Thank Jesus! UCLA Student Allowed Graduation Praise

Christina Popa wants to give props to Christ

A University of California, Los Angeles student can thank Jesus in a personal statement to be read during graduation ceremonies, even though an administrator initially barred use of the Christian reference, the university said Tuesday.

The university supports "the First Amendment and in no way intended to impinge upon any students' rights," wrote senior campus counsel L. Amy Blum in a letter dated Tuesday.

Students in the Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology Department were asked to submit short statements that will be read as they cross the stage to receive their degrees on June 13.

Student Christina Popa's statement read, in part, "I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

The student affairs adviser for the department objected to the Jesus reference and asked her to substitute it with "I want to thank God" instead, according to the Alliance Defense Fund, a religious-freedom group that took up Popa's cause.

When Popa protested, the administrator told her the only other option would be to forego any statement, the ADF said.

The department was concerned that the university could be seen as endorsing a specific religion because an administrator would be reading the statement aloud, Blum wrote.

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"The Department will continue its efforts to make clear that all of the statements read are the personal statements of each student," Blum wrote.

ADF senior counsel David French said he was pleased at the university's swift response. "They did exactly the right thing," he said. "Her expression is her expression."

Popa was taking final exams Tuesday and was not immediately available for comment.

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