High School Valedictorian’s Graduation Speech Was Banned Because He’s Gay

Nat Werth told WISN 12 News on Friday that when he turned in his commencement speech draft on May 20, administrators told him they were concerned.

The valedictorian for the 2019 Sheboygan Lutheran High School senior class was told by administrators that he was banned him from speaking at his commencement because of his sexual orientation.

“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,” Werth said. “Deep down, I knew that they didn’t trust me.” 

The following is an excerpt from Werth’s commencement address, addressing his sexuality:

“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. (pause) 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 The five passages of scripture that conservative denominations claim “invalidate” homosexuality are either outdated, mistranslated, or misinterpreted in their respectively biblical, cultural, and historical contexts.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 submitted the draft of his speech early, to work with administrators to revise it to their standards. “I told them that I wanted to work together to create a speech that would be appropriate to give at graduation and they didn’t want to hear it,” Werth said. “They said that their suspicions had been confirmed and they didn’t trust me to give what I had written, regardless if we worked together or not.”

Werth had to watch the salutatorian give the commencement speech in his place.

He told WISN 12 News he had a tough time as a gay student at Sheboygan Lutheran High School and does not believe the school is safe for LGBTQ students.

USA Today said that subsequently: “U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis, scheduled a phone call with Werth, he said. Meanwhile, other news outlets, including Buzzfeed, have requested interviews, while Newsweek shared his story.

The Lutheran Campus Minister from Northeastern University in Boston, where Werth will be starting his college career in the fall, offered him support and welcomed him to campus.

But Werth stood by what he’d expressed in initial interviews: It’s not just about the speech. As of Friday morning, Werth said he didn’t have any plans to give the speech, despite the offers.

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