This week's edition of The 3 includes a story line that has become all too common this time of year: a student that has been prevented from making a graduation speech due to its faith content. Also, dozens died in an attack in Egypt on a bus carrying Coptic Christians to a monastery. Plus, there were quite a few spiritual implications during the first few days of the President's recent foreign trip.
3 - Student kept from delivering graduation speech because of faith content
It seems like every year about this time, you hear or read a story or two or more of graduating students who have had their free speech rights limited because they wanted to include mentions of God or faith in them. Todd Starnes reports on his website that a 13-year-old student in Akin, IL, Seth Clark, had planned to share about his faith journey in a graduation speech at Akin Grade School, only to have school officials tell him he could not. Starnes writes that Clark was...
...mighty proud of that speech. He referenced God and quoted from the Bible and even mentioned his Christian faith.
But just hours before graduation, Seth was told that he would not be permitted to deliver his remarks.
“As a public school, it is our duty to educate students, regardless of how different they or their beliefs may be,” Supt. Kelly Clark wrote in a prepared statement to the Benton Evening News.
“While students are welcome to pray or pursue their faith without disrupting school or infringing upon the rights of others, the United States Constitution prohibits the school district from incorporating such activities as part of school-sponsored events, and when the context causes a captive audience to listen or compels other students to participate,” her statement read.Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, I believe, would disagree with that assessment. In a piece on the organization's website, he is quoted as saying: "The key is that public schools should remain neutral towards any expression of a religious view, including graduation prayer. The school is allowed to neither command nor prohibit religious language..."
The website points out that:
In Adler v. Duval County School Board, Liberty Counsel successfully defended the right of students to pray or give religious messages at graduation. The case established the legal principle that public schools are free to adopt a policy that allows students or other speakers to present secular or religious messages, including prayer, at commencement ceremonies.Well, the Seth Clark story doesn't end with the restriction on his speech. Starnes reports that once residents of Akin learned it that "a neighbor of the Clark’s owned a house across from the school and he invited Seth to deliver the speech on his property." Becky Clark told Todd: "When it came time for the valedictorian and the salutatorian to deliver their speeches, they invited the audience to join them across the street at the house,” adding, “It was not mandatory.”
So, people went across the street to hear Seth's speech.
2 - Another attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt
Early Friday, at least 29 Coptic Christians in Egypt lost their lives when they were attacked while on a bus to a monastery. According to the WORLD Magazine website, Islamic State took credit for the attack, carried out by its "soldiers."
In retaliation, it was reported that the Egyptian military "bombed militant bases affiliated with al-Qaeda in Libya." Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi phoned the country’s Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II and told him, according to WORLD, that the government would not rest until the terrorists responsible for the attack were punished.
Christianity Today reported that many of the victims were children. It stated:
Egypt’s interior ministry reported that three 4x4 vehicles of 8 to 10 gunmen dressed in military uniforms opened fire on the vehicle, which was on its way to St. Samuel the Confessor Monastery in Samalout, 140 miles south of Cairo.1 - President's first foreign trip contains religious elements
The President's recent trip to the Middle East had plenty of spiritual overtones. Mr. Trump addressed over 50 Arab leaders, challenging them to take it upon themselves to curb radical Islamic terrorism. He then traveled to Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; he also went to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
A Christian Today article included coverage of the President's visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The story quotes the President:
"Yesterday, I visited the Western Wall, and marveled at the monument to God's presence and man's perseverance – I was humbled to place my hand upon the wall and to pray in that holy space for wisdom from God," he said in a speech at the Israel Museum.Christian Today notes that "Trump is the first American president to visit Judaism's holiest site while in office. Prior to going the Western Wall, he visited one of Christianity's most sacred sites, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which some believe is the place where Jesus was crucified. The trip to Jerusalem was the second stop on Trump's first international trip as president."
The President then went to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis.
The Guardian reports that the two met for a little under a half-hour. The website stated that:
The discussion was described as cordial in a statement by the Holy See, which said “satisfaction was expressed” for the good US relationship with the Vatican and their “joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience”.The President gave the Pope some books written by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the pontiff gave Trump some of his own writings, as well as a medallion containing an olive branch, referred to as a "symbol of peace." Trump reportedly said, "We can use peace." Following the visit, the President tweeted out: "Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world."
“It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the state and the Catholic church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants,” the statement said.
Also, according to AOL.com, "Following her meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday, first lady Melania Trump confirmed a fact that many were unfamiliar with -- she is a practicing Catholic." The article points out that the President has referred to his "Presbyterian faith," and that the couple were married in an Episcopal church, where their son, Barron, was baptized later.