Public School Church/State Discussion

In June 2006, (Clark County, NV) Foothill High School Valedictorian Brittany McComb delivered a Christian-laced graduation speech.

Prior to graduation day, her speech was reviewed by school officials who required edits to avoid school-sponsored promotion of a religion.  Brittany agreed to the required changes but proceeded to use her original version anyway. School officials quickly cut off McComb’s microphone, to avoid anyone getting the idea their public school was preaching Christianity.

In relation to church/state regulations in public schools, what are your thoughts about this public school dilemma?  How does the Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause, student free speech and expression, limited-open forum/open-forum/closed forum, and preventative school policy relate to McComb’s speech?

In addition, here is a short article related to this topic: http://www.computernewbie.info/wheatdogg/2009/11/23/brittany-mccombs-legal-battle-ends-at-supreme-court/

78 Comments

Filed under Higher Education

78 responses to “Public School Church/State Discussion

  1. Alicia

    All I can say is “WOW”. Amazing that they could be so rude to their valedictorian. I understand the reason for it, but it was as much her day as it was the next girl’s. Seems to me they might have considered taking their cue from the audience. When they had to stop and demand the audience give their polite attention to the next speaker it could have been a clue that the majority of people would have liked the girl to finish her speech. Unfortunately, when it comes to these situations, the minority rules.

    • Caylie Redding

      I totally agree. I think that cutting her off was totally rude! Especially since the crowd, or at least the majority of it, supported her and wanted her to finish. I know that schools aren’t allowed to “promote” any religion, but this is a single student who was asked to give a inspirational speech about her personal high school experience. Does she have the right (legally) to talk about God in her own speech? She wasn’t going on about how people should repent and all that, she was simply expressing how much He means to her. I don’t think it was preachy, more just like a declaration of love. If this had been another religion, would things have been different?

      • Alexa Youngberg

        I agree that it was uncalled for and rude to turn off the microphone for this girl’s speech. I agree with you when you said that she wasn’t preaching the Bible to the crowd and she was simply declaring her love for Him, saying how much He helped her through her high school experience, and how much He means to her. However, I feel as if the First Amendment only protects someone so much and in this case the school did what they thought would be best under the law of not bringing religion into school. I agree that by one person talking about God the school isn’t technically promoting religion, but do you think, legally speaking, the line in this case isn’t very defined so it was in the school’s best interest to be safe rather than sorry when they cut off her speech?

      • Alan Matthews

        I agree with what Caylie had said, “She wasn’t going on about how people should repent and all that, she was simply expressing how much He means to her. She was simply expressing her opinion and how God had helped her throughout her high school years. I feel that it was within her rights to read her original speech without changes. Who is to say that she cannot express how she feels. It was extremely rude for them to cut her off and then expect everyone to be respectful to the next speaker. If it were you on that stage would you have done the same thing?

    • I agree with you that it was very rude for them to just cut the mic on the valedictorian, but in the same sense–there really wasn’t much else the faculty could do because they do have to abide by the rule to separate church and state, an issue that this girl violated during her speech. I think that there is a blurry line between bringing religion into schools because you are protected under the first Amendment but only to a certain extent. I think that this problem could have easily been solved if it was clear that the young girl’s valedictorian speech was reviewed prior to her getting up on stage, and having to go through the embarrassment of not being able to complete her speech. Many schools require that the speech is submitted and if the student chooses to change it after it has been approved, then I do believe that the faculty took the right steps to be blind sighted by a speech that they were not first approved. Although I do agree with you also that the majority of students and people in the audience would have much rather her continue her speech, the students are not employed by the school district and do not have strict rules to abide by. I think this situation is nonetheless a tricky one but I would say that the faculty handled it they best they could with minimal timing.

    • Jesus Lopez

      I totally agree with you, it was so rude and disturbing for me to watch that, the girl wasn’t doing anything wrong she was just showing the love she had for God, she wasn’t preaching or hurting anyone’s feelings. The audience was obviously upset and wanted the school to let her continue with her speech. What happen to freedom of speech, I feel like slowly by slowly there is more strict polices in schools where someday students won’t be able to say anything. I understand the school had its policy and schools are not able to endorse any religion but this wasn’t the right way to resolve it and I don’t agree with the schools policies at all. I would understand if this would be more like bethel v. Fraser case where the student used sexual innuendos, but this was something she felt in her heart and wanted to share.

    • Mike Jenkins

      Isn’t it more rude that McComb flagrantly disregarded school policies and actively subverted their honest atempt to not break federal laws or be sued? Realistically, this was not private expression. This was a government-sanctioned event and, due to existant laws on the subject in this context, she had to conform to their wishes. She knew what that entailed before she spoke and still chose to continue.

      • I agree with you. McComb was required to submit her speech for approval before the ceremony, and the school officials asked her to make revisions. Instead, she blatantly disregarded their requests and went on with her speech. If the school officials had not informed her before hand that her speech needed revisions, and then cut her off, there would have then been an issue of free speech/expression impediment, but at this point they were just doing what was legally required of them. As much as the crowd might have wanted her to continue, it would go against school policy to allow her to do so. While it is her personal view that Jesus helped her through high school, her preaching this at a school sanctioned event violated rules, therefore the school was just trying to protect itself. Also, I’m just wondering how people think the school should have handled it? Really, their only other options would have been to come up and reprimand he and essentially kick her off stage. The cutting off of her microphone saved the embarrassment that would have caused her, and probably the greater backlash that action would have caused. Regardless of what the general opinion of the crowd was, the school and it’s officials did what they were entitled to do.

    • Alicia,
      I have to agree that I understand that a student speaking about God in a school event might make the school officials uncomfortable but clearly from the audiences reaction there was no need to cut her off. I would understand if she had been speaking about something that is highly inappropriate but it wasn’t like the audience was objecting. Sometimes I feel that schools sensor these things too much, trying to make sure no one is offended when many people at these events don’t even care what the speakers are saying they just want to see their child graduate!

    • Stephanie Gansberg

      I agree with you totally, Alicia. They should not have been so rude to her, as she was the valedictorian. Just as well, there’s such a thing as freedom of speech, which I think should have come into play in letting her recite her original speech all the way through. And especially if the audience loved it, they should have let her finish.

