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.
[…]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.
W. William Leaphart dissented from the majority of the judges – he ruled against Renee Griffith. He was opposed to Christians exercising their religious liberty in the public square.
This is a good lesson about how the public school system tries to force their secular worldview onto Christians. Can you believe that? The National Butte School District #1 actually told her what to say so that she could sound like them. They wanted her to pretend to believe what they believe. And they thought that suppressing her views would cause her no harm at all. That it was OK for her to be suppressed. That is was a good thing to silence her. That her rights could be breached so that their feelings would not be hurt. So that they wouldn’t have to realize that Christianity isn’t stupid, that it might even be true, and that smart people believe it.
The best thing Christians can do is to encourage their children to do well in school and to study apologetics. The atheists really hate the idea that smart people can be Christians. They really hate being confronted by smart Christians. Dumb ones they can accept, but the smart ones make them very angry. That’s what we want.
By the way, this censorship by the public schools actually happens a lot. I blogged about the last time this happened here.