High-school senior Sam Blackledge, the valedictorian at West Prairie High School in Sciota, Illinois, was hoping to thank God in his graduation speech last month. Instead, he was ordered by government officials to scrub all mentions of God and Jesus before being allowed to speak. Blackledge twice offered to issue a disclaimer before starting, to no avail.
“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,” Blackledge was quoted as saying about the incident, recalling how the principle claimed he did not want graduation to seems like a “religious” ceremony.
As long as he would agree to take out Christ, officials told Blackledge he could say everything else. But for God-fearing young man, who puts Christ at the center of everything, that was devastating. “I never felt that feeling before,” the 18-year-old graduate recalled in comments to the media.
After all, Blackledge’s faith is essential to his life and who he is as a person. “The most important thing in my life is Christ,” the devastated teen explained. “Christ is the only reason I was a valedictorian. He’s the reason I got that 4.0. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be up there. I was giving Him the credit for that.”
In his speech, which can be read online here, Christ was the star. “Where did Evil, Justice, Love and Forgiveness converge at a moment in history?” reads the speech he planned to give. “Can I take you to a hill called Calvary and show you the person of Jesus Christ? 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.”
Because as a Christian he respects authority, Blackledge agreed to obey school officials and did as he was told, cutting Jesus out and giving just brief remarks that did not include what he wanted to say. But after being contacted by a public-interest law firm that defends religious freedom in America, Blackledge decided pursue this further.
Now, First Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys is on the case. “School officials should remember that students retain their constitutional rights to freedom of expression from the schoolhouse gates, all the way through the graduation ceremony,” he said. “These school officials ruined the only high school graduation Sam will ever know. How many more graduations have to be ruined before school officials will learn that the First Amendment protects student remarks at graduation?”
Speaking to The McDonough Voice, Dys said the school district violated the Constitution and that the First Liberty Institute was considering how to proceed in the case.
School officials have refused to comment.
No matter what happens legally in this case, the hostility to God is pervasive in the government’s so-called “education” system. The implications should be obvious. After all, Scripture says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverb 9:10).
The fact that students cannot even mention their Lord and Savior at graduation should tell Americans everything they need to know about the school system. No Christian parent should subject their children to these Jesus-hating indoctrination centers. Period.