  2. Joy Davidson

    I read the article first, and then watched the video. From just the article, I understood why the court ruled in favor of the school. Public schools are not able to endorse any religion, even if it is the majority belief amongst the students of a school. Additionally, the school has a policy in place to have the speeches for graduation be preapproved. The editing of the original speech was required, and agreed to by Brittany. When Brittany proceeded in reading her original speech, she betrayed the agreement.
    Although Brittany should be able to express herself, and her personal journey, in her speech, when I watched the video I had a better understanding of how it could reflect endorsement of religion on the school’s part. At first she said that God fillled that empty place in her soul. I think if she had ended it there, the school probably would not have cut off her microphone. However, her voice became full of emotion and more emphatic when she began talking about how great God’s love is. The school held out until she reached the point of stating a prominent belief of Christianity, Jesus the only begotten son. I feel as if this was the cutting point because it became more preachy and less about her personal journey.
    On a side note, the reaction of the crowd when the microphone was cut out was remarkable. I was actually impressed that the person filming held their tongue and just kept recording. It felt as though the majority wanted her to be able to continue with her speech, but there were probably people shifting around a bit in their seats feeling uncomfortable. Personally, I am of Christian faith and I felt a bit uncomfortable watching the speech. In the end, I feel that the courts upheld what was right and justified.

    • alexs

      Thank you so much. That was exactly what I was thinking, except in better words. I was also shocked by the reaction from the crowd because I didn’t think that many people would be supportive. That being said, as you also mentioned, there were probably people who were uncomfortable. It would be BEYOND rude for someone to start booing her and her speech. And imagine how it would have looked with people booing the speech while the school allowed it to proceed. The principal followed protocol and stuck to her guns. Whether it was “right” or “wrong” is less of the point, no matter what the principal’s personal opinion- it was lawful. I hope she didn’t lose her job over this, because she did what she was supposed to.

      By the way, I grew up in the church and was still getting uncomfortable when she made the switch to preaching.

    • Emily Buko

      I am in full agreement with you Joy. In this situation both parties were at a loss. Foothill High School had to make an immediate decision on whether or not to let McComb continue on with her speech. Ultimately this left the crowd displeased and the school receiving backlash from both the families of students attending the graduation and later with legal actions. With the muting of the mike McComb was not able to finish her speech that she had worked so hard to receive the opportunity to do. I am a firm believer in freedom of speech but when McComb’s speach took a turn toward conveying her feelings of Christianity in almost a preaching approach the school had to make the appropriate decision of shutting off her mike in order to not breach the Establishment Clause. With the separation of church and state Foothill High School is not allowed to promote the advancement of a religion. It is unfortunate that McComb was unable to finish her speech but she agreed to the school’s requirements of editing her speech prior to graduation and with her falling back on the agreement the school acted in the proper manner. My question for class would be if it had been a teacher giving a similar speech do you think the school and crowd would have acted in the same manner?

  3. This post invites more questions for me than it resolves. Would it have been more appropriate for this speech to have been delivered at a baccalaureate service instead of at graduation? Were the students in the audience free to leave at any time or were they a captive audience? Would this have made a difference if they were? Was the school’s decision lawful? (The courts later found that it was.) Was she warned that if she used her original speech her microphone would be cut off? Would that have made a difference if she had been? Should the people cheering for her at the ceremony have prevailed? To what degree was she liable for breaking her agreement to use the censored version? To what degree should her original speech have been protected? Was she legally an agent of the school or the state? I feel like I’m seeing both sides here.. To me it seems like it might be more an issue of Free Exercise than Establishment because she is not a faculty member but a student speaking her own mind; at the same time, she might have been legally acting as an agent of the state, the context may not have been appropriate, and she did agree to be censored according to school policy before the speech. Do we have the power to do anything other than recognize the courts’ decisions and abide by them?

    • Joy Davidson

      These are all valid questions, but the one that sticks out most to me is your last. I would think if the public were to organize and find a common voice, legislation could potentially be changed. However, because we are a union that allows all religions to be expressed freely, and have policies already in place to uphold those practices, I am not convinced that much would be changed. Though there is a feeling of sympathy towards Brittany because she didn’t get to finish her speech, and a similar feeling to those that don’t share her belief, we have to remember that she did break the agreement in the first place. Even if she was not warned about what the consequences were to be, one must understand that there will be consequences, whether good or bad, that come from our choices.(That being said, the faculty could have handled it better)
      I am certain that people weren’t held their against their will and could freely leave. However, social rules would have found it unconventional for people, especially students, to get up and squeeze down the aisles to leave. That would have drawn even more attention to them, causing even more uncomfortableness and disruption. Perhaps if this speech was given at a baccalaureate, this whole issue would be nullified.

    • Susan Dornan

      With the US Supreme Court declining to hear McComb’s case, allowing the lower court decision to stand, there’s not much to say. It’s decided.
      But I don’t believe a principal should be censoring student graduation speeches in the first place.
      Any Establishment Cause issue could be avoided if the principal or the school superintendent made a disclaimer as a prelude to the speeches. He could disclose the student speeches represent the views of the students, not the school district’s.
      This is the graduates’ day, not the school’s. Let them speak. Let them speak the truth as they see it. They should be entitled to share what got them through school, how they succeeded, so others might learn.
      Graduation speeches should be an exercise in free speech. Those who don’t like the preaching can let the speaker know by “booing” him or her off stage. And those who get a bit preachy, beware.
      That could make things interesting — a night students wouldn’t forget for a long time.

      • Leslie Anderson

        I agree that it is the graduates’ day and not the school but at the same time it is a school sponsored event which gives the school and its’ administrators the the legal authority to ensure the separation of church and state by not promoting any one religion. Whether the speaker is applauded or booed off the stage is not the issue, the problem lies where the girl began speaking of christianity and associating her religion with the school. Although there is a very fine line with letting students exercise their first amendment right by letting them speak their minds, a high school graduation is still a school sanctioned event directly in association with the school.

      • Katrina Parks

        Susan,
        I think you make a great point that this could be avoided with a disclaimer from the Principle. I feel that students are in school not only to learn about math, science, writing, etc. but also to learn and grow as a person. We all know that we are different and have different beliefs, this student was simply sharing hers. She was not stating that there is only one God or that people had to believe it, she was simply stating what motivated and helped her. If a student spoke of something they were doing at home to help them that was a common practice of their culture, would they be censored? I feel that while some may not agree with her, many may and that she should have the option to speak on her experiences and what makes her unique.

  4. Lilly Igmen

    I agree with Joy. In the world and our societies we all have different beliefs, desires, and goals. Yet we do not want everyone imposing them upon us when we already have our own. Especially if they are different. It was and I think will always be a thin line between what one will consider appropriate and another would not. I do not think that there will ever be a day in where we can celebrate and appreciate everyone’s “differences of opinion”

  5. Kayla Wagner

    This is a difficult situation. When it comes down to it, even if 99/100 student in the audience appreciated the valedictorian’s speech and wanted her to finish, you still have to consider that one lone child. It is as much that one students right to feel comfortable on that day as anyone else’s, and he or she shouldn’t have to feel like they have to choose between what their religious beliefs are and their high school graduation. The United States isn’t a strictly Christian nation and the student bodies of our public schools often reflect the many denominations we as a country represent. The only way to keep everyone neutral in this sort of public, government-funded environment is to avoid talk of religion (all religion, not just Christianity.)

