Third Party & Independents Archives

Silenced for Mentioning Jesus

It’s a fruitless lawsuit, but I’m all for it if it embarrasses the fascist administration for its handling of the student whose speech was too taboo for a graduation ceremony.

What war on religion? As if we're nuts:

LAS VEGAS - A high school valedictorian who had the plug pulled on her microphone as she gave an address referring to Jesus Christ has filed a lawsuit against school officials, claiming her rights to religious freedom and free speech were trampled.

Brittany McComb, 18, said she was giving her June 15 commencement address to some 400 graduates of Foothill High School and their family members when the sound was cut.

"God's love is so great that he gave his only son up," she said, before the microphone went dead. She continued without amplification, "...to an excruciating death on a cross so his blood would cover all our shortcomings and provide for us a way to heaven in accepting this grace."

McComb's lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Nevada, names the principal, assistant principal and the employee of the school in Henderson who allegedly pulled the plug.

McComb said she was warned that her speech would be cut off if she did not follow an approved script that deleted references to Christ and invitations for others to join the faith. But she memorized the deleted parts and said them anyway.

"In my heart I couldn't say the edited version because it wasn't what I wanted to say," she told The Associated Press. "I wanted to say why I was successful, and what inspired me to keep going and what motivated me. It involved Jesus Christ for me, period."

The lawsuit asks the court to declare that school officials deprived McComb of her rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, The Rutherford Institute, the conservative legal group backing the lawsuit, said in a news release.

High school students have no free-speech rights, at least not in a broad sense because we all know how creative students are - and what often happens when their behavior goes unchecked in the name of free speech. For example, what if instead the valedictorian claimed she had a First Amendment right to say something inappropriately vulgar? (Pretend for just a moment that there's something worse than mentioning God in a speech.)

So I expect the lawsuit to go nowhere but at least the story is getting publicity. People around the country are getting to see just how ridiculous the politically correct forces are. McComb did not proselytize or encourage her fellow students to believe in Jesus. She simply credited God's "only son" for her success, and she should have been afforded the few minutes to say so without interruption.

Of course the ACLU could care less about Brittany McComb because they're more concerned about the students who have the right to not hear the word God. I mean, there could have been atheists in the crowd and hearing the forbidden three-letter word might have offended them.

ACLU lawyer Allen Lichtenstein was happy with the school's decision, saying
"Proselytizing is improper in school-sponsored speech at valedictorian graduations."

Proselytizing? Thanking God is now a form of proselytizing? Did I miss the part in the story about McComb passing around Bibles or a signup sheet for potential converts during the brief speech? Of course, if she credited "Sex and the City" reruns for her straight-A performance we wouldn't be in the mess. But alas, what got her through high school is the one thing too dastardly to mention before a graduating class.

Posted by Scottie at July 15, 2006 7:30 PM
Comments
Comment #167887

So, our courts aren’t overburdened enough that you would encourage frivolous lawsuits? To make a point?

Perhaps your definition of proselytizing is different from others. Giving a religious sermon no matter how small is not just thanking God.

This has already been posted about sufficiently I would think. You must have missed it.

Posted by: womanmarine at July 15, 2006 7:55 PM
Comment #167891

Scottie,

“God’s love is so great that he gave his only son up,…to an excruciating death on a cross so his blood would cover all our shortcomings and provide for us a way to heaven in accepting this grace.”

Just where in the text you mention is a thanks?

This young lady knew the job was dangerous when she took it.
She was warned and took it upon herself not to heed the warning. I am more offended that there might actually be a judge that would allow this travesty to go to trial.

I think this article has more to do with a cheap shot at the ACLU, than it has to do with this lawsuit.

Posted by: Rocky at July 15, 2006 8:09 PM
Comment #167895

“McComb said she was warned that her speech would be cut off if she did not follow an approved script that deleted references to Christ and invitations for others to join the faith.

How was this not proselytizing?

