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    High school graduation speech is not an opportunity to preach

    Date: 12.02.09 | by Judge Tom.

    At her June, 2006 graduation ceremony in Nevada, senior Brittany McComb was one of the valedictorians. During the Foothill High School exercises, Brittany went off her pre-approved speech and began to proselytize.

    Brittany told her fellow graduates how God’s love “is something that we all desire, it’s unprejudiced, it’s merciful, it’s free, it’s huge, it’s everlasting . . .God’s love is so great that He gave up His only son.” That’s as far as she got before her microphone was turned off. In the remainder of her speech, Brittany gave a graphic account of Jesus’ crucifixion and credited God for her success in school.

    Brittany McComb

    Brittany challenged the school’s action in federal court. She sued the school officials for violating her right to freedom of speech arguing that she was expressing her opinions, not preaching. However, the content of her speech was determined  by the court to violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution that prohibits public school support of any religion. There is no question that a public high school graduation ceremony is school sponsored and is therefore limited to non-religious themes.

    Brittany lost her case in the lower federal courts and on November 16, 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court denied her petition for review, leaving the lower court’s ruling in place. The school did not violate her free speech or equal protection rights in preventing her from proselytizing during her graduation exercises.

    The following is a videotaped excerpt of Brittany’s speech: 

    For more about freedom of religion at school, see:  http://askthejudge.info/do-i-have-to-pray-in-school/47/

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    2 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • kellyann
      Wed, 02 Dec 2009 at 05:21

      preaching at school isn’t approperate and can be offensive to people int he audience of other faiths, however what really gets me is how they boo the next girls announcement, ehich is plain WRONG!

    • kayla
      Wed, 16 Jun 2010 at 11:44

      i would say she a real christian. we give no glory and honor to men.God deserves all the crdeit and glory! im graduating this july and yes before i say anything i am going to start by giving God honor and then saying what ever and then ending it with a scripture instead of a quote. we have the rights. if they turn off my might ima continue yes and watch God strike them down.
      Congratulations on your graduation, Kayla.

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