    • I agree with your position, although I’d love to play devil’s advocate, I can’t find a situation in which there isn’t that one lone child/family who would make an uproar, it only takes one pebble to cause a landslide. I wish the situation could have been handled differently with a different outcome but I think the school did the right thing by cutting her mic and keeping the separation between church and state. I don’t like the outcome, but it’s something we have to do to keep the peace.

    • Carina Gomez

      I completely agree with what Kayla has to say, High School graduation is a special day for all the graduates and their family. Delving a speech in front of so many people is not always easy, although she was talking about religion in her speech, I believe it was wrong for the school officials to cut her off. She had the right to express her feelings and talk about her personal experience. Not everybody might agree with her or believe in god, but it was her own personal speech and everyone should respect that because everyone is entitled to their own opinion and thoughts regarding the topic.

    • I understand why they had to cut her off, it was a liability and in our day people have become so “sue crazy” that it would have only been a matter of time until someone said they were “offended” by the school and tried to sue for damages or psychological distress. However, I do not believe that there is any reason to appease the 1 student out of 100. I believe we, as a nation, have become to accustomed to blaming others instead of taking responsibility for ourselves.The student through not adhering to the specified changes seemed to take responsibility for her own actions. She acted alone, unsanctioned. If someone truly is offended, and they are the only one, perhaps they should remove themselves from the situation thereby not causing a disruption to anyone else while making themselves comfortable. If this had been a more atheist-prone speech, or even one of another religion or spirituality, would the response have been the same? would the mic have been cut? We will never know. I understand the law, and the purpose of it. But I think we need to stop trying to find things to be offended by where offense is not intended. This girl was simply going through her own personal growth in high school, not demanding that others adhere to her beliefs nor condemning those who did not. I suppose the only question remains, should she be forced to publicly conform? should we all? The blame lies not with the school district, but with the society we have created demanding that we all feel comfortable at all times and at any expense; a system that is simply not practical.

  6. Holly

    Wow! This speech really moved me! I do think it would have been much more appropriate in a church or youth group setting though. I think she should have stopped with the religious talk after she proclaimed that god filled the void in her life. Although this is her day as valedictorian, it is also the day of hundreds of others who have graduated, and their families. Because this speech is a public speech and because she is graduating from a public school that does not promote any religion, she should not have written such a preachy speech. Although I would like to have heard the rest of it, and seemingly the audience would have as well, there were bound to be complaints after the fact from unhappy guests. This could have gotten the school into trouble according to the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The First Amendment stipulates that “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise therof”. Because schools are part of the state function (because education is a state function) they cannot support any one religion (the Fourteenth Amendment).The government (school) cannot have a purpose or effect endorsing or disapproving religion (The Establishment Clause). Because the valedictorian was in a state public school, she was supposed to adhere to their policies. The school really wasn’t denying her of her First Amendment right to free speech. There are student rights that allow students to engage in private religious activities in public schools as long they don’t disrupt class work or regular school activities. This public speech was probably considered a regular school activiiy; therefore she was not granted permission to give a religious based speech.

    • Karly Welling

      I completely agree with everything you are saying, Holly! I believe that the school did everything that they had to do. Brittany was informed of all of the rules and agreed to have her paper edited. I also agree with what you said about her being too preachy. Her speech didn’t sound like a graduation speech, it sounded like a preacher’s message. She has her freedom of speech but there are exceptions and a graduation speech is an exception. Graduates can’t be speaking whatever they want to speak for their speech because it could come back to the school. It is important that the school keeps order because if they would have let her finish her speech, most likely, there would have been more issues. An audience of that size, all different religions, someone would have complained. I think she could have went about it in different ways.

  7. Holly

    The general rule of law that was formed as a result of the Lee v. Weisman decision: religious invocations and benedictions may not be given at a public primary or secondary school graduation ceremony.

  8. David Pike

    I think that the school had every right to cut off this speech. There was an agreement between the school and Brittany and she did not make the corrections that were agreed upon. Schools need to be very careful when it comes to these kinds of matters. Brittany did not have the right to take it on herself to start talking about Christianity when she knew that the school was not alright with it. This issue has already been in courts before and they ruled that students can’t talk about religion during graduations.

    • Dustin Sonenthal

      David, I hardheartedly agree with this comment. There is the situation, the first situation where this student had first created the speech. If the school had approved the first draft of the speech and cut her off mid-speech then that is one thing. That is not what happened though. The school was fully aware about the content of the speech and the student agreed to make changes to the speech, i.e agreeing to a verbal contract. And then backed out of that verbal contract and then moving forward with her original speech. I think that the school had every right to pull the plug on this speech.

  9. Karleen Otten

    I completely agree with what the school did. The student was given strict orders that she needed to revise her speech, and she said she would. The school did what they had to do to make themselves not liable; they didn’t want to break a law. A student who was Muslim or Atheist may not have wanted to listen to that speech. The Establishment clause states that a school does not endorse or publicly advance any sort of religion. If they allowed McComb to continue on with her speech, the school could have put themselves in hot water allowing her to endorse Christianity. I, to be honest, would not have wanted to hear that speech. I’m all for Christianity, but I don’t agree that you should shove it down peoples’ throats or in their faces. If they wanted to hear it, they would go to a church or openly ask. The free exercise clause allows you to practice whatever religion you want, yes, but don’t advertise it.

    I know that it was her day, and her graduation, but what about the others that don’t practice that religion? They would be upset that the school allowed her to continue on with her speech. If she was asked to revise it prior, she should have known that something about her speech was not okay with the administration. She was in the wrong. She’s a valedictorian; you’d think she’d be smart enough to abide by the rules.

  10. Noelle Laffoon

    For this article I am torn. I understand that to Brittany this was her day to celebrate her beautiful journey and how she came to that place she was standing in that day, but on the other hand the school had the right to cut off her microphone. The speech Brittany was giving was, in her eyes, her celebration, but it would have been much more fitting for her to have given it at a church, youth group, or family event than at a graduation, especially because she was given strict corrections by the principal to change her speech before the ceremony.

