Foothill valedictorian criticizes decision to censor her proclamation of faith


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Desertdog
June 20, 2006, 04:40 PM
I wonder what happened to her First Amendment rights.:cuss:

District pulls plug on speech
Foothill valedictorian criticizes decision to censor her proclamation of faith
http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Jun-17-Sat-2006/news/8014416.html


She knew her speech as valedictorian of Foothill High School would be cut short, but Brittany McComb was determined to tell her fellow graduates what was on her mind and in her heart.

But before she could get to the word in her speech that meant the most to her -- Christ -- her microphone went dead.

The decision to cut short McComb's commencement speech Thursday at The Orleans drew jeers from the nearly 400 graduates and their families that went on for several minutes.

However, Clark County School District officials and an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that cutting McComb's mic was the right call. Graduation ceremonies are school-sponsored events, a stance supported by federal court rulings, and as such may include religious references but not proselytizing, they said.

They said McComb's speech amounted to proselytizing and that her commentary could have been perceived as school-sponsored.

Before she delivered her commencement speech, McComb met with Foothill administrators, who edited her remarks. It's standard district practice to have graduation speeches vetted before they are read publicly.

School officials removed from McComb's speech some biblical references and the only reference to Christ.

But even though administrators warned McComb that her speech would get cut short if she deviated from the language approved by the school, she said it all boiled down to her fundamental right to free speech.

That's why, for what she said was the first time in her life, the valedictorian who graduated with a 4.7 GPA rebelled against authority.

"I went through four years of school at Foothill and they taught me logic and they taught me freedom of speech," McComb said. "God's the biggest part of my life. Just like other valedictorians thank their parents, I wanted to thank my lord and savior."

In the 750-word unedited version of McComb's speech, she made two references to the lord, nine mentions of God and one mention of Christ.

In the version approved by school officials, six of those words were omitted along with two biblical references. Also deleted from her speech was a reference to God's love being so great that he gave his only son to suffer an excruciated death in order to cover everyone's shortcomings and forge a path to heaven.

Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the ACLU of Nevada, had read the unedited version of McComb's speech and said district officials did the right thing by cutting McComb's speech short because her commentary promoted religion.

"There should be no controversy here," Lichtenstein said. "It's important for people to understand that a student was given a school-sponsored forum by a school and therefore, in essence, it was a school-sponsored speech."

Lichtenstein said that position was supported by two decisions by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2000 and 2003.

Both cases involved graduation ceremonies and religious speeches given by commencement speakers. In the 2003 case, Lichtenstein said, the plaintiff even petitioned the Supreme Court to have the decision reversed, but the request was denied.

In 2003, the Clark County School Board amended district regulations on religious free speech, prohibiting district officials from organizing a prayer at graduation or selecting speakers for such events in a manner that favors religious speech or a prayer.

The remainder of the amendment allows for religious expression during school ceremonies.

Where students or other private graduation speakers are selected on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria and retain primary control over the content of their expression, however, that expression is not attributable to the school and, therefore, may not be restricted because of its religious (or anti-religious) content," it states.

"To avoid any mistaken perception that a school endorses student or other private speech that is not in fact attributable to the school, school officials may make appropriate neutral disclaimers to clarify that such speech is not school sponsored."

District legal counsel Bill Hoffman said the regulation allows students to talk about religion, but speeches can't cross into the realm of preaching.

"We review the speeches and tell them they may not proselytize," Hoffman said. "We encourage people to talk about religion and the impact on their lives. But when that discussion crosses over to become proselytizing, then we to tell students they can't do that."

McComb, who will study journalism at Biola University, a private Christian school in La Mirada, Calif., doesn't believe she was preaching. She said although some people might not like the message of her speech, it was just that, her speech.

"People aren't stupid and they know we have freedom of speech and the district wasn't advocating my ideas," McComb said. "Those are my opinions.

"It's what I believe."

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Preacherman
June 20, 2006, 04:50 PM
Her First Amendment rights don't come into this - she was speaking at a function organized by a Government-run institution, on Government-owned property. Thus, the Constitutional prohibition on endorsement of religion by any Government entity (at least as interpreted by our courts) overrode her personal freedom of expression. If she'd been speaking at a private function, on private property, there'd have been no problem.

SomeKid
June 20, 2006, 04:57 PM
valedictorian who graduated with a 4.7 GPA

A 4.0 means nothing but A's, yet I see people beating that consistently. What kind of joke is this?

Rumble
June 20, 2006, 05:02 PM
GPA's higher than 4.0 usually means that some of the classes she'd taken were weighted because they were Advanced Placement or Int'l Baccalaureate, so an A in one of those classes counts as something like 4.15, or 4.25; a B might count as 3.85 or whatever.