Posted by: Liberal Demon at July 15, 2006 8:36 PM
Comment #167901

I am really getting tired of this subject. If spewing religious beliefs and rooting for JC at a public function is freedom of speech, then one of two things need to happen.

Either, the people that don’t want to hear that stuff can quietly go up, collect their diplomas and leave, or, have a rebuttal speaker that advocates for atheism and the strict seperation of church and state.

If advertising for religious convictions is allowed at non-religious functions, then anti-religious convictions should recieve equal time.

Posted by: Tim Crow at July 15, 2006 9:09 PM
Comment #167910

Scottie,
I can see how you would be upset about this girl not having free speech rights. But wouldnt you think with her being a validictorian she would have the brainpower to know that this portion of her speech could have been modified slightly to get her point across without proselytizing?
It seems she was trying to intentionally break the rules.
How would you feel if, setting in that same audience, the next person to speak was a pick one and offered up his/her statement that in your mind offended your religious/spiritual beliefs or lack there of .
I think we are all a little touchy now days and I beleive its because of the “give’m and inch and they take a mile” syndrome. Do you think if this young women was allowed her speech that it would stop there. The graduation would then slowly but surely turn into a church of sorts, with each “preacher” trying to out preach the last class.
This is after all a graduation, short and sweet the speech should be. Plenty of time for converting the classmates before and after the event.

Posted by: j2t2 at July 15, 2006 9:36 PM
Comment #167915

Of course, this whole problem could be avoided by not forcing people to pay for other people’s children’s education. Instead develop a per user pay method that people could volunteer to join into. Keep the government out of it. Then there wouldn’t have been any violation of anyone’s civil rights.

Of course, that’s probably not going to happen, constitution be damned, right?

Posted by: Rhinehold at July 15, 2006 9:50 PM
Comment #167924

Rhinehold,
Good idea.
That would also solve the theft of education by illegal aliens.

Posted by: d.a.n at July 15, 2006 11:01 PM
Comment #167925

“How was this not proselytizing?”

In the final speech she did not include any parts that invited people to her faith. Even I wouldn’t have approved of that.

“So, our courts aren’t overburdened enough that you would encourage frivolous lawsuits? To make a point?”

While I personally don’t believe the lawsuit will go anywhere it’s not frivolous but an interesting First Amendment challenge. We always talk about the establishment clause but rarely the part that says religious practice shall not be denied.

Posted by: Scottie at July 15, 2006 11:01 PM
Comment #167932

I know that you know that she wasn’t silenced for mentioning Jesus or thanking God. She was silenced because she felt she had the right to do so much more.

If you want to play semantics, fine. She wasn’t proselytizing, but she sure was giving a sermon, much more than just thanking God. She did this with more intention than just thanking God.

Posted by: womanmarine at July 15, 2006 11:23 PM
Comment #167938

What ever happened to freedom of speech? Reckon it only applies if it agrees with the far left. other than that it ain’t free.
Would everyone that’s upset about what Brittany said be as uptight if she had invited her classmate to try Allah? Or Buda? Or Scientology? Or any other non Christian religion?
The school board wasn’t the ones promoting any religion. And to tell Brittany she can’t talk about Jesus is denying her her freedom of speech as well as religion.
After the far left manages to take away the Christians freedom of speech, who will they go after next? And they will go after someone.

Posted by: Ron Brown at July 15, 2006 11:59 PM
Comment #167940

Having been on a public School Board for 10 years I have actually had some training on this.

Here is what our attorney told us.

It is against the law for the School District to proclaim a religion at a public event.

First amendment rights of students also need to be protected.

Here was our balance. If we knew in advance that a student was going to give a speach that was promoting a faith, we would stop them.

However if a student without our knowledge, and on their own accord, varied from prepared remarks, our staff was instructed to not interfere.

In the case above, if the staff followed their training, as long as the school had no prior warning of what the student was about to say, the staff would have done nothing and allowed her to continue.