    The school was looking out for itself and wanted to make sure that the public knew they were not supporting or promoting Christianity. I agree with the school’s decision and how the case was eventually ruled in court. On the note of Freedom of Speech, Brittany was aware that her speech may cause some sort of stir because the principal had already told her to change it, and as for the students wanting to hear her speech and making such a big fuss after her microphone being shut off, I just saw it as mob mentality, the last chance the kids had to make a statement to the authority of the school.

  11. After I read the article and I watched the video, I got a better understanding about what is a real case of what we talked in class last Wednesday. In this case all the courts declared Brittany’s speech as a violation of The Establishment Clause which clearly says that is a strict line between religion and state. Religion speeches are not allowed in school and graduation ceremonies; no one can go to a school and speak about god or their faith in front of an audience. Brittany Mccob did not respect the school policy and even when school administrators asked her to change her speech she disobeyed them, I don’t blame the school for unplug the microphone when she was giving her discourse, she knew the mentioned god in a ceremony like this is not proper. I can understand that she was mad because this was a very important day for her but as Noelle said but this kind of dialogues can be said in another stage, no school related. Logically she felt like they were violating the first amendment of Freedom of speech by cutting off her participation, but school had to protect their backs and I think it was an asserted action even when the audience was not cooperating to continuing with the graduation ceremony.

  12. Baylee

    I am also torn after reading this article. I can see both sides of the argument and understand that the school had an obligation to cut the speech short because of the differences of church and state. I can see how they would not want other students, parents, or families who do not practice this religion to feel offended by the speech. However, Brittney had every right to talk about what was meaningful in her life, just as I’m sure the other Valedictorians were about to do in their speeches. For Brittney this was a moment to share with her fellow students about herself and give them more of an insight into who she was as a person. I see no wrong in this whatsoever, and would have done the same thing. However, I would have done so in a different way. I agree that perhaps this speech would have been more suited in a church or youth group setting, but Brittney does have a freedom of speech and has the ability to say the things she would like to say during her speech. Unfortunately, she must be aware that the school also has a responsibility and therefore she could not be completely alarmed when they turned off her mic. Especially when they warned her in advance. I hate so see that this is what things have come to, but there are rules and regulations and we are allowed our freedoms until those rules and regulations are broken.

  13. Chris Easly

    For me this is very simple.
    1. This is a school function, not a student get together or club.
    2. Ms MaComb was told not to give the speach in its original form but to make changes, for which she had agreed.
    3. Untill you get the diploma in your hand you have not graduated from the school a last act of rebellion may just cause a witholding of your diploma.
    I feel the school was more then justified in stopping Ms MaComb’s speach, it is in clear violation of Church and State laws. Proselytizing is not allowed by any teacher at any school function, and students may only do so if they get a majority vote.

    • Scheryll Cudney

      You hit this dead on. This was an act of rebellion by the Valedictorian. Being a Valedictorian one knows what is acceptable in school and what is not. They are supposed to be someone who is seen as a model student. She wrote her speech and agreed to change it when the school told her that parts were unacceptable. She was showing disrespect not only for the institution by giving her original speech but for the student body as well. Graduation is a regular school event in which all student strive to participate in. It is unfair to expect everyone to listen to a speech that contains things that are deemed offensive. All students know this they have to deal with it every day they go to school. The students do not let you forget it either. Every time we had a reading that touched on religion or any time evolution was being taught in science there was always someone who said “You can’t talk about god in school”. I am surprised they actually took this to court and expected a different outcome.

    • Brooke Keever

      I agree with your point of view. My first thought when I watched this video was if the speech had been reviewed before she gave it; and according to the article it was reviewed and denied before. She also agreed to not do the original speech, and to give one that was appropriate for the situation. I have sympathy for Ms. McComb, and I felt bad that the microphone was shut off. Personally, I don’t get offended when people talk about their religious beliefs, it was what helped her with her success. But she broke the rules intentionally, and I don’t feel that was the right way to go about it.

  14. Charise Fallon

    I think Brittney went to far with her speech. It is one thing to give credit to God but to start preaching at a high school graduation was a little much. Yes Brittney has freedom of speech however the school did ask her to make some changes in the speech and she did agree to. Because she was warned about the speech I feel the school had every right to turn off the microphone.

    • Chris Easly

      I feel that Ms MaComb was incorrect for giving the speach in her original form. Ms MaComb was told not to give the speach and to make changes. I have to agree with the school for cut of her microphone. Graduation is a school function and as such it must follow the rules of Church and State.

  15. Leslie Foley

    I definitely see the school boards side. Even though I am a christian as I was listening to her speech I immediately knew that it was too much for a school setting. Schools are a limited public forum and they are allowed to limit access to certain people and subjects in certain forums.

    But on the other hand I also see it like this…the establishment clause was made to prohibit an establishment from the preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another. Although atheism is a belief in its self and could almost be considered a religion. And by them cutting off Brittany McCombs speech because she was speaking about religion, I feel like they are promoting an atheist religion.

  16. I definitely see the school boards side. Even though I am a christian as I was listening to her speech I immediately knew that it was too much for a school setting. Schools are a limited public forum and they are allowed to limit access to certain people and subjects in certain forums.

    But on the other hand I also see it like this…the establishment clause was made to prohibit an establishment from the preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another. Although atheism is a belief in its self and could almost be considered a religion. And by them cutting off Brittany McCombs speech because she was speaking about religion, I feel like they are promoting an atheist religion.

  17. Shayla Miller

    Religion is always a touchy subject when it comes to school, or even the public. I can say from my experiences that no one wants another religion forced upon them at a public event, or anywhere for that matter. Because there are so many different forms of religion, there will always be a debate over anything relatively relating to religion in schools. So, I can see how the school justified turning off the microphone when the student started to raise her voice as she talked about God.

    On the other hand, it was those passions and those experiences in her life that led her to these accomplishments and her becoming valedictorian. So, I can see how she might have thought she would be protected under the Establishment Clause. Also, I can see that she thought it was unfair for them to change her speech. But within that, she agreed to the changes in her speech and therefore should have upheld her end of the agreement. I was a little surprised that they shut off the microphone, but i don’t disagree with their decision.

  18. Sarah Bowman

    I agree with everyone else here that the school had every right to cut the microphone during the student’s speech. The speech she was giving would be fine in certain settings but for a school graduation where all the student’s and families do not believe the way she does it was innapropriate. She was promoting her religion and also did not keep up her end of the deal with the school saying she would change the speech. If I had heard my valedictorian give a speech like that I would not be pleased. A school graduation is no place for religion.

