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Students Want Superintendent to Apologize for Quoting Bible, Praying at Graduation Ceremony

A group of students in Missouri were angered by the district superintendent’s prayer and “religious” speech at the graduation ceremony and want him to issue a public apology.
Willard High School graduation ceremony for 2017 Facebook/Willard High School

A group of students in Missouri were angered by the district superintendent's prayer and "religious" speech at the graduation ceremony and want him to issue a public apology.

Superintendent Kent Medlin, who will retire in June, reportedly offended some people from the Willard High School graduating class by acknowledging that his Savior guided him through life, quoting some parts of the Bible in his speech and asking the crowd to join him in prayer if they wanted to, according to News-Leader.

Four students who were offended with what Medlin did are thinking about getting in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union. They are also considering filing a complaint to "set a precedent" and make sure the same thing does not get repeated in Willard High School.

One of them, Ashlynn Bradley, said she felt offended because Medlin "put his rights over our rights."

"He asked students to stand up and pray as a Christian, quoting the Bible numerous times throughout. Many students felt extremely ostracized by the situation, when choosing not to pray," she told News-Leader.

She said Medlin went too far when he reportedly told the students they could credit their success to Jesus.

"He said you can attribute all your successes to Jesus Christ and we were like 'Wow, you cannot say that,'" Bradley said. "It was like testimony. I felt like we were at church. Then he said he'd say a prayer."

Another student, Preston Schaeffer, complained he was there to attend the graduation ceremony, not "go to church."

"I came there to graduate, not go to church. It kind of ruined the rest of my night," Schaeffer said. "That was the last night of my high school experience and he chose to talk about religion instead of graduation."

When confronted about the issue, Medlin apologized to anyone who was offended by his actions.

"If my behavior was offensive to anyone then I am truly sorry," he told News-Leader. "I in no way wanted to offend anybody. That was not my intention."

Medlin explained the points in his speech were based on an acronym, GUTS, and that the last part "S" referred to someone or something that would guide the graduates throughout their life. For him, that someone was his Savior, he said.

He then proceeded to declare a "blessing" over the graudates, asking them and their families to stand up and join him-if they are willing. Medlin said he was surprised to see many students stand up and join the prayer.

While other students from the graduating class complained about how uncomfortable they felt during Medlin's speech, others are defending what the superintendent did.

Sam Bird wrote an article for the News-Leader saying Medlin is someone who "cares about his students."

"I know he would do whatever possible to help us on our journey through life," Bird wrote.

"It was clear to me that Dr. Medlin had no intention of making any graduating seniors uncomfortable when he invited parents to stand with him. We stood on our own. It was our choice. He made no indication to the class of 2017," he added.

He said he personally found Medlin's speech "powerful and beneficial ... even before religion was involved."

"It is absolutely ridiculous that someone could ever say that the speech 'ruined my night or that he 'put his rights over my rights,'" Bird wrote.

He emphasized that Medlin did not violate the people's rights by forcing or pressuring them to stand in prayer. Those who stood up did so by their own choice.

"As one of the first graduates to stand, I stood on my own. He didn't tell me to," Bird concluded. "I hope everyone publicly realizes that this man truly made WHS graduation a beautiful night."

Tags : Willard High School, Superintendent Kent Medlin, Kent Medlin, Kent Medlin graduation speech, senior students demand apology from superintendent, Religious Freedom, Establishment Clause, Sam Bird, Willard High School Missouri, Bible, prayer, Willard High School graduation 2017