Michigan High School Principal Reverses Decision to Remove Christ from Valedictorian Graduation Speech
TUPELO, Miss. —The American Family Association (AFA, afa.net) stood with Michigan student Elizabeth Turner, who fought back after her public high school principal told her not to use certain religious content in her upcoming valedictory graduation speech.
Turner’s Valedictorian speech read: “For me, my future hope is found in my relationship with Christ. By trusting in him and choosing to live a life dedicated to bringing his kingdom glory, I can be confident that I am living a life with purpose and meaning.” Turner’s speech continued, “My identity is found in what God says and who I want to become is laid out in scripture. Whether we want to admit it or not, not one of us can be certain how our lives will unfold, but we do know that trials will come. The reality of this is that we face an unpredictable future, and while we are making all these plans to prepare, ultimately none of us are promised tomorrow, making it all the more important to make today count.”
The original complaint explained that Hillsdale High School Principal Amy Goldsmith took issue with the portion of Turner’s draft that mentioned her belief in Jesus Christ. The complaint, filed by First Liberty, alleges that the Michigan school violated federal law allowing private religious speech at school events.
Walker Wildmon, Vice President of Operations and Public Policy Analyst at AFA, demonstrated AFA’s support of Elizabeth Turner, “America was founded on the ideal that all men and women should be able to live out their faith. A core value of AFA is religious liberty—AFA believes that all men and women, whether in private or public, should be free to exercise their faith without restriction from the government. Hillsdale High School had no legal right to scrub religious speech from a graduation ceremony, as this was a violation of the First Amendment.”
In addition, the U.S. Department of Education (DoED) guidance from 2020 states, “student remarks are not attributable to the school simply because they are delivered in a public setting or to a public audience.”
Wildmon concluded, “This is an example of a state institution targeting religion as unacceptable speech meanwhile allowing all other kinds of non-religious speech. We want to applaud this student, Elizabeth Turner, and her legal representation for being willing to stand up against religious discrimination and fight for the First Amendment rights of all Americans.”
For over 40 years, AFA has operated within the mission to inform, equip and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission. Find AFA Action Alerts here.
AFA—founded in 1977—has long been on the front lines of America’s culture war. Today, AFA is one of the largest and most effective pro-family organizations in the country, with nearly a million online supporters and approximately 160,000 subscribers to the AFA Journal, the ministry’s monthly magazine. In addition, AFA owns and operates nearly 180 radio stations across the country under the American Family Radio banner.
View the media page for AFA here. For more information on American Family Association, visit www.afa.net or follow AFA on Facebook or Twitter @AmericanFamAssc.
To interview Walker Wildmon or another representative of the American Family Association, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Beth Harrison, 610.584.1096, ext. 105, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.