  19. Ron Eichstedt

    I am going to have to agree with the populous of the class and agree that Brittany McComb was in the wrong. The school didn’t violate any free speech rights because:
    1. Her public performance of the speech would have violated the Establishment Clause and would have made Foothill High School look like they endorsed and promoted Christianity where I’m sure they have a mix of beliefs on campus.
    2. She agreed to making revisions with her speech because of the above reasons. So she knowingly gave the original speech with the prior arrangements made with the administration.
    3. By giving the speech after you were told to remove the content is rebelious and puts the school in liability of offending others that don’t share the same religious views.
    4. The free exercise clause allows each student to freely believe in their own religion but it does not say you may promote your religion to the masses when you see fit.

    Personally, I believe that Brittany gave the speech anyways to “show” the administration that Christianity is important to her and she didn’t care what others thought of that which is the problem. Brittany McComb was being selfish and reblious and in the end she tried to take the school to court and lost all three times. Free Speech does not entitle you to offend others or spread beliefs that are of your own that may be offensive to others.

  20. Anna Santoro

    There will be many opinions about to handle a situation like that. First, Brittany betrayed the agreement she made to recite the revised edition of her speech. As a person who has no religious affiliation, I have learned to not be insulted by speeches or conversations that relate to religion, it is their believes, and they are not better or worse for it. I think they should not have cut her off; let her finish. And possibly make a statement saying that the views of this lone student are her own and are not affiliated to the school itself. Look at the uproar of the student body. i believe silencing their student was a rash decision. I do however believe that the court’s ruling was just to side with the school, pertaining to the establishment clause. The ideas she was going to say have already been put into the air, be courteous to her and let her finish. The harm was already done.

  21. Kirstin Coultas

    Although it is not exactly “fair” to cut her speech short it is completely endorsing a religion which the school could then be sued for. Also, she was asked to change her speech to make it appropriate for a school setting. She left it the same, and it wasn’t appropriate. Slightly mentioning God would have been one thing but her entire speech was about how religion changed her life. Since she is speaking for the school in a graduation ceremony her speech was too religious. It is not fair for a student to have to choose to be at their graduation and listen to her speech or to not go to a major milestone in their life.

  22. Chance Early

    Watching this video kind of makes me mad. Freedom of speech is definately a big part in this society, and for the valedictorian of an entire senior class not to be able to say what she wants is hard to watch. It is not fair at all for her to be put in that position. At least she is strong in faith and carries on with the speech even without the microphone working.

  23. Maddy Emery

    When you attend a public school you loose some rights to your first amendment. Your speech is limited and you are restricted to what you can/cannot wear. Having a speech to 300+ students being restricted is common. The establishment clause only states that you can practice silently, without forcing others to join you, and no school staff is sponsoring it. With a speech like hers, she is forcing students to listen to it, and making it seem like the school staff is supporting her. With limited open forum one of the rules to that is that there is no sponsorship of the school and with graduation the school does sponsor that. Open forum is where speakers can talk freely, but not at a government funded event. Closed forum means only the building is being used, in this case the school. But the building was being used by the school so they have to follow policy.

  24. Renee Will

    As much as I would like to say that students should have the right to say what they want, I have to agree with the school officials. When told that her speech could not be spoken the way it was written and by her agreement to revise it, the student is in the wrong for not honoring her agreement to revise the speech. Church is kept separate from school and state for a reason. Religion has its place but not in our public schools.

    • Alexis Bennett

      I agree that school and church should be kept separate. Although I do believe that everyone has the right to express themselves and say what they believe, there are certain occasions where its inappropriate to do so. Since she agreed to the required changes in her speech but used her original copy anyway I think the wrongs on her.

    • sara busby

      I agree with you Renee that she knew what was expected of her and simply had to follow the rules. There is a time and place for certain things including religion and there is as you said a reason for that. I feel that the school official were put in a tight bunch because of what this student caused. Do you think it was okay that they cut the microphone off or do you believe that they should have excused her to the side instead? Overall I agree with what you said that the school officials took the win for this one.

  25. Michele Haugen

    I agree that the speech was very good and was inspiring. But I think that the school did what was right by cutting off her microphone. Religion is supposed to be kept out of public schools, hence the reason why the school officials asked her to revise her speech so that it was much more appropriate to her audience. The school was doing what they needed to do in order to protect themselves against any parent who did not agree with Christianity. A school is closed forum so they cannot use religion in their speeches. Now if this speech was given in an open forum, she would’ve had every right to continue on with her speech. But in this circumstance the school did what was right and followed the law.

    • Melisa Schillinger

      I also agree with you, mainly because she was informed ahead of time, so she clearly knew the expectations and limitations that were mandated by the school. This was an instance where the school attempted to do what they felt they needed to do and in the way that they believed was the most appropriate. It was unfortunate that this had to be the situation in the first place.

  26. Nicole

    Here’s my main thought. It’s her speech, it’s not yours. If you don’t like it, stop listening and don’t clap for her at the end of her speech. I understand that it may not pertain to you but it’s not hurting you so be quiet and let her have her moment that she has worked for for the last twelve years of her life.

  27. Josh Hope

    To me, a valedictorian speech is something that brings hope to the youth. It gives people the thoughts that high school isn’t the greatest thing that a person will ever do. Her speech may have been strong, but there is a rule about what restrictions on speech you have when apart of a school sponsored event. It has been said in the Supreme Court that school administrators “have broad discretion to regulate the content of school-sponsored publications,…and other expressive activities that students, parents and members of the public might reasonably perceive to bear the imprimatur [sanction or approval] of the school.” What this means is that in a school function, you have to adhere to the rules and regulations put forth prior to giving a speech in a public forum sponsored by the school. She went back on her word by giving her original speech. My thoughts have always been that religion in speech is like a penis. Its ok to have one, its ok to like it, it is ok to talk about it, but it is never ok to shove it down someone’s throat who doesn’t want to hear about it.

  28. Gloria

    Each person has their own beliefs and customs. I think that everyone deserves to say what they feel as long as they are not hurting anybody else. I understand that the first amendment has restrictions on speech but what happened to our freedom of speech. I also understand that Brittany was asked to make some changes to her initial speech and she decided to continue with her thoughts and beliefs which I do not think is bad.”The bible is not sectarian, and is not inimical to the welfare of the child, but on the contrary contains lessons in good citizenship” People v. Stanley, 255 P. 610 (1927). If people do not like to listen to other peoples comments they can just ignore it. This is what we do when we read an interesting book. If we do not like what the author say we do not have to pay attention to it.