It's to reflect the idea that getting a B in an AP class is harder than getting an A in a non-AP class. I have no idea if that idea is true. I went to HS and took lots of AP classes and none of them were weighted any differently. I wasn't the valedictorian, but I didn't really care, either.

Anyway, as for the topic--actually, yeah, her rights are somewhat abridged by virtue of being a student, and by speaking at the behest of a gov't entity.

'Card
June 20, 2006, 05:03 PM
This really isn't any different from that case a few years ago where a bunch of high school students, as part of an art class assignment, painted a 30-foot mural on a wall in the school with a strong pro-gay message. The administration painted over the mural, and the students claimed to be 'outraged' because their 'freedom of speech' was being violated. Bottom line? The wall, the paint the kids used, and even the brushes they painted with were school property, so the administration was right - just like they are in this case. The stage, the microphone, the loudspeakers, the podium, and presumably the auditorium or field where the graduation ceremony was being held were all school property. The 1st Amendment therefore, does not apply.

The 1st promises that you can say what you like. It doesn't say a thing about being able to say what you like wherever you want to say it. Property rights are (and hopefully always will be) paramount in our society.

Camp David
June 20, 2006, 05:03 PM
Her First Amendment rights don't come into this - she was speaking at a function organized by a Government-run institution, on Government-owned property. Thus, the Constitutional prohibition on endorsement of religion by any Government entity (at least as interpreted by our courts) overrode her personal freedom of expression. If she'd been speaking at a private function, on private property, there'd have been no problem.

So Mr. Preacherman... when could we expect the Clark County School District to return all their money local taxpayers paid for the District building because the money is infused with non-secular homages to deity; i.e., In God We Trust or do these moronic hypocrites choose when and where to discriminate based on ACLU guidance?

The valedictorian in question should send her degree back to the Administrator/Principal of Foothill High School with instructions on where to place it and how far in to shove it. Any consideration of this ACLU politically-correct foolishness as anything but rank discrimination is wrong; it is abject discrimination and it has nothing at all to do with Church/State separation.

'Card
June 20, 2006, 05:09 PM
A 4.0 means nothing but A's, yet I see people beating that consistently. What kind of joke is this?
High Schools hoping to make their kids look more attractive to college placement boards have been pimping more and more of these "Honors" and "Advanced Courses" for several years now. If you take one of those classes and get a B, it counts as an A towards your GPA. If you get an A in the class, it can push your GPA above 4.0.

It's gotten so bad that it's pretty much turned the entire GPA thing into a joke. I heard a guy from Duke University the other day on the radio who said they completely ignore GPA now and recruit based pretty much on SAT scores alone. Can't really blame him. In my son's graduating class this year, 20% of the students finished with a 4.0 or higher.

SomeKid
June 20, 2006, 05:12 PM
Rumble, Card

Thanks guys. I suspected that this was a ruse to make kids feel better, at the expense of an honest system.

hso
June 20, 2006, 05:18 PM
I've got to disagree with the contention that any religious speech by an individual at a government function is non-constitutional.

If selected for objective non-religious reasons to make a statement that is not on behalf of the government entities it is not government speech or government sponsored speech whether for or against religion. It doesn't matter that it takes place at a government facility or event for it to be constitutional. The actions of an individual who is speaking on their own behalf should not be limited because they are speaking at a government function.

The constitutional violation of freedom of religion occurs if there is a religious ceremony or speech or prayer as part of the function itself. This becomes government sponsored religious speech.

I would be the first to bring a lawsuit if there was a religious ceremony at a public school graduation as part of the graduation. A prayer or invocation or whatever would be inappropriate where the kids and parents are of such wide ranging religious beliefs as we are in the U.S. OTOH, if the valedictorian wants to say that their life is dedicated to the greater glory of god and their success is directly attributable to god's love for mankind, that's their personal belief and not the school's. I don’t have to agree with an individual’s personal religious belief or their professing of them, but I’ll oppose the school in promoting religious belief while defending the valedictorian’s personal right to express it.

'Card
June 20, 2006, 05:19 PM
So Mr. Preacherman... when could we expect the Clark County School District to return all their money local taxpayers paid for the District building because the money is infused with non-secular homages to deity
Dragging your diety (or mine, or the student's) into the discussion is completely missing the point.

The public (government) has appointed an administrator to oversee the management of its property. The administrator has the authority to approve (or disapprove) of anything that goes on associated with that property. The administrator decided that certain portions of the student's speech were inappropriate. As the appointed manager of the property, the administrator was completely within his (or her) rights to cut off the student when the student defied that authority.

