School reverses ban on use of ‘Jesus’ and a Bible verse in grad speech. Here’s why.

DCNFRob Shimshock, DCNF

A Colorado university reversed its ban on a graduation speaker’s references to Jesus and the Bible after a Christian conservative nonprofit got in touch, according to a Tuesday report.

Colorado Mesa University previously told nursing graduate Karissa Erickson that her speech must be “free of any one religious slant,” but changed its tune after receiving a letter from the Alliance Defending Freedomaccording to Campus Reform.

“I find comfort in Jesus’s words and I pass them on to you. John 16:33,” Erickson had planned on saying. “‘These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.’”

Assistant professor Lucy Graham first told Erickson to take out her mention of Jesus and the Bible. After the student inquired whether those remarks infringed upon a school policy, nursing program director Karen Urban told Erickson that Colorado Mesa prohibited references to the Bible or any particular religion after students took offense several years ago at the distribution of Bibles on campus. Urban allegedly said that Erickson would experience “repercussions” if she did not purge the references from her piece and said that the school was “tired of dealing with this and has no more energy to spend towards it.”

“As these officials misunderstand what the First Amendment means, we write to inform you that they are on the verge of engaging in viewpoint discrimination and violating the Establishment Clause,” ADF legal counsel Travis Christopher Barham wrote in a May 4 letter to the school. “Thus, we insist that you allow Miss Erickson to deliver her desired remarks without further interference.”

Urban said in a May 8 letter that students speaking at Colorado Mesa’s nursing ceremony should do so “uncensored” and that faculty will not review the students’ speeches. School spokeswoman Dana Nunn characterized the school’s demand that Erickson remove her references to Jesus and the Bible as a “mistake.”

“As soon as it came to the attention of CMU President Tim Foster, he recognized the faculty member’s error and sent word to nursing faculty and the graduating student that she way free to include those references in her remarks,” Nunn told Campus Reform.

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