You can read the story here. Basically, this girl (a devout Christian) was to give a speech as valedictorian of her high school in Las Vegas. She had submitted the speech to the school board, which then edited out the numerous references to Jesus, prayer, etc. However, she decided to “go with her gut” and give the religious speech anyway, to show how big of a role her beliefs played in her life.
Here’s the kicker - they shut off the microphone near the beginning of the speech as she began to sermonize! She and others claim her free speech rights were impinged, but the ACLU sided with the school, saying that her speech was preachy and prostyletizing in nature, and that it could be seen as school sponsored.
She had a 4.7 GPA - really makes you wonder. I think we’ve all known students or professionals who excelled despite extreme lack of rationality in certain areas… She will attend Biola University (Evangelical Christian college) in the fall and join the army of Christ, which will soon engulf our nation in Jesusness.
McComb was clearly warned not to proselytize, and
the school even edited her speech to be clear that
she should not talk about Jesus, God, or the lord in
order to proselytize. From the article, the school did,
“... encourage people to talk about religion and the impact
on their lives.” Case closed, take the mic from her.
“But before she could get to the word in her speech
that meant the most to her—Christ—her microphone
So what is it about these Bible Belt Christians who don’t
get the Establishment Clause, “Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, ...”? Really,
I want to know. Do they love the word Christ so much
that they don’t care when the insult other’s religions,
nor care that there are words prohibiting religion in the
Bill of Rights?
When you hear the name Bill of Rights, you imagine “you
have the right to…”, and “you have other rights to…”.
But that’s not quite how it was written. In the very
first Amendment of the Bill of Rights, the very first
thing that was said was a limitation! The Establishment
Clause _limits_ the Congress, and later the rest of
the government, from establishing any religion. In the
extremist way that I read the first Amendment, it limits
all of government from even paying any “respect” toward
anyone who tries to establish a religion, no respect
at all! How could the founders possibly have been so
extreme to order that no repect be paid toward attempts
at establishing a religion in government? Because this
is one of the ideas that made them Revolutionaries!
The war of rebellion wasn’t what was revolutionary
about them, it was their ideas for how a government
should operate, and what rights the citizens should have
protected by the government, that were revolutionary!
One other revolutionary idea of theirs being that the
government would not assume any rights to itself beyond
the Constitution of the United States. The remaining
rights that were unmentioned are assumed to be the rights
of the citizenry! The right to hang-glide, the right to
broadcast radio, the right to make and take drugs, the
right to pay for sex, and other ideas that the founders
Of course, times have changed and Congress was given
the right to write new legislation, and so all of those
ideas that I just mentioned have new limitations since the
Constitution of the United States. Of course, I’m not a
Constitutional lawyer, so maybe Eddie Tabash’s words will
be more reliable than mine if you see him contradict me.
Then proselytizers will always throw in the Freedom
Clause as though it undermines the Establishment Clause.
“... or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...” does
not undermine the Establishment Clause, it is a
misinterpretation to imply that it does. The way that
the amendment was written, _first_ it established the
limitation on the _government_ and _then_ it expands the
right of free exercise of religion to the _citizenry_, in
that order! The limitation (on government) applies first
and foremost, the rights of the citizenry are secondary
to that limitation.
So who is the government? They are the citizens who get
elected, who are hired, or who volunteer to do government
work. So the way that I interpret the situation is that
once a citizen begins doing public service they give
up some rights to practice religion. Their free speech
about religion is limited while they are doing government
However, the way that the Establishment Clause seems to
be practiced today is that the citizens do get to discuss
the personal effects that religion has had on them, and
do get to pray before government activities, but aren’t
allowed to use those as opportunities to put down others’
religions by proselytizing for their own religion.
Maybe the goal of separation of church and state hasn’t
truly been achieved, yet, and it’s up to us to finish the
goals that the founders established into law?
BTW, did anyone else notice how tight and revealing
(low cut neck-line, and bare arms) McComb’s shirt was
in the picture of that article… not very pious of her.
I mean where’s the veil, girl?
I don’t know much about the specifics of the case, but to me this is another one of the hard ones. As valedictorian she isn’t obviously part of the school’s infrastructure, in the sense that her proselytizing would fall afoul of the establishment clause. She’s just giving her views as a student. They may be incorrect ones, but it is her speech to give, no?
