LOS ANGELES - 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.

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

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 included, "I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

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

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. *