  29. I thought she had a very nice speech up until it sounded like she was about to start giving a sermon. When she got to the point when she said Jesus died for our sins, that is the point when it turned from speech about her journey in high school to a sermon preaching to the group. Everyone has the right to freedom of speech but there is such a thing as appropriateness. If someone at their place of work were to make a comment about someones race, gender, sexual orientation or any other ism (using their freedom of speech) they would be punished whether by warning or termination. It was fine for her to talk about her journey to self discovery and how that helped her through school, but when it starts to preach your own beliefs is when it starts imposing on other people. Freedom of speech is dependent of the situation you are in. That speech in church would have been fine, but at a high school graduation is not the time or place for it. Schools can be very diverse and to start preaching about God at one can make some feel uncomfortable. I think the principal was reacting within reason. Schools want to avoid controversy and must think about all the students within the ceremony that can hear what she said. Just like the court case the Bethel v. Fraser, the student was using his first amendment right at a school assembly by giving a speech. He was suspended because of the content. One job that a school has is to protect and keep safe the children it educates. Allowing students to say ANYTHING that comes into their brains and out their mouth can be detrimental to others and can cause issues with parents.

    • Melisa Schillinger

      Yes, I agree, it was nice hearing her story, but then it did turn into a sermon of sorts and of course for the majority it seemed it may have been okay, but you never know the beliefs of those in the crowd and functions that are put on for a large crowd of people, these things need to be taken into consideration. If one person can be potentially offensive, then it can become uncomfortable and that is when it becomes an issue and everyone’s right to enjoy the ceremony needs to be respected.

  30. Jaclyn Silva

    I went to a Catholic School for 12 years so the issue of not being allowed to talk about God in school is very foreign to me. After reading the Nevada School of Law I would have to say the school and principal are way out of line cutting her off. They are infringing on her basic first amendment rights. There are laws saying school can restrict speech when it is obscene and offensive. I personally don’t see anything offensive about this speech. There are no bad words and nothing that would disrupt the schools mission of teaching kids to be respectable members of society.

  31. Eduardo Velazquez

    I have to say that i don’t find the school at fault for cutting her mic after she had blatantly gone against the rules that she had agreed to, you could even see her hesitate as she decided to enter the part of her speech that caused this issue to arise. I understand that she was valedictorian and that her speech was special to her but she decided to go off the script and talk about something that simply is not allowed in public schools, especially when she is giving a speech to a large group as a representative of the school. The problem with what she did lies with the fact that schools can not promote religion of any sort and having the valedictorian essentially preach about her religion at the graduation would seem as though the school supported her views. The main thing that was repeated in class last Tuesday was that schools can stop any sort of message or action that contradicts the school’s educational goals and message. I would have to say that promoting religion is not one of a public school’s educational messages. I also understand that we have freedom of speech but again as we have read and talked about, the freedom of speech is limited within schools to everyone that either attends or works at that school. Had the school done nothing to show that her speech was not approved of or supported by the public school, the news story here would instead be at the outrage of people wondering why a public school was promoting religion.
    The last thing i would like to say is that while taking Nevada School Law a couple semesters ago I seem to remember my teacher saying that in a situation like this the school could handle it a little differently. In the scenario that was told, the school allowed the speech to finish however the school would immediately express to the public that the speech was not supported by the school, that the speech given went off the approved script and that they are going to be talking to the student about the issue. However, I realize this may only apply to schools in Nevada and that I could just be remembering incorrectly. Either way I feel that if the school had done something like the one I described then those who say that the school was rude or insensitive would not be as upset that the mic was cut off in the middle or her speech.

  32. Melisa Schillinger

    Although I could tell that Brittany was making a touching speech that much of the audience appeared to be enjoying, I have to say that I believe that the school officials as well as the courts were in the right in the decisions that they made on behalf of this issue. Regardless of how we feel about the content of her speech and if we agree with what she said or not, she was informed that the content was not appropriate for this particular event and she did agree without pushing the issue any further at that point. I think that she could have altered the speech and mentioned the influence that God had in her development and progress through her journey and this would have potentially been approved and been appropriate without pushing the matter and taking it to the extreme preaching session. I actually feel worse for the speakers that had to follow her display more than I would feel sorry for her as they now had to deliver their speech to a hostile, boisterous and worked up crowd who did not seem intent on allowing their speeches to be heard. I think that there could have been a much more tasteful way to go about this and if she knew she was going to put on this type of show, maybe she could have requested to speak last to allow her co-graduates the opportunity to speak first. She does have a right to her day and making a speech to reflect her journey, but in taking hers to such an extreme, she in turn denied the others their opportunity.

  33. jessica gannon

    While I believe the principle did what she was legally supposed to do regarding religious views in the school I feel for the girl. The girl made an amazing and inspiring speech which she had obviously worked hard to earn and construct. While religion is supposed to stay out of schools, the school also limited her first amendment rights. She said nothing absurd or vulgar and it is her legal right to free speech. I think the school should have just let her give her speech as it was her last participation in a high school event. I believe she worked for this speech and there were multiple speeches allowing others to express themselves. She didn’t deny the right to others, if they feel that way then they could have worked for the speech throughout high school. Everyone was given an equal opportunity to be valedictorian, therefore everyone had equal opportunities to give a speech. I think the girl did nothing wrong and was expressing her will for free speech and her Mic should not have been cut off.

    • Response to long thread of comments. Whatever I say has been said already by everyone else commenting on this video however for the sake of throwing in my identical “two cents worth” here is my schpeel:
      1. Yes she violated her agreement with the principle
      2. Yes you need to keep the law
      HOWEVER
      You are also in a heavily conservative and red community. The question becomes would there have been less backfire had they just let the student complete the speech? This is mostly the student’s fault for causing the incident however her actions are inevitable. Because they halted Brittany a lot of time and money went to pointless court cases and there was a great amount of social tension caused. Had the principle not halted Brittany, would the same results have been yielded? By acting upon her she becomes “the victim” in the eyes of those who support her claim and that is where large amounts o’ trouble begins. I project perhaps some angry letters and threats to take things to court from the minuscule minority of those who are offended by deity. However it the would fall on the duty of the school to heavily reprimand Brittany for being extremely idiotic in her “crusade for her religion” and to provide apologies for letting this situation happen. Brittany would be made an example of to show that it is not at all a wise idea to overrule very touchy subjects. However the likely hood of scenario 2 playing out are very low. Another question which I do not want to go into is the what if the student was of another religion. We as Americans should be very grateful that we are stuck with Christianity and not Islam as the outspoken religion.

