’s Witness, atheist, etc. We must be inclusive and respectful of their beliefs as well,” the principal added.
“With this said, we do need to see a revision that sticks to a non-secular [sic] approach. I am not opposed to thanking God for the great honor bestowed upon you, but we cannot take the approach that is currently laid out in your speech. I look forward to what you will come up with to honor this outstanding community to which we all belong and to honor your accomplishments.”
In the letter directed to Wegher by First Liberty, titled “Unconstitutional Censorship of Religious Speech,” the attorneys bring up that there was a portion of the speech that was rejected to avoid offending others who might disagree with the student’s way of thinking.
“The problem, you explained, was the next portion of the speech in which Ms. Lefler explains her personal belief that the purpose of life is to live a life devoted to Christ. You explained that this portion was ‘very Christianized’ and needed to be changed in order to not offend people with other viewpoints,” the attorneys write.
The Epoch Times reached out to Wegher for comment.
Lefler’s speech read in part: “So, what is the goal for our future generation? It ultimately reflects the purpose of life. What is our purpose? The philosopher Plato says that our purpose is to obtain the highest end of knowledge. Charles Darwin claims that it is to be the most fit for survival. Various religions claim that it is to be a good person. ”
“In reflecting on this question, I read a book entitled, ‘Don’t waste your life.’ In it, Rev. Piper recalled a story of an old man weeping, ‘Oh, how I’ve wasted it!’ The man’s remorse is a reflection of his past. He recognizes the folly that his life had become. This is why, students, I want to urge you not to waste your life. Seek the truth. But how is this possible? I’d argue that the philosophies listed above are wrong.”