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April 25, 2007

Comments

I believe it is a different Roger Simon. Roger L. Simon is the Pajames Media hack, whereas this Roger Simon is some other hack from Chicago.

It's a completely different Roger Simon than the Pajamas Media guy, though, right?

This was truly one of the more ridiculous attacks I've seen in a long time. It's not as though Edwards requested blessings only for the Christian victims, or anything like that. More to the point, does anyone believe that if he had prayed for the blessings of "Christ, Allah, Buddha, yadda yadda," he wouldn't have been even more widely attacked as super-PC?

I truly don't understand what was going through Mr. Simon's head as he wrote this.

It's a completely different Roger Simon than the Pajamas Media guy, though, right?

D'oh. Who knew that there were two Roger Simons out there. I mean, besides Dave S and Steve?

Anyways, my apologies to the real Roger L. Simon. I've corrected the post accordingly.

.....

I admit, I'm a little dumbfounded.

I'm an atheist, myself. But - the notion that I should feel offended because a Christian at a memorial service prays "in Christ's name" is ... ludicrous.

It's a freakin' prayer, for Chrissake: that it includes reference to a particular religion is a feature, not a bug.

No, really? Is Roger Simon perhaps Unitarian?

I truly don't understand what was going through Mr. Simon's head as he wrote this.

He believes the cartoon straw-liberals of his imagination are actually real, and that this would be real live issue for them?

It's official: if Jes thinks that Simon's gone overboard, then the man is indeed overboard.

When did I become the Official Overboarder of Obsidian Wings? OOOW!

I am just glad that Edwards did not give that speech at VT, since as a State funded institution, that would violate the establishment clause...

that would violate the establishment clause

Edwards isn't part of the Federal government, and wasn't speaking on behalf of it.

I am just glad that Edwards did not give that speech at VT, since as a State funded institution, that would violate the establishment clause...

Was that sarcasm, or is that truly your understanding of the Establisment clause?

It's hard to tell, these days.

If a High School Valedictorian can not offer a prayer, despite not being part of the government, I fail to see why Edwards can.

I rate this threadjack 2/10.

Oh come on, it is related as speech regarding a publically funded institution involving religion...that is close enough.

High School Valedictorian

is she speaking at a public high school function ?

Right, but I am pretty sure that VT is a public university.

Right, but I am pretty sure that VT is a public university.

Uhhh...

Edwards led a prayer “in Christ’s name” at Ryman Auditorium, which bills itself as “Nashville’s Premier Performance Hall.”

I am just glad that Edwards did not give that speech at VT, since as a State funded institution, that would violate the establishment clause...

That was the start of the hijack.

JRudkis, this isn't my area, but my understanding is that the law is quite clear that a valedictorian can offer a student-led prayer at a public school graduation ceremony, even though the school itself cannot. It also strikes me that there is a fairly substantial difference between a high-school graduation ceremony and a service at Ryman Auditorium, which (so far as I know) is not affiliated with VT or any public school.

That was the start of the hijack.

Sorry, missed that.

Hey!

What's with the taking my name in vain.....?

Right, but I am pretty sure that VT is a public university.

yeah, it is.

looks like i caught my own tail. yum, furry.

that's what i get for trying to think about anything besides the fact that i have a 4-day weekend starting in 45 minutes.

If a High School Valedictorian can not offer a prayer, despite not being part of the government, I fail to see why Edwards can.

So that was honest ignorance, and not sarcasm. Okay, quick version.

1) Public schools -- these are mandatory public schools, not universities -- have the absolute and highest bar towards intermingling of Church and State activities. The reason for their high bar is simple: Such schools act in place of the parents, such schools represent state authority to children and youngsters (not full adults), and attendence is mandated by the state. As such, even with graduating seniors, great care is taken to make sure that the state does not give even the slightest impression of endorsing a particular religion. Public schools are subject to strict scrutiny -- wherein even the impression of endorsement is sufficient to violate the First Amendment.

College, however, is a completely different ballgame. College students are considered adults, and lesser standards are applied -- the so-called "Reasonable adult" standard. Schools that accept state or federal funds have the usual caveats of government, but nothing prevents religious speech on campus -- certainly not from visiting dignitaries, and not even from campus officials so long as a reasonable adult would understand that the person speaking was not speaking on behalf of the university.

Church/State cases in the K-12 realm are entirely different than Church/State cases centering around state colleges.

I honestly don't know where you got such odd ideas about Church/State seperation and the First Amendment, but I suggest a good refresher on the subject.

The HS Val I am thinking of was from Nevada, the school pulled the plug on her for preaching, and the ACLU has taken the side of the school.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/nevada/2006/jul/13/071310623.html

Morat20,

Okay, so to be clear then Edwards speech would have been inappropriate at Columbine, but not at VT?

Morat20,

Okay, so to be clear then Edwards speech would have been inappropriate at Columbine, but not at VT?

Actually, it would have been fine at Columbine if whatever he was speaking at wasn't mandatory -- there are any number of prayer events, Christian clubs, Bible study groups, and the like in public schools.

At a mandatory event, however, Edwards most likely would have simply called for a moment of silence or reflection on the events -- since he's quite capable of understanding the fairly simple rules regarding religious activities at schools.

