Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jesus, God Almighty Censored at Vermont Graduation

Kyle Gearwar, valedictorian at Fair Haven Union High School, prepared a commencement speech but the school's lawyer forbade him from delivering the portion that praised the Lord for how He had changed his life.
“I have always dreamed of speaking about God in front of my school as the valedictorian,” he said in his speech. “This was the message God gave to me, and I am not allowed to share it with you even though it is my testimony, the most important change my life has ever experienced, and the one thing that I stand for no matter what.”

For background, read how a higher court upheld a Christian student's free speech rights in a Texas graduation.

-- From "Vt. high school grad says speech censored of God" by The Associated Press 6/15/11

Fair Haven Union High School principal Brett Blanchard says Gearwar was allowed to mention God and Jesus in the accepted portion of his speech.

But Blanchard told the Burlington Free Press public schools have to be careful about allowing someone to preach their religion at a school-sanctioned event.

Gearwar said school officials felt he was promoting religion.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Fair Haven's censorship of valedictorian's speech on God reflects church-state tensions" by Terri Hallenbeck, Burlington Free Press Staff Writer 6/14/11

Gearwar’s would-be speech highlights a difficult balancing act public school officials perform at this time of year as students deliver personal speeches on stage at school-sponsored events.

“It is a fine line here. Here’s freedom of speech and here’s separation of church and state,” Fair Haven Union High School principal Brett Blanchard said. “The line is generally the difference between proselytizing and personalizing.”

“They basically said those statements were promoting religion,” Gearwar said Tuesday.

[According to Cheryl Hanna, a professor at Vermont Law School] . . . Courts have generally leaned toward allowing the speech, she said, if it’s clear the school is not sanctioning the speech. There haven’t been enough decisions, though, to clarify the issue for school officials, she said.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Fair Haven valedictorian says school censored God speech" by Gordon Dritschilo, Staff Writer 6/11/11

The class of 2011 valedictorian started off his remarks at the school’s graduation ceremony Friday thanking teachers, family and his church youth group and saying his class was one of the most intelligent and competitive the school had ever produced, featuring champion athletes, all-state musicians and “poetry wizards.”

Then, with a wavering voice, he described how his speech had been “cut, redone and entirely trashed” by school lawyers due to religious references he wanted to include.

“It saddens me it had to come to this,” he said. “I am not trying to cause a problem or call attention to myself. I have always dreamed about speaking about God in front of my school.”

Gearwar said he understood the school’s administrators were bound by the law but said it seemed to him the First Amendment was not being properly applied — a comment that drew applause from the audience.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Below are excerpts (of the censored portions) from "Full text of Kyle Gearwar's Fair Haven Union High School graduation speech" posted at Rutland Herald 6/14/11

I thank God for everything He has done for me and the strength He has given me to resist the urge to defy the command the school has given me. Again thank you for coming tonight and Congratulations to the 2011 Fair Haven Union High School Graduates.

Now I would like to share a story, actually the testimony of my life, to show you what I have gone through and how I got here. Some of you may be offended with this story but this is what I feel God has laid on my heart and is a message this school needs to hear. I have grown up a in a Christian home all my life thanks to my amazing parents, but as many of these people can vouch for, I do not always act like I am Born Again. Thankfully, Jesus said I am not perfect and God forgives me for every sin I commit. My testimony is this. For the last few weeks I was lost in anger and depression. I kept it hidden quite well from most though. I was so burdened with grief and angst that I couldn't focus on my life or those around me. Finally it all broke loose and I couldn't contain myself any longer. I lashed out in anger at some of my best friends and cried for hours on end. I was so broken that I call a friend and mentor of mine who went through some of the same issues as I have. I begged him to get rid of this hate I had for myself and those that had done me wrong. He reminded me of the song that includes these words, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his beautiful face, and the cares of this world will grow strangely dim.” The following day I picked up a book by a pastor out of Texas. He talks about letting go of the past and looking for the future God has for those who seek him. The reason I acted the way I have for so long was because I harbored this extreme dislike for myself and held onto the things people have said and done to me. But as soon as I gave this to God and let him fight my battles my entire life has changed. I don't dwell on the past. I have peace and can finally enjoy every moment God has given me, good or bad. I wouldn't be standing before you without the blessings God has given me through my tough situations. He is the reason I am the man I am today, made new through Jesus death on the cross.

I have my own unique issues and problems, but they can include others like substance abuse, relationship problems, anger, pride, or depression. The way to escape this is through submitting to God. I can't get through all my difficulties in my own strength, but with God I can, and there are many people in this world whose lives have changed because of Him. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, they are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future.” I needed to let go of the things that I wasn't proud of and give my life to the One who created me. God knew me before I was born and wanted a relationship with me from that very day. And trust me it was well worth the effort to submit to God and not let the world get the best of me.

Now I can live in freedom from sin.
Now I can look at each new day with a smile.
Now I can face each trouble and problem with a glad heart.
Now I can live with God and not try to barely survive without Him.

To read the entire speech above, CLICK HERE.