A Christian high school student was told he would be violating the US constitution if he mentioned his faith in his graduation speech.
Officials from Brawley Union School District in California told Brooks Hamby, 18, that “reference to religious content” was inappropriate, and opposed “government case law”.
But Hamby said he did not want to compromise his values by removing all references to God or Jesus.
Three drafts of his speech were rejected by officials, and he had received no reply about his fourth version by the time he delivered it.
Despite the district telling him that the sound would be cut off if he talked about religion, Hamby quoted from the Gospel of Matthew and mentioned God during his graduation speech.
He told his classmates: “The advice I give to you is this: No man or woman has ever truly succeeded or been fulfilled on the account of living for others and not standing on what they knew in their heart was right or good”.
Referring to the Bible as “the biggest, best-selling book of all time in history”, he quoted from Matthew 5 where Jesus talks about people being the salt of the earth.
Hamby encouraged his classmates: “Be the salt of the earth. Be strong and stand for your convictions and stand for what is right, what is ethical, what is moral and what is godly, no matter what is the cost to you. Stand for what is good wherever you go and whatever you do.”
He also said, “may the God of the Bible bless each and every one of you every day for the rest of your lives”.
Hamby has not faced any challenge about his speech, and officials did not cut the sound off.
A lawyer for Liberty Institute, an American religious liberty organisation, confirmed that Hamby was well within his legal rights to deliver a speech containing references to God.
Hiram Sasser said it is “outrageous” for a school official to “demand” that a student submit his speech for review in order for it to be censored.
He added, “no government official may censor simple references to God that served as personal acknowledgment by Brooks of something greater than himself”.