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This High School Valedictorian Fought Her Government School For Muzzling Religious Speech — And Won

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When Savannah Lefler’s Michigan high school tried to muzzle her for Christian themes in a valedictory speech, she fought back and won.

Lefler was the valedictorian of John Glenn High School, and as a result of her academic success, was selected to give a prerecorded speech at the annual honors night. Having more or less free reign, she took the classic commencement speech route, “looking to the future and defining the purpose of life from my perspective,” as she described. She wanted to deliver a message that would support the young seniors and help them live fruitful and good adult lives. A devout Christian, Lefler included a paragraph among her academic reflections and life philosophies about God’s integral role in having a life of meaning. Not only did the principal not agree, but he took steps to shut it down.

“My principal emailed me telling me that there was a problem with it the day it was supposed to be recorded,” Lefler told The Federalist. The problem? “It gets very Christianized,” he said.

“He used an argument of freedom of religion to say it wasn’t inclusive enough,” Lefler explained, but as she noted, the First Amendment goes both ways. “I explained to him that it was my freedom of speech and religion to say these things, and I was chosen based on neutral criteria.”

After this conversation, the school contacted its legal adviser and a meeting was set up with Lefler and her parents, delaying the recording by over a week. Her family likewise sought representation, partnering with First Liberty’s Stephanie Taub.

Taub sent a letter to the school and the press the day before the scheduled meeting with the legal advisers, detailing Lefler’s censorship. “The school backed down that day,” Lefler said. “It was very awesome.”

They reached a compromise, wherein the school would give a disclaimer before Lefler’s address, declaring it to be her words and not representative of the school’s position. While the senior couldn’t recall any other instances of speeches being hit with such a disclaimer over her four years at the school, she viewed

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