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Valedictorian Thanks God, Has Speech Cut

LAS VEGAS, NV — School officials in Las Vegas cut a high school valedictorian’s speech short last week after she made a religious reference.

Foothill High School senior Brittany McComb said, “Just like other valedictorians thank their parents, I wanted to thank my Lord and Savior.”

But when she departed from her officially-approved text at last Thursday’s commencement ceremony to mention Jesus and the Bible, public school officials cut off her microphone.

The crowd of nearly 400 graduates and their families angrily booed officials who silenced herAdministrators who vetted an early draft of McComb’s speech had cut six references to God or Christ, and omitted two biblical references. They also deleted a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Nevada ACLU general counsel Allan Lichtenstein explained, “There should be no controversy here … 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.” The school district stood by the school’s decision, suggesting that McComb’s speech entered into the realm of “preaching.”

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

McComb said she defied school authorities because she believed it was a free-speech issue.

The Constitution provides no right to be free from public expression of religion. The relevant portion of the First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The basic concept: There should be no national religion, because establishment of a national religion would necessitate shutting down other religions.

The Clark County School District defended school officials’ decision to cut off McComb’s microphone, saying the speech would have amounted to school-sponsored prayer.

From stop the ACLU: Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have agreed to represent a high school senior whose microphone was unplugged by school officials after she began to speak about her Christian beliefs during her valedictory address. When Foothill High School valedictorian Brittany McComb began reading a speech that contained Bible verses and references to God and her faith in Jesus Christ during her commencement speech on June 15, 2006, officials with the Clark County School District unplugged the microphone. Institute attorneys plan to file a First Amendment lawsuit against the school district for having violated Brittany’s constitutional right to free speech and equal protection under the law.

“This is yet another example of a politically correct culture silencing Christians in order to not offend those of other beliefs,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Brittany McComb worked hard to earn the right to address her classmates as valedictorian and she has a constitutional right-like any other student-to freely speak about the factors that contributed to her success, whether they be a supportive family, friends or her faith in Jesus Christ.”

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