Court validates student's right to religious speech
Bill Bumpas - OneNewsNow - 11/30/2010 9:35:00 AM
Montana's highest court has ruled in favor of a former Montana high school valedictorian who was banned from speaking at her graduation because her speech contained religious references.
Among Renee Griffith's planned comments were such statements as: "I didn't let fear keep me from sharing Christ and His joy with those around me" -- and "I learned not to be known for my grades...but for being committed to my faith and morals and being someone who lived with a purpose from God with a passionate love for Him." She was ordered by school officials to replace "Christ" with the words "my faith"; and to amend the other statement to say she "lived with a purpose, a purpose derived from my faith and based on a love of mankind."
Griffith, a co-valedictorian of her 2008 senior class, refused to do so and, consequently, was prevented from speaking at the ceremony.
Now the Montana Supreme Court has ruled 5-1 that officials at Butte High School violated Griffith's rights to free speech and to freedom of religion under the U.S. and Montana constitutions. It was "unreasonable," said the court, "to conclude that Griffith's brief mention of her personal religious views would materially and substantially disrupt the graduation ceremony...."
The Rutherford Institute helped to argue the case on behalf of Griffith. "Renee wanted to mention Christ and God in her graduation speech, and the school said she couldn't do it -- then she insisted that she be able to do it," explains Rutherford's president, John Whitehead.
"She was actually forbidden from even participating in the graduation ceremony at all," Whitehead continues. "So I think this [ruling] sends a shot across the bow of all these other cases that have happened across the country -- and it's a reaffirmation that we still have some freedom in the United States."
A lower court had ruled previously that Griffith's civil rights were not violated, and the school district had argued mentioning Christ or God in a speech is a violation of the alleged "separation of church and state."
"But the [Montana Supreme Court] actually addresses that and says that's not true -- this is just basically free speech and students should have a right, as other students have a right, to mention what's important to them and their lives when they're up before the students speaking about graduation," says the spokesman for The Rutherford Institute.
Whitehead says the ruling affirms to Christian students that mentioning the name "Jesus" in a speech is not taboo.
It's amazing how that Constitution thingy keeps getting in the way of those liberal agenda's. I hope a civil suit is pending for taking away her right to participate in her graduation exercises, to some the most important event in their lives. Freedom of speech is just that, no matter how much you disagree with what is said. I don't consider what she said in the least bit disruptive.