.- A graduating student at the University of California at Los Angeles has charged that a department advisor forbade her from saying âI want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christâ in her graduation speech, prompting the university to say it will allow the student statements to be read âas originally submitted.â
Student Christina Popa backed up her claim by posting on Facebook e-mails showing that other students would be permitted to have their speeches read aloud at a pre-graduation ceremony. Popaâs speech would have been allowed only if she did not mention Jesus. Dr. Pamela Hurley, a student affairs advisor for the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, e-mailed Popaâs speech back to her, saying âUCLA is a public university where the doctrine of separation of church and state is observed.â
Prof. Hurley proposed a version of Popaâs speech without the reference to Jesus.
After Popa objected to the proposal, Prof. Hurley replied: âIf you prefer, Christina, I can read none of what you wrote. I am very sorry that this is a problem for you.â
Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain who was disciplined for praying publicly âin Jesusâ nameâ before being vindicated by Congress, commented on the reported ban.
âJesus is not an illegal word, and UCLA has no business censoring her speech, especially if they claim to celebrate 'academic freedom,'â he said.
Klingenschmitt accused the professor of misapplying a âtwisted ideaâ of the separation of church and state.
Elizabeth Kivowitz Boatright-Simon of the UCLA Office of Media Relations provided CNA with a statement from the university that said Popa's original word's, including Jesus' name, will be read aloud.
The statement said the reading of âwords of wisdomâ at the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology involves graduating studentsâ submitting a short message to be read onstage by a member of the university administration.
âBecause the reading is by the University, not the students, to avoid the appearance that the University was advocating one religion over the other, guidelines were established so that messages would not include references to particular religions,â the statement said. âThe department and the University support the First Amendment and in no way intended to impinge upon any studentsâ rights.â
âThus, upon review, and recognizing that the intent of the ceremony is for all students to have a chance to say something at graduation, the department will continue to make clear to the audience that the statements are the personal statements of each student and will read statements as originally submitted by the students.â