Illinois Eighth-Grader Prohibited From Delivering God-Centered Speech, Prayer at Graduation

AKIN, Ill. — An eighth-grader in Illinois was recently prohibited from delivering a speech and a prayer during his graduation ceremony due to their religious content.

Seth Clark, the salutatorian at Akin Grade School, instead presented his message and invocation across the street following the service.

According to reports, Clark submitted his speech for prior approval as is the standard procedure, but was told that some of his planned remarks posed an issue. Clark had included text in his address surrounding “God-like forgiveness” and also cited a Scripture. He additionally wanted to pray.

“I would like to apologize to all of you that I have hurt at any time in any way,” Clark was to have stated. “I am not perfect, but as found in 1 Peter 1:16, ‘Be holy as I am holy.'”

Akin Superintendent and Principal Kelly Clark contended in a statement that while the religious beliefs of students are respected, those sentiments cannot legally be a part of a public school ceremony.

“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,” she said.

‘”Because graduation is an official, school-sponsored event, the law would prohibit incorporating prayer or worship into the schedule of events,” Clark continued. “We respect the diverse beliefs our students and their families hold, and we strive to educate all such students in compliance with the law.”

  • Connect with Christian News

When family friend Rickey Karroll heard about the matter, he offered the student and two other boys the use of his yard to deliver their intended speech.

“I told them you can go across to the house over there,” he recalled to reporters. “I think he has the right to give his opinion and he wanted to do a prayer. Last time I checked, we are still the United States of America and it’s the right to freedom of speech.”

According to the Benton Evening News, Clark advised during the small service that because his speech had not been approved, he would present it across the street.

An estimated 40-50 people came to hear hear Clark’s message and prayer. His parents, being members of the school board, have declined to comment on the matter, but simply say that they are pleased with their son.

View a video about the situation here.

As previously reported, the first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in public and private schools alike until approximately the early 1900’s. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.

“Save me, O God, from evil all this day long, and let me love and serve Thee forever, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Thy Son,” it read.

Many of the Founders’ children learned to read from the primer.

Noah Webster’s famous “Blue Back Speller” also referenced Christianity, including God-centered statements in reading lessons such as “The preacher is to preach the gospel,” “Blasphemy is contemptuous treatment of God,” and “We do not like to see our own sins.” Webster is known as the father of American education.

Become a Christian News Network Supporter...

Dear Reader, has been of benefit and a blessing to you? For many years now, the Lord has seen fit to use this small news outlet as a strong influential resource in keeping Christians informed on current events from a Biblical worldview. Despite Facebook's recent algorithm changes, which has limited our readership, and, as a result, has affected operational revenue, we continue to strive to bring you the news without compromise and to keep Christ in focus. If you have benefited from our news coverage, would you please prayerfully consider becoming a Christian News supporter by clicking here to make a one-time or monthly donation to help keep the truth widely and freely published and distributed? May Christ continue to be exalted through this work!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • plankbob

    A church was the perfect place for this boy’s Christian evangelizing, not a public school which serves people of differing faithd or nonreligious students.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Godless USA is behaving like a communist nation. All peoples especially children should be able to praise God and thank Him freely anywhere. All Americans need to hear how good and loving and holy our God is.

    • This style 10/6

      So you are OK with Muslims, Hindus, Jews and all other religions praising their god at a school graduation. Glad to hear it.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        If they want, let them. But Christianity alone must be honored and supported by the entire nation because Christians are the creators of all the English colonies including the USA, not the secularists or atheists or Sodomites. Godless humans only destroy what is good and established like their father Satan. Read John 8. Those who dislike Christianity should leave the USA.

  • Jason Todd

    Uh…why are there eighth grade graduations in the first place?

    • Michael Colby

      For the same reasons that there are Preschool/Kindergarten, Elementary, High School and College graduations. To commend one for a job well done as they move on to the next phase of his or her life.

      • Jason Todd

        It’s dumb.

        • johndoe

          Opinion only

          • Sharon_at_home

            I actually agree that it shouldn’t be done for so many grades. It gives kids the feeling of satisfaction but it also makes them think that they should be rewarded for doing what they are supposed to do.
            Graduation should be done for students leaving the school.
            Having it so often kind of takes some of the elation away from the graduation for the students who are leaving the school too.

    • Bacchus

      Because building up kids’ self-esteem is the main goal of schools.
      If the kids don’t learn anything,what does it matter, so long as they feel good about themselves?

      • Sharon_at_home

        The number of rewards they give has started to make a lot of the students that I know think that they should be rewarded for anything they do even if it is expected to be done. Not a good way of looking at the world.

  • tatoo

    If my kid was attending, I would make him stand up and turn his back if some jackass starting giving a religious grad speech. And I bet most kids would follow.

    • Reason0verhate

      It’s impossible for two lesbians to have a child together.
      Takes a man and a woman to create a new human life. Gay and lesbian couples are not in fact equal to normal couples.

      • Ambulance Chaser

        Are you sure you’re in the right thread? That has nothing to do with anything in this discussion, including the comment you’re responding to.

        • Reason0verhate

          I wasn’t addressing you, missy. Mind your own business, if you have anything worth minding.

  • Sister Boogie

    It wasn’t that long ago that most American public high schools held a baccalaureate service on the Sunday before graduation, which would usually feature a sermon and prayers by various local ministers. Typically there would be one or more ministers at the graduation ceremony too. Of course, we were a much more tolerant country then, we didn’t have narrowminded, intolerant meddlers screaming that it was “unconstitutional” when what they really mean is “offensive to ME.”