Of course, it would be different if it were a teacher or other paid school employee giving the speech.
[quote author=“dougsmith”]As valedictorian she isn’t obviously part of the school’s infrastructure, in the sense that her proselytizing would fall afoul of the establishment clause. She’s just giving her views as a student.
In my opinion about US law… as a validictorian’s
speech, she is not there to “give her views as a student”
to a captive audience who is assembled to appease her.
The graduation ceremony is a school and community event,
and a strictly secular one at that (i.e. it’s not a
wedding, not an Easter Sunday mass…). She given the
honor of doing a public service for the school, community,
and student body. When she’s walking to/from her seat
let her exercise her freedom of religion by shouting
“Jesus! Jesus! Let the Holy Lord condemn all the sinners
to burn eternally in Hell!”, and then let her be escorted
from the event for being disruptive. But when she’s on
stage, curb the religious prosyletizing.
[quote author=“dougsmith”]Of course, it would be different if it were a teacher or other paid school employee giving the speech.
No difference, in my opinion about the law! Either paid or
volunteer or elected public services are not distinguished
under the Establishment Clause. I’m taking the hard-line
[quote author=“dougsmith”]I don’t know much about the specifics of the case, but to me this is another one of the hard ones. As valedictorian she isn’t obviously part of the school’s infrastructure, in the sense that her proselytizing would fall afoul of the establishment clause. She’s just giving her views as a student. They may be incorrect ones, but it is her speech to give, no?
To a certain extent. But there’s the occasion (a graduation address) to consider. If the school invited someone to speak about employment opportunities, and he started talking about nuclear physics, wouldn’t that be reason to cut his speech short?
According to the article in the Las Vegas Review Journal (cited above by HolyAvenger), her originial speech mentioned either God or Jesus 12 times. The school editted out only six of those references. It looks to me as if she was still being allowed to talk about her faith, if that’s what she wanted. When it crossed over into “preaching” is when they drew the line.
Morgan Spurlock (of Super Size Me fame) was invited to speak at my old high school, Hatboro Horsham Senior High School in PA, a few months ago. I believe he was invited there by the HH Educational I-forget-what-they’re-called. So, shortly before he’s to go on, the school board people politely asked him not to mention anything about McDonald’s in his talk because one of the board members owns a McDonald’s franchise in Hatboro. Of course, this sets him off a little, and it came out in the speech. According to the students, he cursed liberally, even dropping a few F-bombs (even though they’d asked him not to), and let the students know that the board attempted to restrict his speech—on the one thing he’d come to speak about, at that. At some point the administration cut off his mic, which “excited” him further, so he went on, sans amplification, about free speech and the administration, only leaving the stage (to a standing ovation) when he was finished. Both students I tutored said it was the best presentation they’d seen.
I just did a quick search Google to see if any news organizations wrote it up, and I found Spurlock’s blog: (about halfway down the page, March 26 and March 29)
It seems clear to me that, as much as I am up for a good high school presentation with cursing, the HS administration does have the right to restrict the material a speaker presents to their students, including in a graduation speech. If the student deviates from the accepted speech by cursing repeatedly, or mentioning that Satan was her messiah, or that the best way to make it through studying was by doing drugs or masturbating or whatever the school might find inappropriate, the school can indeed take away the forum that they provide to the student by cutting the mic etc.
Interesting replies all. I think we have a good discussion going on here. Agreed that the school has the right to take away the mic from her if it wants ... after all, it’s the school’s celebration. And certainly this sort of problem can cut both ways, with political celebrities or activists inciting students rather than religious converts.
But I just don’t see the huge issue if it’s a student giving HER OWN speech. No, I don’t agree with a word of it. But I can’t get over-excited about it either. The school was well within its rights to cut her off, but may have stepped over a ‘conventional’ boundary of letting someone give their own speech ...
At any rate, I doubt that a valedictorian will make many converts with a high-school sermon.
[quote author=“dougsmith”]At any rate, I doubt that a valedictorian will make many converts with a high-school sermon.
Well, that’s a good point, too. It makes you want to say, “Listen kid, you’re 18 frigging years old, and this is your high school graduation! This is not the time to try to change people’s lives as if you were the Dalai Lama or something! Get a grip!”
