Illinois High School Prohibits Valedictorian From Mentioning Jesus in Graduation Speech

SCIOTA, Ill. — Officials at an Illinois high school recently prohibited a valedictorian from speaking about Jesus in his graduation speech.

Student Sam Blackledge, 18, told the Todd Starnes Radio Show that he was called to the principal’s office at West Prairie High School last week where it was outlined by school and district officials that he needed to take his religious references out of his speech.

“They said they didn’t want to make it a religious ceremony,” he stated. “They told me that if I took out Christ I could say everything else.”

Blackledge told the officials he wanted to speak from personal experience, but his request was denied. He was informed that his speech might come across as being an endorsement from the school district. Blackledge therefore offered to begin his valedictorian speech with a disclaimer. Officials said no.

“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,” he stated. “The most important thing in my life is Christ.”

Blackledge says that officials advised him he could deliver his remarks as long as he did not specifically mention Jesus. He agreed to abide by the district’s wishes as he believed that he should respect those in authority.

Blackledge’s speech, which centered on the themes of living “a life devoid of evil, full of justice, full of love, and full of forgiveness,” was supposed to have pointed students to the cross of Christ.

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“I want you to think for a moment: Is there any event in history where these four converged in one place? Where did evil, justice, love and forgiveness converge at a moment in history? Can I take you to a hill called Calvary and show you the person of Jesus Christ?” he was to have asked.

“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,” Blackledge was to have declared.

“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.”

In Acts 5:27-29, the Scriptures outline that Peter, who had personally walked with Jesus, and other apostles of the Messiah were similarly forbidden from preaching in the name of Christ. They refused.

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council, and the high priest asked them, saying, ‘Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.'”

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