THE RELIGIOUS EQUALITY AMENDMENT SUB-COMMITTEE FIELD HEARING Mr. Chairman and Committee me

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THE RELIGIOUS EQUALITY AMENDMENT SUB-COMMITTEE FIELD HEARING Mr. Chairman and Committee members: Good afternoon! My name is Jennifer Green. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am currently a sophomore at the University of North Florida. ln June of 1994, I graduated from Mandarin High School in Duval County. The religious case that I was personally involved in was Adler, et al v. The Duval County School Board. I and several others were represented by Liberty Counsel and were allowed to intervene on behalf of those who were in favor of a prayer at graduation. We won the case and it is currently at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia. The current memo/policy concerning prayer at graduation at that time did not even mention the word "prayer". It said that the graduating seniors had the option of a two (2) minute opening or closing message. The content of the message was totally up to the class. It could be of a religious or secular nature. When a vote dictated of what nature the message would be, a speaker was then elected by the senior class. If the majority of the students wanted prayer, then a prayer would be delivered, but if a majority wanted a message that was secular in content then that was delivered. The majority rules in the United States Government so why should it be any different in our schools. Though the majority of students at my school wanted a prayer to be said at our graduation, I was still ridiculed and harassed by my peers, teachers and administration. Students wrote me nasty notes telling me I was wrong and that I was ruining the school's reputation. There were teachers who grouped together and wanted to put a stop to what we were doing. They wanted to censor our speeches and they tried to tell us that a prayer at graduation was not allowed. The administration denied some of the activities that were going on and did not attempt to stop the negative actions of some of the students. l had a few friends who were at my side, but I still felt that I was in the minority. Prayer was a tradition to some, but it meant more to me. I was acknowledging the supremacy of God and praising Him for His blessings. The religious discrimination I experienced was a result of my desire for prayer at my graduation ceremonies. The reason I wanted a prayer said at my graduation was because I did not want the most important person in my life to go unnoticed on my special day. If you will, think back to your own graduation day. The excitement and anticipation that you felt is indescribable. Thanking those who helped you get to this point in your life is very important and it meant a lot to me. My parent's love and devotion were unparalleled; the teachers who opened my eyes to a world of knowledge and understanding; my friends who encouraged me and rooted me on my way through high school. All these important people could be thanked publically and in fact we were encouraged to do so. However, when I wanted to thank the most important person in my life I was censored. That is a blatant violation of my first amendment right to religious freedom. On graduation day I could stand in front of my classmates and say "I love you", but I cannot say "God loves you". Jesus Christ lives in my heart and if l cannot share Him it is like not sharing a part of myself. My behavior towards the school prayer issue was expected because I had a reputation of carrying my Bible to school every day. I witnessed on my campus and I shared my convictions and standards with my classmates. l was never persecuted for my beliefs, but l found myself in situations that I had to choose whether I was going to stand up for my Lord, or just let Him be ridiculed. In addition to tilts school prayer issue, there have been many times that I have observed religious discrimination in my school. One day a friend of mine wore a Christian t-shirt and was sent to the Dean's office. He was ordered to call his mom and have her bring him some different clothes. This act of the administration to censor what we choose to wear is not right. The dress code says nothing about religious slogans on clothing. Anything dealing with drugs, pornography, alcohol, and sex is banned, but nothing of a moral and godly content should be banned. The first amendment states that we have the right to free speech and expression. This incident is a violation of that. The Lord Jesus Christ is the head of my life. I pray and read my Bible daily. This a right and privilege which is possible in this great country. The United states was founded on Godly principles and we are a nation blessed by God. When prayer and the Bible were taken out of the school the morality of this country fell. There are statistics that show the decline in SAT scores and the overall quality of education that were a result of the absence of God. I hope and pray that my stand and my convictions reach at least one life. God has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. He gives me the strength every day to stand up for Him wherever I go. MY GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD!

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