There is nothing more offensive to this world than the Cross of Christ.
As the nation once again debates the best way to keep children safe from mass shooters, a high school in Illinois is reminding us of one thing from which school children are guaranteed to always be shielded: the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The class valedictorian of the West Prairie High School, Sam Blackledge, loves the Lord and wanted his class to know the role He played in his high school success. He dreamed for months of telling his class about Christ during his speech on graduation day.
“The most important thing in your life is to find … intimacy with God,” his original speech read.”As you search for goodness, justice, love and forgiveness, know that only God is big enough to provide that for you.”
Sam turned in his speech to school administrators the Saturday before graduation, but mere hours before the ceremony, he was called into the principal’s office and told he must edit his remarks–to exclude anything about Jesus or God.
“They said they didn’t want to make it a religious ceremony,” Sam said on the Todd Starnes Radio Show. “They told me that if I took out Christ I could say everything else.”
“The principal told me it wasn’t appropriate for the setting,” he added. ““I offered to begin my speech with a disclaimer but they turned that down, too – twice.”
Sam was devastated.
“I never felt that feeling before,” he said. “It was terrible. I felt like I wanted to cry. I had basically – for months – I knew I wanted to talk about Christ in my graduation speech. For that to be taken away…”
But as school officials offered him the opportunity to give the speech without the references to Jesus, he refused.
“I believe as a Christian we should respect the authority above us,” Sam said. “I told them I would not disrespect them. I told them I would respect their wishes. And I told them the reason why is because I’m a Christian.”
The school district, Sam says, feared that people might believe he was speaking on behalf of the school district. But First Liberty Institute says that the speech was always protected by the First Amendment–and the district may soon have a lawsuit on their hands.
“They actually violated the Constitution. They’d do well to remember, as ‘Tinker v. Des Moines,’ the case in 1969, reminds us, that students do not shed their constitutional rights when they walk through the schoolhouse gates,” says Jeremy Dys, a lawyer from First Liberty who has taken on Blackledge’s case. “The Department of Education, by the way, puts out guidelines on this every single year, and it’s very clear in those guidelines that student speeches like Sam’s are protected by the First Amendment.”
“These school officials ruined the only high school graduation Sam will ever know,” Dys added. “How many more graduations have to be ruined before school officials will learn that the First Amendment protects student remarks at graduation?”
You can read Sam’s powerful speech, which was published in the McDonough County Voice, here.
“The Cross of Christ shows us our own evil hearts that we would put an innocent man up to die. Christ came to show us God’s justice in dealing with the unfairness of the world. The Cross demonstrates to us the very love of God who died in our place and how we find at the end of the day that without his forgiveness we would never make it. Graduates, I hope your life is devoid of evil, full of justice, full of love, and full of forgiveness. I think our parents however, could attest that trying to manage this on our own is more than difficult,” he had planned to say.
“The most important thing in your life is to find that intimacy with God. He will guide you, he will hold you, and he will take you through safely in your journey. As you search for goodness, justice, love, and forgiveness, know that only God is big enough to provide that for you.”