The purpose of the training is to keep the school district out of the courts by being sued by either the ACLU or the student.

Judging by the above quote, our attorney’s advice looks pretty good.

I would be interested in comments from the left on if our district was doing a good job of balancing free speach rights, with religious liberty.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at July 16, 2006 12:06 AM
Comment #167943

Craig:

If I understand you right, the students can say anything they want if you don’t know about it ahead of time? That’s a policy?

Posted by: womanmarine at July 16, 2006 12:19 AM
Comment #167946

womanmarine:

There is a difference between policy and administrative proceedure for the policy.

The policy is no religious speeches. The question is what do you do when a student violates school policy without warning? If the speech were vulger, they presumably would be shut down. If the speech were religious in nature, and the school didn’t know about it ahead of time, the administrative procedure is to allow the student to finish.

The interest of the school district of course is simply to stay out of court. Since speeches at graduation ceremonies are a flash point of free speech verses separation of church and state, the district follows the legal advise it paid for.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at July 16, 2006 12:33 AM
Comment #167948

womanmarine:

Just to defend school districts with policies and proceedures such as the ours I would say the following: (fully understanding I am not an attorney, much less one well versed in freedom of speech verses sep of church and state issues)

1. It seems that is should be required of districts to make a reasonable effort without placing an undo burden on the mission of the school (learning). It would seem to me that having a policy that states religious speeches are not to be given at graduation ceremonies and making sure the speakers are aware of the district policy before the event meets this criteria.

2. Since in the example of a student who has been fully informed of the school policy, and decides to violate that policy without the foreknowledge of any staff member, it would seem to me that at the moment the student strays from their prepared remarks into a religious speech, the school district has in no way violated separation of church and state. The district should at that moment be free from liability.

3. The question then remains, if the staff takes the next step and shuts down the student, is that student’s free speech rights been violated? My question for my staff would be, why test it? If the district is free from liability, let the kid alone, they are acting on their own.

I would want our staff to choose other places to fight battles. Those places should deal with student learning.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at July 16, 2006 12:51 AM
Comment #167950

Although I don’t personally agree with this student’s actions, I think she has a very strong case here. Whether the school knows or doesn’t know beforehand what’s going to be said is or ought to be irrelevant. In fact, I’m disturbed by the school censoring ANYTHING except vulgarity and incitment to violence.

A valedictory speech is somebody’s personal expression, and I don’t see for a second how the establishment clause of the Consitution applies here. If the school’s interpretation of a 9th circuit ruling leads them to believe otherwise, then this is something that really needs to be tested in court.

Is the school trying to establish an official religion by allowing somebody who doesn’t even work for the school to speak her mind? The very idea is ridiculous.

Personally, I’d be offended if a valedectorian gave such a speech, but the Consitution doesn’t allow the state to trample anybody’s right to speech or expression in order to prevent me or anybody else from being offended.

I’d say the same thing if the student were a Muslim, Scientologist or anything else.

Posted by: Mr P at July 16, 2006 1:11 AM
Comment #167951

The answer to your question Ron is yes I would be as upset. Not that Im that upset with this, But dont you think that if you allow a little you would have to allow a lot. Why, if she has the right whilst giving a speech in the school, would she not then exercise the same right during any other class or activity she might be involved in? When should she not be allowed to try to convert other children to her specific religion.
Or to look at it from another angle what if this person shouted the praises of Lucifer instead, would you call that free speech and accept it as ok for her to convert other students to her non christian religion.
Judging from Craigs post it appears that the school district cant win either way.
Why dont we as as a country recognize the spiritual differences between us and agree to proselytize outside of the school.

Posted by: j2t2 at July 16, 2006 1:15 AM
Comment #167952

Scottie,
You said “What war on religion? as if we’re nuts”
I dont see any war on religion here. Aren’t you overstating the case a bit. In fact it appears as if religion is the attacking party not the attacked party. Maybe it your comment should read “What war on schools- as if we’re not nuts enough”
Your statement sounds like an ad for Pat Robertson or some other televangilist trying to line their pockets by working up those foolish enough it watch them. Certainly your not that type are you?

