T Nation

Anti-Christian Censorship


Has anyone heard what happened in Vegas? A girl was chosen to speak at her graduation and as part of her address she started talking about her faith and they cut the power to the microphone. The good-ole ACLU true to its political agenda supports this censorship.

So once again everyone is free to talk about anything accept a Christian belief.


June 17, 2006

Religious speech cut from Las Vegas graduation ceremony


LAS VEGAS (AP) - The Clark County School District and free speech advocates are defending school officials' decision to cut short a high school valedictorian's commencement speech, saying the speech would have amounted to school-sponsored proselytizing.

Officials and a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that administrators followed federal law when they cut the microphone on Foothill High School valedictorian Brittany McComb as she began deviating from a preapproved speech and reading from a version that mentioned God and contained biblical references.

"There should be no controversy here," ACLU lawyer Allen Lichtenstein said. "It's important for people to understand that a student was given a school-sponsored forum by a school and therefore, in essence, it was a school-sponsored speech."

Administrators who vetted an early draft of McComb's speech cut six references to God or Christ, and omitted two biblical references. They also deleted a detailed reference to the crucifixion of Christ.

McComb said she defied school authorities because she believed it was free speech issue.

"I went through four years of school at Foothill and they taught me logic and they taught me freedom of speech," McComb told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "God's the biggest part of my life. Just like other valedictorians thank their parents, I wanted to thank my lord and savior."

Administrators' decision drew jeers from the nearly 400 graduates and their families gathered for the Thursday ceremony at a Las Vegas casino.

Lichtenstein said 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decisions in 2000 and 2003 support the school's position.

The Clark County School District free speech regulations prohibit district officials from organizing a prayer at graduation or selecting speakers for such events in a manner that favors religious speech or a prayer.

The policy does allow for religious expression at school ceremonies and says speakers chosen "on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria" are responsible for the content of their expression and "it may not be restricted because of its religious (or anti-religious) content."

District lawyer Bill Hoffman said the regulation allows students to talk about religion, but speeches can't cross into the realm of preaching.

"We encourage people to talk about religion and the impact on their lives. But when that discussion crosses over to become proselytizing, then we to tell students they can't do that," Hoffman said.

McComb, who said she plans to study journalism at Biola University, a private Christian school in La Mirada, Calif., doesn't believe she was preaching.

"People aren't stupid and they know we have freedom of speech and the district wasn't advocating my ideas," McComb said. "Those are my opinions. It's what I believe."


She was preaching though--at a school function. It is one thing to thank God, and even Jesus for that matter but when you turn it into a lecture and start proselytizing it no longer smacks of thanfulness.

I don't think free-speech applies at a state sponsored school function--so I don't think this is an issue. As an atheist I would have probably walked out if I had to endure more than 15secs of religious speech.

I wonder how this would have been played out if the person had been Muslem?


Oh, boo-fucking-who, you poor defenseless Christians are being picked on again. This is part of that "war on christianity" bullshit.

They told her not to say some stuff, she said it anyway, they cut off her mike. Big deal.

News flash: high school students don't have unrestricted free speech. School adminstrators and boards can restrict speech in school and at school functions.

Maybe instead of defying them she should have stood up and refused to read a censored speech. She'd still get her media moment, which is the main point anyway.


A Muslim would have been allowed to speak and people would have celbrated diversity.

She should have shut the fuck up.


if she had to have her speech approved ahead of time, then she knew what to expect and what was or was not acceptable. So it sounds like she had an agenda.
If she was thanking God and attributing her success to the figure, there is nothing wrong with that. But trying to preach to a diverse audience at a state sponsored function definitely crosses the line.

Maybe she should have saved that speech for her church, or a privately held gathering where she can exercise her religious freedoms.

would your opinion change if the speaker was trying to incorporate gay rights into the speech? if so you agree that moderate censorship is appropriate as was executed here.