If she was good Christian, presumably she had been preaching to her fellow students for the last four years, and they were probably heartily sick of it. I expect she had been chocked full of “the Godless Liberals just want to destroy your God-given right to Freedom of Religion!”, and when she was told she couldn’t preach, she just saw this wonderful opportunity to make her parents proud of her for “standing up for her faith”.
Seriously, though, in a perfect world, she would have tried to explain to the school why “sharing her faith” was so important to her, the school would have taken the time to explain the difference between sharing and preaching, and how important not preaching at people in inappropriate contexts was, and some kind of compromise might have been reached. Unfortunately in the real world, authority figures tend to assume that young people will just do as they’re told.
“Do you remember those blocks? The ones that fit into cut-outs and teach you all the different shapes? The ones you played with before kindergarten, during the good old, no-grades, no-pressure preschool days? I find it funny how easily amused we are as children. Many of us would have sat on the story rug for hours with those blocks, trying to fit the circle into the square cut-out. Thank the Lord for patient teachers.
As one of the valedictorians for our senior class, many might assume I caught on to which blocks fit into which cut-outs quickly. But, to be honest, it took me awhile. Up until my freshman year in high school, I continually filled certain voids with shapes that proved often peculiar and always too small.
The main shape I wrestled with over the years remains my accomplishments. They defined my self-worth at a young age. I swam competitively throughout junior high and high school. If I took third in a competition rather than first, I found I missed the mark; I failed.
But strangely enough, if I took first, I belittled my success, and even first place left me feeling empty. Either way, the shape entitled “accomplishments” proved too small to fill the void, constantly reminding me living means something more. Something more than me and what I do with my life, something more than my friends and what they do with their own lives.
The summer after my freshman year, I quit swimming. I quit trying to fill the huge void in my soul with the meager accomplishments I obtained there. After quitting, this amazing sense of peace rushed over me and I noticed, after 15 years of sitting on the story-time rug, this teacher standing above me, trying to help me: God. I disregarded His guidance for years, and all the while, He sought to show me what shape fits into the cut-out in my soul.
This hole gapes as a wide-open trench when filled with swimming, with friends, with family, with dating, with shopping, with partying, with drinking, with anything but God. But His love fits. His love is “that something more” we all desire. It’s unprejudiced, it’s merciful, it’s free, it’s real, it’s huge and it’s everlasting. 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.
This is why Christ died. John 10:10 says He died so we no longer have to reach in vain for the magnificence of the stars and find we always fall short, so we can have life—and life to the fullest. I now desire not my own will, but the will of God for my life—however crazy and extravagant, or seemingly mundane and uneventful that might be. Strangely enough, surrendering my own will for the will of God, giving up control, gave me peace, gave me a calm I can’t even begin to express with words.
Four years ago, recognition as one of the valedictorians for our senior class would have been just another attempt to fit the circle into the square cut-out. But because my heart is so full of God’s love, the honor of speaking today is just that: an honor. Without it, I would feel just as full and purposeful as I do at this moment.
And I can guarantee, 100 percent, no doubt in my mind, that as I choose to fill myself with God’s love rather than with the things society tells me will satisfy me, I will find success, I will always retain a sense of self-worth. I will thrive whether I attend a prestigious university next fall and become a successful career man or woman or begin a life-long manager position at McDonald’s.
Because the fact of the matter remains, man possesses an innate desire to take part in something greater than himself. That something is God’s plan. And God’s plan for each of our lives may not leave us with an impressive and extensive resume, but if we pursue His plan, He promises to fill us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’ “
It seems to me that she definitely went beyond her own personal jesus mantra and turned a speech into a sermon. Some people have said that since the school gave her the pulpit, they were wrong to cut the mike, but my understanding is that constitutional rights and protections end at the school door and basically, schools have the legal authority to act as the parent while the kid is in school, giving them the right to censor her speech and cut the mike. Correct me if I’m wrong - not that I agree with this; I think it’s B.S.
I will thrive whether I attend a prestigious university next fall and become a successful career man or woman or begin a life-long manager position at McDonald’s.
That would be a great part of God’s plan, if she attended a prestigious university and became a successful career man. :D
I think it would sound less sermony if instead of making general statements about man needing God and using “we”, she stuck to “I”—God helped me, God filled a void in my life, etc. When she says “His love is ‘that something more’ we all desire,” and “man possesses an innate desire to take part in something greater than himself. That something is God’s plan,” it becomes preachy rather than just autobiographical.