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College student in Colorado allowed to mention Jesus, the Bible in graduation speech

May 10, 2018 Updated: May 10, 2018 at 4:08 pm
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A Colorado Mesa University student will be able to mention Jesus and quote Bible verses in her speech at the Grand Junction school's nursing program pinning ceremony on Friday, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The conservative, nonprofit Christian organization advocates and provides training on the issues of "religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family."

After receiving a letter from the organization, the school agreed Tuesday not to require students to remove all religious references from their speeches at its nursing program’s pinning ceremony.

University officials had based their requirement on the First Amendment but rescinded it after receiving the letter ADF sent on behalf of student Karissa Erickson, the graduation speaker.

“America’s Founding Fathers regularly opened public ceremonies with prayer, and federal appeals courts have consistently ruled that universities can do the same at their graduation ceremonies,” ADF lawyer Travis Barham said in a news release

“We applaud the university for quickly recognizing that the First Amendment protects a graduating student’s right to mention her faith in her own speech and has never required universities to purge ceremonies of all things religious.”

University officials told Erickson that she had to remove her reference to Jesus and a Bible verse from her remarks, saying, “Speeches should be free of any one religious slant.”

Other officials threatened her with “repercussions” if she refused, saying the nursing “program will not tolerate [this Christian content].”

The letter from ADF detailed how the First Amendment allows prayers and religious remarks, at college graduations, and how university officials risked engaging in viewpoint discrimination and violating the First Amendment’s establishment clause by targeting remarks due to their religious content.

University officials responded positively, noting that students “invited to speak at the BSN pinning should speak uncensored.”

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