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On Friday, during a speech at the graduation ceremony for River Valley High School in Caledonia, Ohio, former RV graduate and local business owner Jim McGuire told students to follow the Bible and to stop being gay.

“Choose a spouse,” he said, adding, “I also strongly suggest to make sure to choose biblical principles—you know a male with a female and female with a male.”

While the district has taken down video of the full ceremony, 2018 graduate Alexis Osipow captured the relevant portion and posted it on Facebook. (Here’s a rotated version.)

The district has since issued a pathetic statement distancing itself from his words while publishing a transcript of the full speech (as if to say the context makes this all better). The administration said McGuire “was not speaking as an official representative of River Valley Local Schools” and that his speech wasn’t reviewed in advance. But as if to highlight their cowardice here, they didn’t directly mention his name in the statement, nor did they extend their support for LGBTQ students.

So why did they choose him to speak? Probably because he’s an accomplished graduate, having spent the past few decades managing J.L. McGuire and Associates Inc., a company that specializes in automation equipment. He’s also on the board of the Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities. But his biography on that website should’ve been a giveaway that school officials should have at least looked over his speech in advance. His bio for the MCBDD stresses his “relationship with Christ” and notes that he’s a “strong conservative who loves God and Country.”

The MCBDD has since said they’ll reconsider his position on their board:

While the video clip in question is the most damning thing he said, it wasn’t the only mention of Christianity. He began his speech with this faith-based lie:

Everyone in every country in this planet lives by calendar that was based on 2022 years ago, it was established by Jesus Christ, and we need to remember that. I promise any time you spend learning God‘s word will not be subtracted from your life.

The calendar was not established by Jesus, nor does everyone on Earth work off the same timeline. And there are plenty of chapters and verses in the Bible which are an utter waste of time to read, no matter how devout you are. Jim McGuire is just spreading right-wing, faith-based lies to kids, and the school district let him do it. The only response they had was saying they’d review their process for selecting speakers in the future.

In the meantime, the damage is done. The Marion Star quoted Osipow’s reaction to the speech and she seems to speak for a lot of people online:

Alexis Osipow is a 2018 River Valley graduate who was at the ceremony to support her younger sister who was graduating. 

“When he made the comment that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, my jaw dropped to the floor, and I honestly thought I was hearing it wrong,” Osipow said.

“I had to look around and see if other people were having the same reaction that I was, and they were. I felt like crying when I heard some people in the crowd clapping. But I was absolutely outraged and so were my parents and brother. I heard people behind me whispering about how inappropriate the comment was as well.”

That’s why she posted the clip online and probably why McGuire’s social media pages all seem to be down for the time being. (We saw a similar reaction last week after a superintendent in Georgia made similar hateful faith-based remarks at a graduation ceremony.)

Needless to say, it’s completely inappropriate for any adult at a public school ceremony to tell students they’ll be better off marrying someone of the opposite sex no matter what. It’s a slap in the face to gay kids, obviously. But it’s also just bad advice! You don’t need a partner to be happy if you don’t want one. I mean, hell, you could end up with a bigoted Christian spouse like Jim McGuire and no amount of being straight is going to fix that.

If the district cares about its own students, its administration needs to put out a much more forceful statement denouncing McGuire’s bigotry and assuring LGBTQ students that they’re welcome and loved in the district, now and in the future, no matter if or whom they marry.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.