      This breakdown happened because of low self awareness on everyone’s behalf. Brittany for being 18. The school, for not knowing there audience. And the audience for not understanding the DAMN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE. Sorry caps lock was stuck for a moment. Overall this is a “cringy” moment for our nation. (and another excuse for Europe (and the rest of the world) to laugh at the ‘muricans that make Americans look bad)

      At any rate this issue is not about schools and separation church and state. It is a small piece to a large social shift to remove God from a nation who carries Him on their currency. In my opinion whenever social change comes about it is good for progressive thought however very bad because it divides a nation and that is the last thing you need. “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.

  34. Alyssa Corda

    I think that the principal did act in the appropriate manner that she should have in a case like this. That does not go to say that I agree that the act was right. I think that this video shows a clear usage of the first amendment freedom of speech clause and I think that the young lady should have been able to continue her speech. After reading over the many laws pertaining to this case in the Nevada School of Law Handbook, I understand why the principal did what she did. The girl was referring to a specific “God” in her speech, which is not allowed in school districts according to Nevada Law. I still think that this girl had a right to say how she felt because of the circumstances surrounding the situation such as it being at a graduation.

    • Kalvin O'Toole

      Good point and I agree. It was so hard to watch when the speakers cut out. I cannot imagine how she felt. It was her day she worked hard to be valedictorian and the school cut her off in the middle of her speech.

  35. Joanna Aitken

    The principal was simply doing her job. Not only that, but say, for instance, there were a group of Atheists or Hindi in the audience. I am not saying that they would be offended, but what if they were? The United States was founded on the premise of religious freedom and that means freedom of ALL religions. The First Amendment allows for the ” unalienable right to free exercise of religion.” You can practice it if you’d like, but there is no law stating that you have to. Thus, the First Amendment also protects those who do not have a religion. What if the valedictorian had been a Wiccan? What if she began preaching her religion and beliefs? Would there be an outrage on her behalf or against her? These are all thoughts I had while watching this speech. It did not anger or upset me that Brittany was praising God nor did it anger me that the principal shut off her mic. Religion is not to be practiced at a public school or at public school events. This is not a new concept. Had Brittany chosen a private school she would have been allowed to preach to her hearts content. To truly have freedom of religion we must not force religion onto others. That’s not to say that Brittany’s intention was to force her religion on her audience, but some may have taken it that way. Which is why the SupremeCourt has upheld the Separation of church and state. Justice Hugo Black said it well in Everson v. Board of Education. He said, “State power is no more to be used so as to handicap religions, than it is to favor them.”

  36. Kristine Coleman

    Watching this video surprisingly really irritated me. I’m not entirely sure why because on most extremely controversial issues I seem to take a stance of “I have my belief but I don’t care how other people believe it to be”. As it pertains to religion and school, I think that as long as I’m not forbidden to talk about my beliefs in school, I’m not going to criticize their opposing opinion. However, I do understand that schools can’t preach religion or any other biased opinion on a sensitive subject such as this. I think what makes me the most upset and angered at this video is that yes she was preaching about God, but she was also trying to explain how she pushed herself to be literally the best. I believe that when she was talking about the “void” that she had which was filled by God, she was also explaining how filling this void, helped her be successful. This case reminds me of the case Lee v. Weisman case because it has to do with violating the first amendment at a school sponsored event and I generally disagree with this ruling. I also feel like she has the right to share her beliefs because she has worked so hard to achieve something that not everyone can do. Also, what I find interesting is that I bet if there were a homosexual speaker up there who was giving credit to their significant other and explaining how much they have helped the speaker get to the successful place they are in, no one would have turned off the microphone because it would be socially and politically incorrect to interrupt them just because of the emergence of a subject not all agree on. I feel like today our society wants more tolerance to free expression and yet we are trying to shun religion and say we shouldn’t talk about it, while at the same time there are many people out there who are fighting for gay rights, which personally I don’t have a problem with at all. I think that people have the right to have and express their belief as long as it’s in a peaceful way. I don’t feel like she was preaching that all of the audience should believe in God, I feel that she was expressing her journey in life which happens to include Him on the long and hard road through high school.

  37. I found this video to be very interesting to watch being that I had witnessed the speech myself when my brother graduated from Foothill High School in 2006. Under Britney’s first amendment right she does have the freedom to speak freely about her religious beliefs under the free exercise clause however when in a public school system setting her rights are not so much infringed upon but limited. When speaking in front of a large audience during a graduation ceremony you are representing not only yourself but the school as a whole. With that being said I believe that although Mccomb went on to talk about her own personal journey and religious beliefs her words could have been delivered differently. Her speech was given in a manner that was more evangelical and than used in historical context while referencing her beliefs. In my opinion her use of scripture was used to not intentionally preach the word of God to her peers and elders but to symbolize her own beliefs just as someone would if they were of another religion.
    The action that the principal had taken in order to protect herself and the school was correct under the law, I believe a different action could have been taken in order to keep from the uprising of the crowd. Cutting off the mic in the middle of a speech is not only abrupt but puts out a message of acting uncivil.

  38. Austyn Critz

    My biggest issue here is that the student was in no way impressing her views onto her classmates. She was simply expressing her opinion and thanking the individuals in her life that got her to where she was. Unfortunately her protection under the First Amendment did not protect her speech due to the Establishment Clause. Under the Establishment Clause, since the graduation was a school sponsored event, and the speech took a very sectarian view, the principal was acting as she should have in the situation by terminating the speech. Typical to many high schoolers’ attitudes, I am sure that the student body was in outrage because the First Amendment protects free speech. Unfortunately for Ms. McComb her graduation speech was cut short because she did not follow the guidelines set forth by the administration and the government. School administrators spend countless hours studying the law in order to protect themselves as well as the student population. Although this was the graduation ceremony and that the school would no longer have to deal with Ms. McComb, there would be severe backlash from the community for allowing the speech to continue. At the end of the day the school administrator acted as she should have under Nevada and Federal school law.

    • Kayleigh Schneider

      I agree with you Austyn. Although what happened was unfortunate, the school administrator acted as she should have under state and federal school laws. The microphone was cut off due to the student implying that her beliefs were not only what made her successful, but what could change in the listeners life as well. After the mic had been cut Ms. McComb continued to explain to the student what was going on. Being a valedictorian is a great honor, but with that honor comes aspects of limitations, respect and obligation. The speech prepared should have been reviewed and approved before she even stepped foot on the stage at graduation. Delivering a speech that may have no been approved was the her first mistake and continuing on to speak about religion at t school sponsored event was what sealed the deal. We as students do have a First Amendment right to freedom of speech, however there are limitations to the things we can and cannot say if they bring implications to the school or threaten the people around us.

