Nat Werth, a valedictorian at Sheboygan Lutheran High School in Wisconsin, says administrators canceled his commencement speech because he wrote about being gay. The class’s salutatorian (second-highest ranking student) gave their speech instead.
Wrote Werth in his speech: “On my own journey to self-acceptance, I have trekked through the depths of depression, found that God’s love is endless, and embraced the fact that I’m gay. Absolutely no one should have to go through what I have gone through simply to come to the conclusion that homosexuality is not a sin. God created everyone just the way they are and never intended for the church to disenfranchise an entire group of people. The five passages of scripture that conservative denominations claim ‘invalidate’ homosexuality are either outdated, mistranslated, or misinterpreted in their respectively biblical, cultural, and historical contexts. Meanwhile, depending on the translation, the Bible mentions ‘love’ over 500 times. I sincerely believe that the next generation of Christians will eradicate homophobia in the church and proclaim God’s love to the LGBT community.”
Werth said he even turned in the speech early so he could work with administrators and revise it together. The school told him they were afraid he would go “off script.”
He told WISN: “When the administration looked at my speech, I think they were looking for me to misstep, to say something so that I couldn’t give my speech at graduation. Deep down, I knew that they didn’t trust me.”
Said Werth of the cancellation: “It’s degrading … I don’t ever want anyone to go through what I went through in the future.”
Werth has received support since news broke of the cancellation, Sheboygan Press reports: “Within hours of the publication of a Sheboygan Press story reporting Werth’s experiences at the school … he received social media messages from the owner of a local marketing agency offering its services to help share his speech for free and a local church inviting him to speak at a Sunday service. Julia Hollister, a pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ, said she was told by several church members that they’d like to hear from Werth. … U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis, scheduled a phone call with Werth, he said.”