Graduation speech causes controversy in Munford - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Graduation speech causes controversy in Munford

The separation of church and state is at the center of a controversy at Munford High School in Tipton County.

High School Valedictorian Scott Balentine gave us a sample of the speech he wrote for graduation. "I would like to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ," it reads.

Balentine says after his principal got a letter from a lawyer from the ACLU, he was asked to leave out the reference to his faith.

The letter warned school officials against allowing prayer at graduation, citing first amendment clauses.

Scott's mother Teresa Balentine said prayer has been part of graduations for years and the ACLU threat set off a storm of controversy.

"I believe we get to a place where we are so scared of offending someone that we offend someone," she said. "In this situation it's the Christians. They have rights just as much as anyone else."

Scott held his ground and he says 24-hours later school officials change their minds. However Balentine says when students take to the football field for graduation Tuesday, you won't see any "school officials" leading or encouraging prayer.

Superintendent Tim Fite told us the same thing.

"We have to be in compliance," he said, "and you know we take an oath that we have to comply with the U.S. Constitution and any federal and state laws."

As for Scott, he says he's respectful of others rights, but if you come to graduation he won't bite his tongue when it comes to his faith.

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