Acknowledging God in graduation speech is constitutional
Renee Griffith was one of ten seniors selected to give a valedictorian speech at her graduation from Butte High School in Montana. The administration reviewed the speeches for appropriate content before the ceremony in 2008. Renee graduated first in her class of 326 students and performed various community service projects during her years at Butte High.
Renee explained to the principal and school superintendent that she could not speak of what she learned in high school without acknowledging God and Christ. Her speech included this sentence: “I didn’t let fear keep me from sharing Christ and His joy with those around me.” When told to remove the sentence, she refused and was not permitted to give the speech.
Renee took the issue to court. In November, 2010, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in Renee’s favor. The court determined that her rights to free speech and religion were violated. The court wrote that “We find it unreasonable for the School District to conclude that Griffith’s cursory references to her personal religious beliefs could be viewed by those in attendance at the Butte High School graduation ceremony as a religious endorsement by the School District.”
The decision was 6 to 1 with the dissenting judge writing that Renee was proselytizing and her speech should be limited.
Find out more about religious speech by high school students.