    • Colin Rafferty

      What did the students who weren’t of that religion do? How was their religion honored?

      • Tree Kangaroo

        They died instantly.
        Everyone knows that when a non-Christian hears God mentioned in a public school, he immediately drops stone dead.

        Millions of have been killed by the heartless Christians.

    • Chris

      I think by ‘tolerant’ what you mean is everyone tolerated Christianity being pushed at every event.

      • You don’t think.

        • Chris

          I’m talking to the right person then.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      Well then, it wasn’t so long ago that schools were blatantly violating the Constitution.

  • Becky

    “…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,” she said.”

    Rubbish. It’s obvious they’re always only referring to Christianity. Clearly, they don’t have an issue compelling students to learn about homosexuality (a lewd religion)…those students are a captive audience…but that’s all okay is it?! The agenda is to corrupt every single young mind. Unless these students are guided by Christian parents, by the time they’re adults, homosexuality will be full-on-normal to them.

    • Colin Rafferty

      Homosexuality is not a religion. But I am certain they would not have allowed a reading from the Koran, either.

      • Becky

        Religion: a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.

        Homosexuality is, indeed, a religion. It’s followed, preached and revered with great devotion by these militant activist groups.

        • Colin Rafferty

          What dictionary is that? Here are some real dictionary definitions:

          Webster: “The outward act or form by which men indicate their recognition of the existence of a god or of gods having power over their destiny, to whom obedience, service, and honor are due”.
          Apple: “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”.

          Homosexuality is just a way of life, just as heterosexuality is.

          But getting back to the matter at hand, would you be okay with the valedictorian at your children’s graduation reading from the Koran and leading a Muslim prayer? If so, I respect the sincerity of beliefs.

          • Becky

            Oxford, but the same is in the Mirriam-Webster…”a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”.

            No, absolutely not…homosexuality is not just a way of life, just as heterosexuality is, at all (eg no straight parades). Homosexuality has reached a point, even in the US, that if you oppose it you’ll be brutally condemned verbally and even physically…much like opposing Islam…sans the head chopping…give it time, though.

          • Colin Rafferty

            Funny, the last definition in each. Fine. So I’ll go along with it being a religion, just for the sake of argument. Do you believe in freedom of religion?

            And lets talk about what happens if you oppose it. You get condemned verbally. Well, guess what, that’s life. You have the freedom to express your brutal opposition to homosexuals having equal rights, and I have the freedom to express my brutal condemnation of your speech.

            As for physical, it’s not the straight people that are beaten and physically bullied in schools. It’s not the straight people who are bashed just for being straight.

            Once in a while, a Nazi gets punched. But the only beatings associated with gay rights are against the people who are trying to get their rights.

          • Parodyx

            You know why there haven’t been any straight parades? Because you haven’t needed them. For which you should be thankful.

        • Parodyx

          No Becky. Homosexuality is not a religion. Can we please try to be serious.

          • Chris

            I think Becky is confusing Gay Rights with homosexuality. Gay Rights are certainly a cause held to with ardor. Homosexuality is merely a sexual orientation, just like heterosexuality.

    • Worf

      McCollum v. Board of Education (1948) – Supreme Court of the United States:
      “… To hold that a state cannot, consistently with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, utilize its public school system to aid any or all religious faiths or sects in the dissemination of their doctrines and ideals does not … manifest a governmental hostility to religion or religious teachings. … For the First Amendment rests upon the premise that both religion and government can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left free from the other within its respective sphere.”

    • Ambulance Chaser

      I’m not sure how a graduation speech extolling the virtues of homosexuality would go over, but how about you save your ire for when it actually happens? No one is doing such a thing.

      • Becky


        Firstly, according to the word of Almighty God, there are absolutely no virtues concerning homosexuality, at all.

        Secondly, homosexual groups don’t need the platform at a graduation speech…their religion is being taught in US public school classrooms to captive and compelled students…the very acts that are prohibited according to the USC. The homosexual religious groups (eg: GLSEN) are funded by tax dollars to spread their lewd agenda into the public schools…infiltrate and corrupt. So, of course, they don’t want to be recognised as a religious group and, of course, they don’t want Christianity at public schools, because the very word of God condemns their beliefs…their religion.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Not one single word of that responds to what I said.

  • Colin Rafferty

    This sounds reasonable. Freedom of speech does not mean that anyone is required to give you a forum for your speech. And in this case, it is literally a captive audience — anyone not of that religion has to choose between attending their own graduation or being preached to.

    Before you respond, ask yourself how you would feel if the valedictorian at your child’s graduation recited from the Koran.

    It was very gracious of the child’s neighbors to offer a forum in which he could give the speech he wanted. And perfectly appropriate for a private citizen to do that.

  • MCrow

    So when I graduated, the local churches booked the theater to have a baccalaureate service on Sunday. It was open to anyone who wanted to attend. While there, the various individuals had prayers, speeches, etc. Graduation it isn’t permitted.

    This is how it’s supposed to go: if a church wishes to have a service, they can do so. Various denominations came together, the theater didn’t charge, and it was a nice, reverent ceremony. Graduation, however, is supposed to be for everyone who graduated, not just the Christians.

  • Elmer Gantry

    Matthew 6:5-6 King James Version (KJV)
    5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
    6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.