A North Carolina elementary school forced a first grade student to change a poem she had written for her grandfather for a Veteran’s Day Event because a line contained the name of God in it.
The student, who attends West Marion Elementary School was selected to read the poem as part of a special school event. Her poem was a tribute to her grandfather, a Vietnam war veteran. The line that caused the controversy said: “He prayed to God for peace, he prayed to God for strength.” (source).
According to reports, a parent of another student of the school became aware of the line in the poem and complained to school officials about the religious language.
“We had one parent concerned with the use of the word ‘God’ in this program,” school employee Chris Greene explained during a recent Board of Education meeting. “This parent did not want the word ‘God’ mentioned anywhere in the program.”
As a result, school officials to the student to remove the line from the poem.
“We wanted to make sure we were upholding the school district’s responsibility of separation of church and state from the Establishment Clause,” Superintendent Gerri Martin, who made the decision along with the principal and vice principal, told the Hickory Record.
“As a principal of a public school, I must put aside my personal religious beliefs and follow the law,” added West Marion Elementary principal Desarae Kirkpatrick, “which upholds that we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but that we, as public schools, cannot endorse one single religion over another.” (source).
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal advocacy group that works all over the United States defending Christians in issue of religious liberty, issued a letter to the school informing that they violated the student’s rights in their actions:
“America’s public schools should encourage, not restrict, the constitutionally protected freedom of students to express their faith,” said Matt Sharp, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, in a statement. “Students should not be censored when speaking about their faith or honoring those who valiantly served to protect our freedoms. … The censorship of this young student’s poem about her grandfathers is repugnant to the First Amendment rights of all students and sends an impermissible message of hostility towards religion.” (source).
In their letter, the Alliance Defending Freedom informed them that if they did not change their policy and allow religious speech of this manner, they would pursue legal action.
Continue in prayer for this school, the student and the ADF for a resolution that allows free expression, even if it is in reference to the God of the Bible. Parts of society, especially the public school system have become so hostile to God that even a reference to the name “God” in a poem results in censorship. This attitude of enmity with The Lord is all prophesied in the Bible. Jesus Christ said:
Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. – John 15:20-21.
Christians will continue to see the world increase its hostility to the faith. And the response should be to continue to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and pray for revival in the hearts and minds of the unsaved world to see the light and truth of Jesus Christ, who does not just give a soldier strength, He gives eternal life to all who will believe on Him. It is sin that has caused such a gulf between humanity and God. And the only remedy to have peace, forgiveness and reconciliation with God is faith in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world so that there would be a chance for forgiveness and eternal life.
This is the message Christians need to continue to proclaim and it is a blessing that a first grader has set such a fine example.