No. I don't think in this case that would have happened, however, I think people would be making a bigger stink of freedom of speech if the same thing would have happened to a Muslim.


While I think that the impression by some christians in the US that are persecuted is mistaken, I find this whole incident highlights a strained relationship with religion in the US in general: As a state, the US seems so committed to secularism, while a good part of its population seems to be very religious (read: christian).

With this in mind, I don't get why this often proclaimed christian majority does not push through religious education in schools. There are many secular countries which don't have a problem with this. I had it, I learnt a lot in it, and I'm an atheist.

As for this incident: Yes, it's ridiculous and everyone in it looks like an arse. The school administration for having to censor a speech (to which they have the right, or even a duty under the law in this case). The girl for breaching her school's rules and defying a direct school order at a secular event.

This is not a case of anti-christian censorship, this is a fucked up failure of public policy. I'm sorry for everyone (teachers, administrators, parents and children) who has to deal with this kind of crap.



I pretty much agree with everything you just wrote. Anyone who takes this as simply some sort of "Christian Hate" is missing the larger picture.


Leave it to the 9th Circuit to decide what can and can't be said in public under the first amendment. I hope there is a special place in hell for members of that Kangaroo Court. they have been overturned more times by the USSC than any other circuit.

We would not be reading about this had the school been located in the 5th Circuit.

Nice to see the haters out there turn a blind eye to free speech when the subject matter does not agree with you.

Why am I not suprised?


Don't be so sure. There are districts in California that made kids read from the Koran and wear headscarves as part of diversity indoctrination.


For those of you saying she was preaching... have you read or heard the speech? Is there a link to it that I missed?


The bitch should not have tried to impose her views on people that did not want to hear it.

Whether you acknowledge it or not there is often a double standard when it comes to religious expressions in schools.

I think the school district was right to shut her down. I only hope they treat other religions the same way.


Good question. The school lawyer says preaching is not allowed but nothing indicates whether she was preaching or not.

There is always more to the story.


This is a school/state sponsored event, which means that one isn't entitled to say whatever one wants. They didn't arrest her, after all... they turned off her microphone. If she has the right to preach, they have the right not to provide electricity for her cause.

I have issues with authority and am not sure that it is necessary or appropriate to have speeches screened.

I do not think that this is a first amendment issue, however. Unless, of course, the school allowed someone else to give a speech about the virtues of atheism.


Brilliant point. The MSM often likes to trumpet about the Christian majority and how powerful it is and it's influence on elections. But as you have pointed out this powerful body cannot even get religious education pushed through in schools. Hence the rise in home schooling and enrollment is private schools. And your second point is just as good, liberals in the US, have morphed what real liberalism used to be, tolerance for all things, into tolerance for what they think is right.

And as you stated you are atheist, still took the class and learned from it, no worse for wear. If only the "open-minded" leaders of the liberals on this side of the pond were as open-minded. And before anyone starts railing about the extreme right, I am not givig them a pass at all, the leaders on that side of the fence are just as close-minded. That's why I agree with what Jon Stewart said the other night, "The country is run by extremist on both sides, because moderates have shit to do".


And here is another example of that censorship. It is ok to have a school sponsered/supported "day of silence" for the gay/lesbian students so they can express their views, but it is not ok for the Christians to express their viewpoint. In my opinion, the gay community doesn't just want tolerance, they want acceptance and approval and that is where they hit a wall.

Public schools can ban anti-minority messages
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, April 21, 2006