  39. Nicole Frosini

    Although I did not personal find anything offensive about Ms. McComb’s speech, it clearly didn’t belong at a school function. I’m sure that the administration did not approve that speech which means that Ms. McComb knew that she would not be allowed to continue. Therefore I believe there was no surprise to her when the microphone got cut off.
    Also, it seems very clear to me that she could have given a very similar speech that involved the same message of “first places can’t fill your heart or make you happy” without having been so specific. As Ms. McComb begins to proselytize is when she had her microphone cut.
    Even though it can sometimes seem silly or annoying for school districts to have such strong and quick reactions to speech such as Ms. McComb’s, we have to remember why those rules exist in the first place. They are faithfully practiced to protect not just the majority, but also the minority views as well. They exist for all the students who attended who were not Christian but possibly Jewish, Muslim or Atheist.
    The other important argument to remember is that separation of Church and Sate also exists to protect, not just the State, but Church too. The government cannot tell anyone what religion they can or can’t be. This protection exists just as much to protect Church as it does to protect the State.

    • Kevee

      Nicole, I agree with your comment to an extent. However, I do not think that she was trying to push her religious views onto the audience. I do not think she should have been cut off because she was simply stating how God had helped her get to this point in her life. I think when the valedictorian is chosen that they should be able to give a speech on whatever they want and that it was wrong of her to be cut off. It was just as much her day as anyone that might have been offend by the speech. And maybe more special since she was giving a valedictorian speech. And there is a separation of Church and State but what about her freedom of speech?

  40. James Williams

    I can understand the schools decision in making the choice to pull the plug on the students speech. The administrator was just trying to follow school policy to the best of her ability and to protect her job. When reading about the three prong test in chapter five of the (NSLFT) I can see how the speech given would not follow all of those guidelines. The act did seem to have a primary purpose of advancing a particular religion. I come from Christian background and felt it seemed to be a very beautiful and heartfelt speech and not offensive to anyone, but I also understand that we should be considerate of all beliefs and faiths of the students attending that school. I wonder if the crowd would have still been upset if they had pulled the plug on a Muslim speech or Buddhism speech. I believe the students should all have the freedom to express their religious beliefs but at the same time keep it separate from the public schools system to avoid any bias or favoritism, and to prevent confrontation from other religious faiths attending the school.

  41. Ashley Dawkins

    I have to start with applauding this girl for having the guts to stand in front of her peers and everyone in attendance and preach her devotion and thanks toward her beliefs and how they have helped her through her life thus far. On the other hand, I cannot be mad at the principal because in that situation she did was she was required to do, in her position, by cutting the mic. She also walked over to the speaker and clearly stated why her mix was cut. However, while listening to the speech, not once did I hear Brittany try to push her beliefs on anyone else. She was not trying to advance her religion nor did she have a secular purpose as to why she was preaching about religion. She was simply explaining that with the help of her faith, she was able to accomplish her goals this far. With that said, I feel that she should have been able to continue her speech.

    • I agree with you. I find it exceptionally rude in the manner that they just cut her mic. I feel that as the editor of the original speech, certain thins could have been added, such as, her admittance that this belief was not a of their school preaching or pushing christianity. She worked hard and attained that status of being a Valedictorian, and part of her speech is discussing her struggle and successes in a open and public forum. With this being said as a student she does not surrender her Constitutional freedoms as she walks in the door to the public school arenas.To an extent students must cope and remain flexible to the school standards based on what is acceptable to keep a status quo in the respect of others religious beliefs as well. You mentioned that at any point you did not hear her mention or push her beliefs upon the crowd, and was speaking only on her personal beliefs. I feel this is acceptable.

      Although there is and has been a separation of Church and State. I understand this is to maintain respect for all religions and focus on a general acceptance of people. Yet, they didn’t accept her speech of her struggle and success? Why? This is her speech to own. Her voice. Her thoughts. All of these things that she worked hard for, put in the time and effort, and succeeded in. She earned the speech just as much as the girl in line to speak before, and if she chooses to speak about how she overcame her struggles, and hers was her path through her religious experiences. She deserves to speak about what she wants.

      Looking at this from the School Boards perspective, I understand why the muted her speech. She agreed to have a speech based off what her and the Board decided and agreed what was acceptable. Furthermore, she denied the speech and chose to speak about her first speech. Whether or not this speech was true to heart and that its what she truly wanted to speak about, it was still wrong to go about it in the manner she did. I support her decision. However, given the circumstances and the gap between church and state, and the school being a state funded institution, she can not, by law, say what she as trying to say. There could have been compromises that made everyone feel comfortable and at ease with her speech that allowed her to say what she truly wanted to say. I feel like they could have done more to prevent this.

  42. Ali-Marie Lostra

    As most everyone has already stated, this is a very difficult situation. According to the Establishment Clause, government can neither advance or impede religion, but people have the right to freedom of speech. So do you allow her to continue and “advance religion” or do you cut her off and “impede religion?”

    Since Foothills High is a public school there are different rules to abide by. Because the graduation ceremony was sponsored by the public school, the Establishment Clause comes into play, whereas if it were a private religious expression, it would have been protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses.

    These are the kinds of things you sacrifice when going to a public school. I think the school administration took the right steps to avoid a breach of the Establishment Clause by neither “advancing” or “impeding” religion.

    • Jake Chandler

      Ali, I really agree with your response. I was upset with the video, but when I read the description about how they reviewed the speech and tried to prevent having to do that. According to the supremacy clause it states that it is unconstitutional not to cease the advancement of religion. Therefore, they had the right to do that. They were both at fault.

  43. Claire Peterson

    I can understand both stances of this argument that people are making.

    On one side, you have people like Jessica who believe this violated the speaker’s first amendment, and believed it would have been not only appropriate but polite to let the speaker finish her speech. Then a majority of people like Joanna and James who believe that is was an appropriate decision of the schools to cut the speech to further avoid controversy.

    However, by doing this I’m afraid the school created possibly more controversy. I am in full support to keep church and school separated, but at the same time it is tough with situations like these when it becomes more so a matter of violation of someone’s first amendment. I believe that this particular situation could have possibly crossed that line.

    In this case, however, the speaker was told to make changes and edit her paper and was fully aware of the situation. I do not think it is far of the crowd to quickly judge and belittle the school’s decision because they do not have all the facts and do not understand that schools can get in trouble for violating specific policies like these. I think the school had to think fast, and because they gave her the option to fix her paper and she chose not to, was simply the speakers fault.

    I think the tough question is which is more controversial and inappropriate… the speaker continuing her religious speech, or the the fact that the school cut Brittany off in the middle of her speech and refused to let her finish?

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