Moriah Bridges wanted to thank God
for His immeasurable blessings on Beaver High School’s graduating class. But
she could not, because it was against the law.
The Pennsylvania teenager wanted to
offer thanksgiving to the Almighty for parents and coaches and teachers. But
again, she could not, because it was against the law
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“Make us selfless. Make us just.
Make us successful people, but more than that, make us good people,” Moriah
wanted to pray. But that too, was determined to be unlawful.
This is the America – the land of
the free, the home of the brave. But it is also a place where a young teenager
girl is not permitted to mention the name of Jesus Christ or anything remotely
religious in a graduation speech at a public high school.
Moriah Bridges, a member of the 2017
graduating class, was asked to provide what they call the closing exercise at
Beaver High School’s graduation on June 2.
She crafted a lovely prayer that
mentioned her “Heavenly Father” and her “Lord.”
“Lord, surround us with grace and
favor everywhere we go,” she prayed. “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, even to the ultimate sacrifice. Help us love our brothers and our
sisters deeply. Lead us to bless them.”
Unfortunately, Moriah was not
permitted to deliver that prayer – thanks to the Beaver Area School District.
On May 31, the district notified the
teenager that her prepared remarks were unlawful, unconstitutional, and
“The selected students may still
address their class and indicate the things that they wish/hop for their class,
but they may not do it in the style of a prayer and most certainly may not
recite a prayer that excludes other religions (by ending ‘in the name of our
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” or “in the matchless name of Jesus,’” principal
Steven Wellendorf wrote to Moriah in a letter.
The principal flat-out told the
young lady that prayer – even student-led prayer – is not permissible by
“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,” Moriah said.
abided by the school district’s edict – and then she contacted First
Liberty Institute, one of the nation’s top religious liberty law firms.
lesson this school district taught its students is that they should hide their
religious beliefs from public view,” First Liberty Institute
attorney Jeremy Dys told me. “That fails the test of the First
It wasn’t Moriah who broke the law,
it was the school district, Dys said.
“In short, school officials – in
violation of the First Amendment – forced Moriah to censor her personal remarks
during the closing exercise of her commencement ceremony merely because of the
religious viewpoint of her remarks,” the attorney said. “Because of Dr. Rowe’s
instructions, Moriah was muzzled and restrained by school officials on the penultimate
day of her high school career.”
The U.S. Department of Education has
a long-standing policy regarding student speech – a policy that covers
“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,” the policy
Dys is calling for a meeting with
school officials – but so far they have not responded.
The school district’s suggestion
that Moriah should offer wishes or hopes for her fellow graduates is ludicrous.
Moriah was not praying to some sort of fairy godmother. She was praying to
Ironically, by refusing to allow a
student to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the school district excluded the
But these days excluding
Christianity to achieve inclusiveness is a standing operating procedure on high