Florida 5th Grader Allowed to Deliver Religious Wars Speech; Chosen for Regionals

The Florida 5th grader who last week was initially stripped of a prize because school officials found his speech on the history of religious wars to be "inappropriate" has since been allowed to deliver his speech, and was chosen to represent the entire 5th grade at the regional 4-H Tropicana Public Speech Contest.

"I was so nervous," Zachary Golob-Drake said after receiving another blue ribbon and gold medal, WFLA reported. "I'm so happy and excited."

The controversy broke out last week after he won a speech writing contest for his class at the Patel Partnership School in Tampa. But an assistant principal took his ribbon away because he found the speech to be "inappropriate."

"The world's major religions all have messages about coexisting. But oftentimes people have found a way to bend that rule; sometimes people even use religion as an excuse to take each other's lives," the student said in his speech. "Religious differences have always sparked conflict, even leading to warfare and mass murder."

"In the Name of Religion," as the speech is titled, chronicles a number of religious wars throughout the centuries, including the Crusades, Genghis Khan's conquests, and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.

The 5th grader points out, however, that the world's biggest religions do come together when it comes to the Golden Rule, and that "this world would be a better place" if everybody followed it.

Upset when his ribbon was taken away by the assistant principal, Golob-Drake said, "She started talking to me about how she thought my speech wasn't appropriate for 4th and 5th graders and she thought that probably I would have to rewrite my speech, take the religion out or not compete."

His story went viral online, with many supporting him.

Golob-Drake's mother, Rhonda, said she was upset that her son's topic was labeled "Religious Beliefs Regarding Death," and argued that it not at all what the speech is talking about.

"That gives the wrong impression," the mother said.

Students in class were apparently required to have permission slips from parents to listen to the speeches, and four of them left during her son's speech.

"It's kind of funny that three of the four students who left during Zachary's speech had already heard the speech last week during the class presentation," Rhonda Golob-Drake pointed out.

The student was given back his ribbon after his older brother spoke with the assistant principal on Thursday.