Doesn't matter what the speech consisted of - the fact is that the speech hadn't been approved. Trying to put an anti-religious spin on the issue is just looking for something to get angry about.

SSN Vet
June 20, 2006, 05:28 PM
Here's the rub....

Kids in special ed. (ADD, ADHD, you pick the jumbo soup label) who sit around playing video games all day long get A's, because a grade that actually reflected their aptitude and effort might hurt their self esteem.

So at the end of four years....you've got kids who can't read who have a 4.0 gpa.

Then you've also got kids who bust their buts in hard (harder than many colleges) AP classes. But if they got one single grade that is less than an A+, they will get aced out by Jack and Jill Special Ed. for class ranking and honors.

Just another way in which liberals have ruined our society....they've "dumbed down" the institution and punished those who work hard and have natural talent, by their egalitarian programs that disproportionately elevate those who don't work hard or have natural talent. All in the name of "self esteem".

Heaven forbid we teach young people to get self esteem through hard work and accomplishment.

Colleges routinely blow off gpa as a meaningful measure, BUT they do look at who's ranked #1 and in the top 5%.

So the public education wusaninis come up with a weighting scheme, whereby the dopes can get a 4.0 (knowing they're unable to figure out it doesn't mean anything), and the brains get >4.0 on a "4.0 scale".

In other words.....we have to make the whole system stupid and nonsensical so jr. doesn't feel bad.

HankB
June 20, 2006, 05:38 PM
The thing to do is for future valedictorians to write two speeches - one to submit to the screener, another to actually use. :evil: . . . the Constitutional prohibition on endorsement of religion by any Government entity (at least as interpreted by our courts) overrode her personal freedom of expression.A valedictorian is not a government entity, nor an employee of a government entity. So long as government does not mandate inclusion of a prayer, religious observance, or something of the sort, prohibition of an individual from mentioning her faith would seem to run afoul of the bolded part of the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,"

Yes, there are limits to freedom of speech . . . but I hardly believe that mentioning the Almighty in a respectful manner (she wasn't calling for jihad or crusade) during commencement compares with shouting "FIRE" in a crowded theater.

Of course, not being a lawyer, I tend to think the words actually mean what they say, so I may well be out of step with judges who see things that aren't there . . . and don't see things that are.

A few final thoughts: What if the local paper decided to interview the valedictorian of the local high school - and the interview took place, in, say the principal's office. Would the interview be cut short by administrators if the student mentioned her faith?

What if the interview took place off campus? Would the administrators still try to squelch her speech on the grounds that, even off campus, since she was being interviewd as the school's valedictorian, she was representing the school, and subject to their restrictions?

Zundfolge
June 20, 2006, 05:46 PM
Her First Amendment rights don't come into this - she was speaking at a function organized by a Government-run institution, on Government-owned property. Thus, the Constitutional prohibition on endorsement of religion by any Government entity (at least as interpreted by our courts) overrode her personal freedom of expression. If she'd been speaking at a private function, on private property, there'd have been no problem.

I don't agree that speaking at a function organized by a government-run institution is the equivalent of said institution endorsing any religion (or anything else you have to say for that matter).

That would be like saying some speaker says; "A fee of $5 has been imposed on all of you for parking tonight, pay the usher on the way out" and it would have the force of law.


Her 1st Amendment rights DO come in here as she was speaking for herself, not as an official of the school.

Vex
June 20, 2006, 05:50 PM
The Bill of Rights was created to protect the rights of the citizens from the government. This school system that violated her civil rights was a public school system, right? Therefore, they receive money from the government. Therefore, they are agents of the government... but somehow this is just okay? This is a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Her First Amendment rights don't come into this - she was speaking at a function organized by a Government-run institution, on Government-owned property. Thus, the Constitutional prohibition on endorsement of religion by any Government entity (at least as interpreted by our courts) overrode her personal freedom of expression. If she'd been speaking at a private function, on private property, there'd have been no problem.

Preacherman, you've got this backwards. If she was speaking at a private institution, on private property, she would not be protected by the Bill of Rights. But she was speaking on property owned by a public school system... property that was paid for by taxes, at an event paid for by taxes. If the Bill of Rights doesn't protect us from the school system, which is the lowest and most devious form of government, then I don't know what it protects us against.

If she was an employee of the government, then your argument might hold water... but as it stands, she is a free citizen on public property at a publicly paid event, and your argument is sinking faster than the Titanic.

Art Eatman
June 20, 2006, 06:11 PM
Court decisions for the last several decades have held that tax-payer property must be free from religion. This deal is nothing at all new, no matter whether you're fur it er agin it.

OT, anyhow.

Art

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