High school graduation speech is not an opportunity to preach
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 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/