Beaver, PA – When Moriah Bridges submitted a draft of her prepared speech for the Beaver High School’s graduation ceremony, she was shocked that the school district wanted to amend her “personal remarks.”
According to the school district, Bridges’ remarks were, “unlawful, unconstitutional, and therefore, impermissible.” The strong condemnation is directed at phrases that include, “Lord, surround us with grace and favor everywhere we go,” and, “soften our hearts to teach us love and compassion, to show mercy and grace to others the way that you showed mercy and grace to us.”
School principal Steven Wellendorf said students aren’t allowed to address the student body in the style of a prayer and most certainly may not recite a prayer that excludes other religions.
Although disheartened, Bridges complied with the school’s edit. Still, she isn’t happy. She contacted First Liberty Institute, a trustworthy religious liberty law firm, to defend her First Amendment right to free speech and freedom of religion.
“I was shocked that the school said my personal remarks broke the law and I was saddened that I could not draw upon my Christian identity to express my best wishes for my classmates on what should’ve been the happiest day of high school,” Bridges said.
Her lawyers say it was the school district that “broke the law,” not Bridges.
According to the U.S. Department of Education:
Prayer at Graduation
School officials may not mandate or organize prayer at graduation or select speakers for such events in a manner that favors religious speech such as prayer. Where students or other private graduation speakers are selected on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria and retain primary control over the content of their expression, however, that expression is not attributable to the school and therefore may not be restricted because of its religious (or anti-religious) content. To avoid any mistaken perception that a school endorses student or other private speech that is not in fact attributable to the school, school officials may make appropriate, neutral disclaimers to clarify that such speech (whether religious or nonreligious) is the speaker’s and not the school’s.
You can watch an interview with Moriah Brides below.
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