What happens when the graduation speech of a 13-year old boy is deemed to be too religious in its context, and hence will need to be revised, or it cannot be delivered? Many of us would most probably think that this is something that will only happen in a country where the government of the day is of the communist persuasion, or where Christians are the minority, which is often the case in Muslim countries. Hard to believe that this is happening in America, as 13-year old Seth Clark, the salutatorian at Akin Grade School, was informed that his graduation speech contains too many religious elements, and hence, he is not allowed to deliver it. Make no mistake about it -- America is a secular country, where the church is separated from the state. In other words, there should not be an overlap of religion and the running of the country, but don’t you think that this latest event is a bit too much on the extreme side?
We are talking about a particularly small town of Akin, Illinois, where it happens to lie smack as the heartbeat of the heartland. In other words, the people there tend to indulge in farming, and are more passionate as a patriot than other Americans elsewhere. While there is no post office in Akin, they happen to have a church, so is it too much to say that this young man who is finding his way in life, has attributed much of his growing up years to God and gained a solid upbringing based on Biblical principles? It would not make sense for him to thank anyone else or declare the Bible as the foundation for his compass in life in such an important speech. What did you expect him to do, thank his zodiac sign and arrangement of his home due to the feng shui knowledge of his parents, while adhering to the Quran?
Seth Clark was certainly very proud of the speech that he had written, where he quoted from 1 Peter 1:16, exhorting other fellow students of his on their educational journey to continue maintaining a level of holiness, even when there is plenty of peer pressure around to do the wrong thing. Of course, Clark also did thank his parents and God, as well as his beloved teachers for guiding him on the right path during his formative years.
It was hours prior to his graduation that he was informed he is not allowed to deliver his graduation speech. This certainly comes as a shock to all and sundry in the community. The people who heard about this wrongdoing against him rallied to set things straight. A neighbor of his actually owned a house that is located across from the school, and he then invited Seth to deliver the speech on his property. Becky Clark shared, “When it came time for the valedictorian and the salutatorian to deliver their speeches, they invited the audience to join them across the street at the house. It was not mandatory.”
Obviously, the community took this opportunity to provide Clark with his moment of triumph, crowding in the front yard of his neighbor’s house while listening to the young man’s speech as you can see in the YouTube video above.
Supt. Kelly Clark sent in a prepared statement to the Benton Evening News, saying, “As a public school, it is our duty to educate students, regardless of how different they or their beliefs may be. While students are welcome to pray or pursue their faith without disrupting school or infringing upon the rights of others, the United States Constitution prohibits the school district from incorporating such activities as part of school-sponsored events, and when the context causes a captive audience to listen or compels other students to participate.” Do you find that argument a compelling one? I wonder whether Kelly Clark goes to church or not, and if she does, what kind of response would she receive in the coming Sunday.