Bayonne (N.J.) High School valedictorian Jeremy Jerschina said that to speak from the heart as he addressed his graduating class, he had to speak to God as well.
The 18-year-old, bound for Calvin College this fall, was not allowed to include a prayer in his speech, so he opted not to speak at all.
Principal Richard Baccarella and Superintendent of Schools Patricia McGeehan, asked Jerschina on behalf of the Bayonne Board of Education to remove the prayer from his speech.
Jerschina said that put him in a position where he had to “either rip out my beliefs or stay silent.”
“God and Christ are the reason I did how I did in high school and are what I stand for most,” Jerschina said. “The principal and superintendent said I could do the speech if I left the prayer out, and I told them that I’d rather do the whole thing or not at all.”
McGeehan said the school district would have been breaking the law had it allowed Jerschina to speak.
Jerschina’s mother, who moved to the United States from Poland in 1989, said, “This is supposed to be a free country with freedom of speech. But instead there is censorship.”