Monday, March 29, 2010

Valedictorian's mention of "God" and "Jesus" Forbidden in Graduation speech

Renee Griffith was forbidden to speak as a 2008 high school valedictorian because she was going to mention God and Jesus.

Griffith was asked, along with other students at Butte High School in Montana, to speak about what had gotten her through high school.

The students were required to turn in their speeches for approval prior to graduation.

School officials asked Griffith to replace the words “Christ,” “His joy,” and “from God with a passionate love for him” with just words like “my faith” and “a love of mankind.”

She refused to make the changes, and was not allowed to give her speech.

Griffith first filed a complaint with Montana’ Human Rights Bureau. When it was dismissed, she filed a complaint in the Montana Thirteenth Judicial District Court (Renee Griffith v. Butte School District No. 1)

However, at the end of February 2010, a judge ruled that her free speech rights had not been violated.

The Billings Gazette in Montana reported Judge Gregory Todd's statement. He did not feel the district’s actions were unlawfully discriminatory toward Griffith’s religious beliefs.

The statement went on to say the School District’s policy is to prohibit any religious references during graduation speeches in order to maintain “neutrality toward religion,” as required by the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But according to the U. S. Department of Education’s release, Religious Expression in Public Schools, there is no such requirement. A student may deliver a faith-based speech when speaking on their own without encouragement or sponsorship of faculty.

Here is the “Official Neutrality” statement within this Document (bolding added):
Teachers and school administrators, when acting in those capacities, are representatives of the state and are prohibited by the establishment clause from soliciting or encouraging religious activity, and from participating in such activity with students. Teachers and administrators also are prohibited from discouraging activity because of its religious content, and from soliciting or encouraging antireligious activity.

The next bullet, “Student Assignments,” states:
Student assignments: Students may express their beliefs about religion in the form of homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free of discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions.

The District Court decision will be appealed to the Montana Supreme Court.

Educate your local School Board, superintendent of education, principals and teachers with this document, which has been circulated to schools several times since President Clinton was in office:
“Religious Expression in Public Schools” http://www.ed.gov/Speeches/08-1995/religion.html.

The original version of this article, with more detail, is published here at the Underground Online Magazine.

2 comments:

adamfowlersopinion April 2, 2010 at 1:27 PM  

Interesting case. Clearly another example of the confusion many have between the establishment clause and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

Government cannot punish religious speech. It especially cannot exercise prior restraint, as was apparently the case when the school required its approval before the speech could be made.

Anonymous September 1, 2010 at 7:53 AM  

If you happen to lean towards following any of the JUDICIAL decisions regarding all crimes, regardless of the severity it appears the rights of criminals have been extended to the point the JUDICIARY APPOINTEES are lacking in LOGIC as well as intellect and its time to re-claim the rights of the general public.

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