A Roman Catholic diocese in Kentucky reportedly banned a Catholic high school valedictorian from giving a speech it deemed too political ― so the teen decided to use a more unconventional way to speak out.
Christian Bales, a valedictorian of Holy Cross High School in Covington, Kentucky, used a megaphone outside the school’s graduation venue Friday to deliver a prepared speech to a crowd of supporters.
“The young people will win because we’re finished being complacent,” Bales said during the speech on the lawn of the Connor Convocation Center at Thomas More College. “There’s a misguided notion that wisdom is directly proportional to age, but we’re disproving that daily. Sometimes the wisest are the youngest in our lives, the ones who haven’t yet been desensitized to the atrocities of our world. Therefore, we young people must be the educators.”
“The young people must be willing to speak candidly about issues, and we mustn’t tremble in the face of the institutions that try to silence us,” the valedictorian added.
Bales is an openly gay member of Holy Cross High School’s 2018 graduating class, according to WKRC Cincinnati. Bales told the station the school has generally been supportive.
In the speech, the valedictorian referenced several issues that young people at the high school have become vocal about over the past year. Bales talked about how students at Holy Cross were involved in activism around a statue of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis from the Kentucky State Capitol. The teen mentioned the advocacy of student survivors of the Parkland school shooting. Bales also talked about how some of the Catholic school students participated in a march against abortion rights.
Bales encouraged classmates to keep raising their voices.
“The only way we can stop being impactful is if we let go of our youth and stop advocating for our core values,” Bales said. “In my experience at Holy Cross I’ve learned that the best way to attain change is to be a visible example in our world, and we must plan to continue to utilize our voices in order to better the lives of all those we encounter.”
Both Bales and the high school’s student council president Katherine Frantz were unable to present their speeches during their graduation ceremony, according to Cincinnati’s WCPO-TV. They found out about the decision the morning of the graduation.
In a statement to The River City News, the Diocese of Covington said that it had the right to review and approve student speeches at graduation ceremonies. The diocese said that two speeches were not submitted for review before the deadline. In addition, the speeches were apparently too “political.”
“When the proposed speeches were received, they were found to contain elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church,” diocese spokesperson Tim Fitzgerald said.
Holy Cross High School and the Diocese of Covington did not respond to HuffPost’s request for clarification about what parts of Bales’ speech were inconsistent with Catholic teaching.
Bales’ mother, Gillian Marksberry, told WCPO that the school didn’t give her child a formal deadline to submit the graduation speech. In addition, she said school principal Mike Holtz had called her last week to remind her that diocesan officials would want Bales to dress in traditional men’s clothing and to refrain from wearing makeup or hairpins.
“That was disturbing because in four years I had never received a phone call from the principal,” Marksberry told WKRC. “No one ever reached out to me to help learn about my child.”
The teen pledged to continue speaking up about the issues that matter.
“I think I’m going to keep fighting for what I believe in,” Bales told WKRC. “I’m going to keep using my megaphone and intensifying my voice.”