A high school principal in Kansas has agreed to stop encouraging graduates of the school to look to faith and Jesus to find success after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained about it.
In his complaint, Christopher Line, a Patrick O'Reiley Legal Fellow with the FFRF, expressed concern about references made to God and faith at the May 20 graduation ceremony of Great Bend High School by Principal Tim Friess. The Great Bend Tribune reported that the references concern an analogy that Friess has discussed at several graduation ceremonies over time pointing to the unpredictability of the proverbial road to success.
"But, if you have a spare tire called Faith and most importantly, a driver called Jesus, you will make it to a place called Success!" Friess reportedly said.
His opening remarks, which say, "... thank God for the beautiful day that He has blessed us with ..." and his closing remarks, "... may God bless each of you," were also singled out as concerning.
"High school graduations and other school-sponsored events must be secular to protect the freedom of conscience of all students," Line argued, citing the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
"This is a violation of students' right of conscience and of the trust that parents have placed in the District to educate their children without encroaching on their right to raise their family in whatever religion they choose, or no religion."
Responding to the complaint in a June 8, letter, Great Bend School District Attorney Mark A. Rondeau of the firm Watkins Calcara, Chtd. noted that district officials discussed the complaint with Friess and he agreed that his speech was not in accordance with district policies and promised not to violate them again.
Line celebrated the response as a "victory for the separation of state and church," according to the Great Bend Tribune.
According to the school district, Friess has been an educator for 30 years and has served as principal at Great Bend High School for the last six years. He previously served as assistant principal for 12 years at the school.
Despite the FFRF complaint, some Kansas residents like Kristy Battershell of Lyons, said she found Friess' reference to God inspiring and many others did too.
"I'm proud to say that I know and highly respect the principal, Mr. Tim Friess. My grandsons graduated from GBHS and Mr. Friess also used this analogy at one of their ceremonies. It was absolutely captivating, inspiring, well received, greatly applauded and above all else....the TRUTH. After all...HE is the way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). My heart breaks for those that can't or won't hear the Truth," Battershell wrote in a post on Facebook.