Tuesday, May 30, 2017

School Cancels Student's Speech--Too Religious-- Student and Citizen Get Creative

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Just hours before graduation, 13 year old Seth Clark was told by his school administrators that he could not give his planned speech.

You can guess why. You're right.

It mentioned God and quoted Scripture. Seth loves the Lord and wants to serve Him in everything he does.

How many times have we heard that story before? Too many times.

However, this time the people and the kid got very creative, and in their creative response to adversarial circumstances, Seth's message was heard, not only by the 100 in attendance, but by tens of thousands through the media.

The Benton News reported, "The small Franklin County community of Akin, Illinois, doesn't even have a post office, but this week's controversy over an eighth grade salutatory speech has plummeted it into the media spotlight."

When 8th grader Seth Clark submitted his speech, it contained references to "God-like forgiveness" as well as a quote from the Bible.

School officials reacted to a single complaint regarding the content of the speech and hours before the graduation, Seth was told he could not give the speech.

The Superintendent and Principal Kelly Clark released the following statement:

"As a public school, it is our duty to educate students, regardless of how different they or their beliefs may be. While students are welcome to pray or pursue their faith without disrupting school or infringing on the rights of others, the United States Constitution prohibits the school district incorporating such activities as part of school sponsored activities as part of school sponsored events, and when the context causes a captive audience to listen or compels other students to participate."

The Benton newspaper then launches into a mini lecture on the separation of church and state, the Establishment Clause, etc.

I'll spare you that part.

The Benton News says, "The decision to disallow Seth's speech at the graduation ceremony drew the criticism of one Akin resident, Ricky Karroll."

It actually drew criticism from many residents in the small town who believe in religious liberty.

Karroll said he is friends with Seth's parents, thought the boy was being treated unfairly and offered his front yard as a venue for Seth to give his speech. He said Seth can invite everybody over when the ceremony is concluded---Karrol lives right across the street from the school.

Southern Illinois WSIL TV 3 (ABC) got hold of the story.

Karroll told the TV station he thinks Seth has a right to share what he believes---"We've always had a prayer in the past."

He said, "We are still in the United States of America" and he has "the right to freedom of speech."

Karroll also said, "I'm not prejudiced, but they (a Muslim) have a right to say what they want"...."if the school had told a Muslim they couldn't do that, somebody like the board or the ACLU would have been jumping down their (the school's) throat."

He said, "Our money says in 'God We Trust', are we going to stop using that money?"

Seth stood up at the graduation and told the audience of about 100 or so that he would be giving his speech following the school sponsored ceremony across the street on the front porch of Mr. Karroll's house.

Following the ceremony, Seth, still in his cap and gown led a procession of friends and their families across the street and gave his speech, his prayer and whatever else he wanted to say.

Karroll said he counted at least 50-60 people.

Here's the take-away.

If Seth would have moderated his speech to conform, he would have given it to about 100 people---and he would not have been true to what he believed God wanted him to do and say.

What seemed like a major set-back for this young kid who loves the Lord and wanted to say so---turned out to be a much greater opportunity.

WSIL TV 3 not only reported this story, but ran Seth's speech as he spoke from the front porch of Karroll's house.

Rather than 100 hearing, now due to the television coverage, the speech is trending on social media--as I write, tens of thousands have already viewed the boy's speech.

It's a familiar story but it comes to mind. Joseph's dream was unacceptable to his brothers, to say the least.

Their attempt to silence him created a path to God's purpose for Joseph's life.

They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

Be Informed. Be Vigilant. Be Bold. Be Prayerful.