A middle school in Akin, Illinois is under fire when school officials decided not to allow Seth Clark, a 13-year-old salutatorian, to deliver his eighth-grade graduation speech because of its Christian content.
The speech contained a quote from the Bible and mentioned "God-like forgiveness." A local citizen complained, which led to the officials' decision, according to Benton Evening News.
"As a public school, it is our duty to educate students, regardless of how different they or their beliefs may be," school Superintendent Kelly Clark said in a statement to Benton Evening News.
"While students are welcome to pray or pursue their faith without disrupting school or infringing upon the rights of others, the United States Constitution prohibits the school district from incorporating such activities as part of school-sponsored events, and when the context causes a captive audience to listen or compels other students to participate."
The graduation ceremony is a school-sponsored event, so the law forbids prayer or worship on its schedule, Clark's statement said.
Ricky Karroll, a family friend, offered his property across the street from the school to allow the salutatorian to deliver his speech outside of school grounds, according to the Benton Evening News.
Becky Clark, the boy's mother, told TownHall that her son and the school's valedictorian went across the street to the property to deliver their speeches.
"They invited the audience to join them across the street at the house. It was not mandatory," Clark told TownHall. "It was the proudest moment of my life. He is more courageous at the age of 13 than I am at the age of 43."
Illinois TV station WSIL-TV posted a clip of Clark's speech.
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