Elizabeth Turner, the Michigan high school valedictorian who was told by her principal to scrub all references to God from her graduation address, has had that decision reversed by the superintendent’s office, she tells Newsmax, but her lawyer says they’d still like an acknowledgment that the principal was wrong.
“Currently I’m just finishing drafting my speech,” Turner said Thursday on “Spicer & Co.” I’m really pleased. I am able to present it on June 6th, and I’m just really grateful for all the help that First Liberty has given us so far.”
First Liberty Institute, the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty for all Americans, came to Turner’s aid after she was told by Hillsdale High Principal Amy Goldsmith that she would have to edit her planned remarks as she had submitted them.
“For me, my future hope is found in my relationship with Christ,” Turner wrote in a draft submitted to the principal. “By trusting in him and choosing to live a life dedicated to bringing his kingdom glory, I can be confident that I am living a life with purpose and meaning. My identity is found by what God says and who I want to become is laid out in scripture.”
Goldsmith told Turner she should “be mindful about the inclusion of religious aspects.”
“You are representing the school in the speech, not using the podium as your public forum,” Goldsmith wrote. “We need to be mindful about the inclusion of religious aspects. These are your strong beliefs, but they are not appropriate for a speech in a school public setting. I know this will frustrate you, but we have to be mindful of it.”
Turner said she attempted to contact Goldsmith for clarification, but when that was unsuccessful, she contacted First Liberty.
Attorney Keisha Russell said a meeting was held, which the principal did not attend.
“We just walked through everything with the superintendent, and he said that Elizabeth could express herself with religious language in her graduation speech,” Russell told Newsmax hosts Sean Spicer and Lyndsay Keith. “We didn’t really see him take responsibility or accountability for the remarks of the principal, but ultimately we were able to come to an understanding, and he said that she could make those statements.”
Radio host Todd Starnes wrote about the case on Newsmax, and told “Spicer & Co.” that such religious liberty cases are discussed on his show daily.
“Elizabeth is the hero, and God bless First Liberty Institute,” he said. “They are on these kinds of stories like a pit bull on a pork chop, and it’s no surprise that the school district backed down and did the right thing. But let’s be honest here guys, had this graduation speech been about Black Lives Matter or it was the pro-Palestinian movement, there would not have been an issue. But because Elizabeth wanted to talk about her faith in God, which she was allowed to do under the United States Constitution, she came under attack. And thank goodness she did the right thing, which was to speak out and take a stand.”
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