UCLA does about-face, will allow student to mention Jesus in graduation speech

Officials from the University of California, Los Angeles, confirmed Tuesday that they will permit a Christian student’s graduation statement to include a word of thanks to Jesus Christ after first saying they would not allow the sentence. Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom urged officials in a letter Friday afternoon to refrain from violating her free speech rights. The student, Christina Popa, received a voicemail from the school Friday evening informing her that her statement will be read verbatim during the June 13 commencement ceremony. “Christian students shouldn’t be silenced when expressing their beliefs at public universities and are entitled to the same rights as all other students,” said ADF litigation staff counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker. “We are pleased that UCLA officials understand that denying religious liberty to students is a violation of the First Amendment, not a requirement of it. A personal statement at a graduation ceremony is exactly that – personal — and in no way signifies an endorsement of religion by the school. We commend UCLA for acting quickly to protect Ms. Popa’s constitutional rights.”