A Missouri schools superintendent has apologized after a prayer he recited during a commencement speech Saturday sparked criticism.
“If my behavior was offensive to anyone then I am truly sorry,” Willard Public Schools Superintendent Kent Medlin told the Springfield News-Leader after learning of the backlash on Monday. “I in no way wanted to offend anybody. That was not my intention.”
Mr. Medlin said he gave a speech using the acronym GUTS, of which the first three letters stood for grit, understanding and teamwork. The S, he said, stood for “my savior.” He said he concluded his speech by inviting attendees to stand while he recited a “blessing” for the graduating students, The Blaze reported.
Four students contacted the News-Leader about the speech, saying they felt marginalized and pressured to stand against their beliefs. They said they planned to contact the American Civil Liberties Union for help.
“I came there to graduate, not go to church. It kind of ruined the rest of my night,” senior Preston Schaeffer told the News-Leader. “That was the last night of my high school experience and he chose to talk about religion instead of graduation.”
“It was more embarrassing than anything. I didn’t want to compromise my beliefs and stand just to be one with the class,” senior Ashlynn Bradley added. “It was ostracizing. I and some fellow students felt pressure. There were stares from the audience.”
Ms. Bradley said Mr. Medlin, who is set to retire next month, included religious remarks during previous graduation ceremonies, but that students asked him to stop.
“We asked him to please refrain from doing so because it makes others uncomfortable,” she said.
Mr. Medlin told the News-Leader that he received no such requests.
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