Moriah Bridges was set to give the “closing exercise” at Beaver High School’s graduation ceremony on June 2, when the school district decided to amend some of her words, Fox News reports.
Bridges submitted a draft of her prepared remarks to the school district, a reflection that included phrases such as, “Lord, surround us with grace and favor everywhere we go,” and, “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.”
A couple of days before the ceremony, the school district notified Bridges that her speech was “unlawful, unconstitutional, and therefore, impermissible.” The school principal, Steven Wellendorf, stated that students may not address the student body, “In the style of a prayer and most certainly may not recite a prayer that excludes other religions.”
Moriah complied with the school’s request, but expressed dismay with the fact that she could not express her religious identity in her speech.
She said, “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.”
Since the ceremony, Bridges has contacted First Liberty Institute, one of the most reputable religious liberty law firms in the country. Her lawyers believe that it was not the student that broke the law, but the school district for infringing on her First Amendment right to free speech and freedom of religion.
The U.S. Department of Education has a perennial policy that puts limits on student speech, and includes content of graduation ceremonies.