Posted by: j2t2 at July 16, 2006 1:25 AM
Comment #167954

Craig & Mr P,

…to an excruciating death on a cross so his blood would cover…

That seems quite vulgar to me.

Posted by: bushflipflops at July 16, 2006 1:46 AM
Comment #167979

Craig:

A school district certainly has the right to know what a valedictorian is going to say. But they should not have the blanket right to censor them.

Lets assume the valedictorian is going to thank someone for their role in her life, how this relationship has helped her, and how her life has changed as a result. Now let’s assume that someone is her father—no problem. Let’s assume that someone is her Father in Heaven—again, there should be no problem.

The school is not being asked to support a certain religion—they are being asked to support freedom of speech. They should have the right to modify the message IFFF the message goes over the line. But the line cannot be—must not be—the mere mention of religion or God or Christ.

There is a difference between proselytizing and talking…its hard to define though. We are getting to a point where some people consider the mere mention of Jesus Christ to be unbearable, and it is this standard of application that cannot be allowed to stand.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at July 16, 2006 8:11 AM
Comment #167996

I think this is basically a trivial issue, but I suggest a compromise: Schools should adopt as a policy that the valedictorian is speaking entirely for him or herself and can say whatever she wants. There can even be a little legalistic disclaimer from the school saying that the opinions given herein, etc…

Now, when I say whatever she wants, I mean ANYTHING, aside from obvious exceptions of things that would be illegal for adults to say. So if the valedictorian wants to praise Jesus, that’s fine, but Satan is OK, too. “Abortion is murder” is permitted, but so is “God is an abortionist”.

This would really be free speech, because the school would not be exerting any control over the content.

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 16, 2006 10:04 AM
Comment #168077
After the far left manages to take away the Christians freedom of speech, who will they go after next? And they will go after someone.

Ron Brown,

Tell me something; do you know this principle personally? How do you know his beliefs are on the far left? How do you know this was not simply a principle, of any ideology, who overreacted out of fear of being sued?

My feeling is that this student had every right to speak about her religion if she so pleased. IMO, in this case the school did violate this student’s 1st amendment rights. I don’t see anything in the Constitution that says you have freedom of speech with the exception of religious speech. It may be irritating to set through a speech you do not agree with, but that is the small price we pay for the right to speak freely.

That said if this case does go to court, all it is going to accomplish is to muddy the waters further. This issue has come before the courts so many times and we have had contradictory rulings. I believe it is this confusion that leads to incidents like this.

On the other hand, this girl should have shown that she was mature enough to handle the situation like an adult. Rather than just spring this on the district at the last minute then consult a lawyer, maybe she should have gotten the lawyer involved before the speech and tried to work out a compromise that would protect the school district while still allowing the student her right to free expression.

Posted by: JayJay Snow at July 16, 2006 4:47 PM
Comment #168105

j2t2
Freedom of religion is freedom of religion. Even if I don’t agree with the religion. And I don’t agree with most of them. And freedom of speech is freedom of speech. Even if I don’t agree with or like what’s being said.
If anyone during a class tried to convert their fellow students to their religion it should be treated the same as in the work place. Not on school time. During lunch, recess, before or after school, OK.
However the idea of a speech is for the person to express their thought and beliefs. If not there ain’t no reason for the person to give the speech.

JayJay
I not accusing the Principle of being far left. But it is the far left that’s been attacking freedom of speech as well as all other freedoms. Specially when it doesn’t agree with them.
The Principle is as much as a victim of the far left as Brittney is. It’s damn if he does, and damn if he don’t. I’m not attacking him. I can’t really say I wouldn’t have done the same thing.
The schools are between a rock and a hard place on this.
Yeah, she should’ve tried to work this out before hand with the school. I’m not saying that she’s 100% right either. I’m defending her right to say what she believes and her freedom of speech. And I’d defend a Satanist’s freedom of speech. Or anyone else.
I do think it silly though that she should have to get approval to say what she believes.
Like one of our founding fathers said. “I may not agree with what you say. But I will defend to the death your right to say it.” And I’ll ad even if I don’t like what you say I’ll defend to the death you right to say it.

