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A Tennessee high school senior who finished at the top of her class is speaking out about what she calls religious censorship in schools.
Harpeth High School graduate Amelia Bivens was recently told by administrators to change her valedictorian speech because it included religious references.
When she stood before her classmates at their graduation, May 28, she delivered a revised speech — but made her feelings known about the school’s decision.
“As some of you may know, my original speech was censored for having mentioned my religious beliefs in God and quoting a Bible verse,” she said. “Thus, this addition was made after my revised speech was approved, and the school has no responsibility for what I say.”
“Friends, it is a sad day when we allow others to dictate what we may or may not say concerning our beliefs,” Bivens continued.
In March, the Cheatham County school district where Harpeth High is located settled a lawsuit over religious expression in schools with the American Civil Liberties Union.
The district agreed to stop allowing students to promote their religious beliefs in class or at school events.
Bivens told her classmates not to back down.
“Our beliefs will be challenged throughout our lives, so I encourage you to stand strong in your faith, whatever it may be,” she said. “Do not abandon your faiths and beliefs, for they make you who you are.”
After the speech, Bivens said she refused to back down fro something so important to her.
“I was not trying to draw attention to myself,” she said. “I just wanted to stand up for what’s right.”