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Public schools can prohibit students from displaying messages that attack gays or other persecuted minorities, a divided federal appeals court ruled Thursday in the case of a Southern California youth whose T-shirt proclaimed that "homosexuality is shameful.''
In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said a high school sophomore in San Diego County was unlikely to be able to show at trial that his rights were violated when school officials ordered him to remove the shirt in April 2004, the day after an event at the school promoting gay-straight tolerance.
"Public school students who may be injured by verbal assaults on the basis of a core identifying characteristic such as race, religion or sexual orientation have a right to be free from such attacks while on school campuses,'' Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the majority opinion.
Reinhardt said students' constitutional right of free speech does not prohibit school officials from restricting "student speech that intrudes upon the rights of other students.''
Judge Alex Kozinski dissented, saying the majority was relying on pop psychology to create a new right for certain groups of students to be protected from offensive speech.
"I have considerable difficult with giving school authorities the power to decide that only one side of a controversial topic may be discussed in the school environment because the opposing point of view is too extreme or demeaning,'' Kozinski said.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative organization that represented the student in the case, said it would ask the full appeals court to order a new hearing by a 15-judge panel.
"Students do not give up their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door,'' said attorney Kevin Theriot. "This panel has upheld school censorship of student expression if it is the Christian view of homosexual behavior.''
He contrasted the ruling with a 2001 decision by another federal appeals court, written by then-Judge Samuel Alito -- now a Supreme Court justice -- overturning on free-speech grounds a school district's harassment policy that included bans on anti-gay slurs.
The San Diego student, Chase Harper, wore his shirt at Poway High School in protest of the annual "day of silence'' sponsored by the school's Gay-Straight Alliance. The same event a year earlier had been the occasion of confrontations between students, some of them wearing T-shirts with derogatory comments about homosexuals, the court said.
The back of Harper's shirt read, "Homosexuality is shameful,'' with a biblical citation; the front read, "Be ashamed, our school embraced what God has condemned."
Kozinski, in dissent, said Harper did not intend to demean other students but to dispute the viewpoint expressed in the "day of silence." Silencing Harper's message amounts to unconstitutional "viewpoint discrimination," Kozinski said.
A teacher sent Harper to the principal's office, where Principal Scott Fisher told him the shirt was inflammatory and asked him to remove it. The student asked to be suspended instead, but the principal kept him in the office for the rest of the day without disciplining him.
Harper's suit, filed in June 2004, claimed violations of freedom of speech and religion. Thursday's ruling upheld a federal judge's denial of an injunction that would prohibit the school from enforcing its policy.
Reinhardt, joined by Judge Sidney Thomas in the majority opinion, said the Supreme Court's landmark 1969 ruling on free speech in public school -- allowing a student to wear a black armband in class to protest the Vietnam War -- left room for school officials to limit expression that disrupts education or violates other students' rights.
Those rights, he said, include the right of a historically persecuted minority group to be free from "psychological attacks that cause young people to question their self-worth and their rightful place in society.'' He also said requiring Harper to remove his T-shirt did not interfere with his religious beliefs or practices.
E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com


I have to agree with Zap.

It sounds to me like the Christians are all too happy to play on the persecution complex they seem to have. Oh, look at me, I'm persecuted too, how much like Jesus I am.

This is Anti-Religious censorship, or at least it should be... or, confusingly, shouldn't be, whatever the case may be.

Let's not make the mistake of thinking that religion equals Christianity and thus play the persecution card whenever religion is at odds with something.


I think it very much was. We are not talking about 6th graders here. This is a fresh batch of young adults. Most of them 18 years or older. Screening the speech of an adult at a public event - public in the sense that the school is funded with public money - is a first amendment issue.

But this is a non-issue. It happened in the 9th Circuit's jurisdiction, and they are famous for taking and giving rights on a whim.


Generally, I don't worry so much about speech suppression by schools as long as it is done equally. If I can't talk about Jesus, you can't talk about Krishna. If I get to say how great being gay is, you get to say that it's a sin.

The problem comes in, I think, when one poltical or religious view is given preference over another.

Zap's example is particularly egregious.


I have not mentioned religion or christianity in my posts. I can understand your position, but I am not talking about leveling the playing field.

These graduates are now adults. Whether the girl's speech was about christianity, or being gay is not the issue as I see it.

Their speech should not be censored - especially since they are being sent out into the adult world now. I just find it a little stupid for the school to feel they have any say in what the students say at that point.