Posted by: Ron Brown at July 16, 2006 10:04 PM
Comment #168153

Scottie, and if the student was thanking Allah for helping America see the errors of its ways?

Yes, proselytizing! And clearly so when the shoe is on the other foot!!!

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 17, 2006 3:14 AM
Comment #168161

McComb said she was warned that her speech would be cut off if she did not follow an approved script that deleted references to Christ and invitations for others to join the faith. But she memorized the deleted parts and said them anyway.

It sounds like she did want to proselytize and convert others to her faith, not just give thanks. It sounds like it was implied the speeches were supposed to be set up and approved in advance in order to fit in with the ceremony. I would be more worried if she got in trouble for, say, preaching privately to other students at lunch. It doesn’t mean they’re fascist just because they wanted short and simple speeches at the school’s own ceremony as opposed to a time for preaching politics and religion.

Posted by: mark at July 17, 2006 5:10 AM
Comment #168254

The school didn’t stop the girl’s speech - she was still able to give it. All the school did was turn on the state provided amplification - which should be the school’s right given the use is a priviledge with conditions that were violated.

Posted by: Redlenses at July 17, 2006 2:23 PM
Comment #168283

Were I a valedictorian, I might be inclined to include the following in my speech:

My father has been an amazing influence in my life. He has always been there for me, even when I was mad at him. He gave me a list of guiding principles to live my life by, and I’m always finding out how good those principles are. I read through his words all the time, and they really help me a lot.

My father loves me so much. His goal is for me to be happy, and its our relationship that he craves so deeply. A long time ago, I didn’t have a real relationship with him—we just weren’t deeply involved in each other’s lives. Actually, he was involved in mine, but I couldn’t see it.

But then I committed to a relationship with him, and I know that I will always have him next to my heart. Whatever happens in this life, I know my father is watching over me and protecting me. And he will protect me forever.

Now, let me tell you a bit about my dad…..

Posted by: joebagodonuts at July 17, 2006 4:52 PM
Comment #168298

JBOD,

It appears you might just be smarter than that Valedictorian.

Posted by: Rocky at July 17, 2006 6:15 PM
Comment #168479

Personally, I don’t have a problem with this young woman’s comments. However

“God’s love is so great that he gave his only son up,” she said, before the microphone went dead. She continued without amplification, “…to an excruciating death on a cross so his blood would cover all our shortcomings and provide for us a way to heaven in accepting this grace.”

I see nobody thanking anybody for anything in this comment. This is preaching, and preaching is a form of proselytizing. What if the young woman in question had suddenly started mentioning Nazi ideology, as an example? Would her right to express her religious opinions have been so staunchly defended then? After all she’d merely be expressing her personal love of God, even if her convictions weren’t the same as yours or mine.

Posted by: Don at July 18, 2006 9:42 AM
Comment #168746

My mother would have slapped me up side of the head if I had tried to pull something like this. She was a VERY religious woman, but believed in following the rules and policies of the school. She taught me there is a time and place for everything.

She taught me that the best way to help people find God/Jesus is by example. Deeds, not words. And a lawsuit? Please.

Posted by: womanmarine at July 19, 2006 1:28 AM
Comment #169911

I’m agnostic, but I have no problem with a student mentioning God in a speech, as long as he or she also had the right to mention Allah or Buddha or Krishna, whatever. I do not think school officials should not use state money or resources to proslytyze, but students aren’t state employees. I suspect that if the school board had developed a policy allowing ANY kind of religious or atheistic statements during such school speeches that there wouldn’t be a legal problem.

Posted by: Trent at July 23, 2006 9:18 AM
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