At Graduation, No Tassel without Tussle over Faith


There’s power in the name of Jesus — and the administrators of West Prairie High School must know it. Hours before Valedictorian Sam Blackledge was scheduled to give his graduation speech, he was called into the principal’s office. And it wasn’t to congratulate him on the personal testimony he’d included.

“They said they didn’t want to make it a religious ceremony,” Sam told Fox News’s Todd Starnes. “They told me that if I took out Christ I could say everything else.” There’s just one problem, he pointed out. Without Christ, not much about the speech mattered. Sam fought to keep the text, explaining that his relationship with Jesus is what impacted his life. The principal didn’t budge, insisting that it wasn’t “appropriate for the setting.” Sam offered to start his speech with a disclaimer, and the answer was the same: no.

“I never felt like that feeling before,” he said. “It was terrible.” After the ceremony, Sam went to work making sure that what happened to him wouldn’t happen to another student. He contacted First Liberty Institute and asked the group to help him change the policy. “School officials should remember that students retain their constitutional rights to freedom of expression from the schoolhouse gates all the way through the graduation ceremony,” First Liberty’s Jeremy Dys argued.

Unlike a lot of the graduation dust-ups, West Prairie took direct aim at the name of Jesus. To them, that’s what’s offensive — not religion, not God. It’s a dilemma as old as the New Testament. Peter and John faced this same intolerance when they were told not to preach in Jesus’s name. Hauled before the Sanhedrin, the apostles were asked to explain why they were declaring the resurrection of Christ. Peter pointed to the lame man who’d been healed. “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this… It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”

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“Salvation,” Peter said simply, “is found in no one else.” That’s why, to this day, people like these administrators don’t want the name of Jesus mentioned. Militant secularists want Him locked up in our hearts and homes, where the world can’t see His transformative light. Unfortunately, too many people give in, shrinking back in fear of controversy or offense. This is exactly why we have to fight for religious freedom, so that the power of revival is still possible — not just in West Prairie, but everywhere!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law. (Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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