Schoolboy stripped of top speech prize because it referred ‘inappropriately’ to religious violence

ZACHARY Golob-Drake, a 5th-grader at the Patel Partnership School in Tampa, Florida, won first place in his class for his speech about the history of people using religion to justify murder.


Zachary Golob-Drake

He opened his speech with this statement:

The world’s major religions all have messages about coexisting.  But oftentimes people have found a way to bend that rule; sometimes people even use religion as an excuse to take each other’s lives.  The three major religions on the earth include the Eastern religions, Islam, and Christianity.

About one billion people live by the Eastern religions; about 1.4 billion are Muslim; and about 2.3 billion are Christians.  Religious differences have always sparked conflict, even leading to warfare and mass murder.

He included a brief paragraph on the Crusades, Genghis Khan and the terrorist attacks of September 11, and ended the speech by encouraging the “Golden Rule”, saying that would “make the world a better place”.

But, according to this report, the blue ribbon prize awarded to him was taken away this week after the assistant principal pulled him aside before school was dismissed and told him his speech was “inappropriate”.

Golob-Drake was supposed to deliver the speech yesterday to all the school’s 4th and 5th graders. Two winners –one from each grade – were to be chosen to represent the school at the regional 4-H Tropicana Public Speech contest.

The youngster said:

She started talking to me about how she thought my speech wasn’t appropriate for 4th and 5th graders and she thought that probably I would have to rewrite my speech, take the religion out or not compete.

He responded by saying he would needed to think about it at home.

She said to me probably the fairest thing to do is to take your ribbon.

By the time his older brother picked him from school, Zachary was in tears. His brother ended up going back to school to have a word with the assistant principal.

Their mother, Rhonda Golob-Drake, said the assistant principal capitulated and gave back the ribbon. She then spent four hours on the phone with school officials and school district officials and called representatives from the Tropicana contest.

By the end of the night, the school decided to postpone the contest until Monday. In the meantime, parents of 4th and 5th graders will receive permission slips. The form will list all of the speech titles and let parents decide whether or not they want their children to hear Golob-Drake’s speech or any of the other speeches.

School District Spokeswoman Tanya Arja said school officials told her that the controversy wasn’t about the religious aspect.

The concern was over the topic of mass murders, because these are 4th and 5th graders.