Good take on Simon's bias. I linked to your reaction in an update to my blog post:

http://newsbusters.org/node/12254

--Ken Shepherd
Managing Editor
NewsBusters.org

I don't think graduation is typically mandatory, though it might be some places.

I don't think graduation is typically mandatory, though it might be some places

Graduation is a school function, pretty much the school function. It's run by school adminstrators, is the culmination of years of schooling, and hands out awards and degrees from the school.

The ban on commencement prayers is a little iffy (the Supreme Court has waffled on whether student-led prayers in such cases have the implied endorsement of the school or not -- the problem is that, frankly, when administration-led prayers were struck down, 'student-led' becamse the beard for it. Administrators would chose students who would happily read prayers 'suggested' by the administration).

Aren't we missing the point that Edwards speech did not involve any of the establishment/speech concerns because it wasn't on the VT campus or at a VT facility?

Aren't we missing the point that Edwards speech did not involve any of the establishment/speech concerns because it wasn't on the VT campus or at a VT facility?

I think he got that. Right now, I think it's just more explaining the difference between a public high school and a state-supported college, because even if it HAD been at the VT campus or a VT facility, it wouldn't have been a problem.

That Nevada story was a little more complicated. The school says it's OK to mention God in a graduation speech, but not OK to proselytize. They edited and then approved the speech. Although before the speech, she'd agreed to the revisions, at the podium, she added back what had been stricken, and more.

Good http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/nevada/2006/jun/17/061710552.html>link.

She filed suit against the school, seeking money damages. The last entry on the docket is oral argument setting the defendants' motion to dismiss the case for March 12, 2007.

I see from googling that the myth on the right is that Brittany McComb got cut off for simply mentioning God. Here's what the school said was Ok:

The summer after my freshman year I quit swimming. I quit trying to fill the huge void in my soul with the meager accomplishments I managed to obtain in swimming. After quitting this amazing sense of peace came over me, and I realized after fifteen years of sitting on the story time rug there was a teacher there trying to help me -- God. I had ignored Him all these years and He was just trying to show me what shape fits into the cut-out in my soul. This hole couldn’t be filled with swimming, with friends, with family, with dating, with partying, with drinking, with anything but God. His love is “that something more” we all desire. It’s unprejudiced, it’s merciful, it’s free, it’s real, it’s huge and it’s everlasting.
Here's what the school said was not OK:
God’s love is so great that he gave His only son up to an excruciating death on a cross so His blood would cover all our shortcomings and our relationship with Him could be restored. And he gave us a choice to live for ourselves or to live for something greater than ourselves - eternity and His Love. That is why Christ died. John 10:10 says He died so we no longer have to reach and fall short, so we can have life “and life to the fullest”. * * * *

And I can guarantee, 100%, no doubt in my mind, that if you choose to fill yourself with God’s love rather than the things society tells us will satisfy us, you will find success, you will find your self worth. You will thrive whether you attend a prestigious university next fall and become a successful career man or woman or begin a life long manager position at McDonald’s tomorrow. Because the fact is man has an innate desire to be apart of something greater than himself. That something is God's plan. And God's plan for each of our lives may not leave us with an impressive and extensive resume, but if we pursue His plan, He promises to fill us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.' " Trust me, this block fits.

Not being a God person, it is not a religious issue for me. I see it as a speech issue. I do not see religious words as foul or dangerous (generally), and so the censorship is my problem. I am sure she could have rambled on about how softball and the coach saved her, but it they censor her thoughts on God saving her.

I agree that it is inappropriate for the school to lead prayers, but I do not think it is a good lesson in American values to teach studnets that the government can and should censor the speech of citizens.

I hope it's clear, as well, that the concerns about high-school graduation prayers are not just a matter of ACLU latte-loving Satanists out to ruin things for everyone. (tho, of course, we ACLU Satanists DO love us some latte). More seriously, I have often seen what appears to be honest confusion and pain on this subject from nice Christians who just don't get it, and I would like to addres that.

I have seen people say that if they can't have a prayer at graduation, then their right to practice their religion is infringed, so the courts (led by that famed Christ-basher Antonin Scalia) are favoring atheism or Judaism or Islam over Christianity. And when asked, well, how would you like a Jewish or Muslim or Hindu prayer, they sorta shrug and say it wouldn't bother them, so what's the problem. And, sure, if 99% of the population is nominally Christian, an occasional non-Christian prayer, even at an official state function, is probably not going to come across as coercive. It will just be a curiosity. Out of fairness, we prohibit those too, but the Christians are right to say that they wouldn't stress any of the kids out.

What seems to be hard for many Christians to imagine, though, is that it can put a real strain on a minority religionist to be surrounded by avidly proselytzing Christians, and that having the government or the school authorities pile on as well is a bit much. To be blunt, Jewish or atheist parents should not have to pay for private school just to have their children not effectively forced to join in Christian prayers. No matter how uplifting it may feel to have your religion be a part of your every activity, part of living in a pluralist society is leaving some neutral space for community affairs. You don't like it, move to Vatican City.

Of course, in some cases, I think the failure to understand this stems from an unquestioned belief that our religious feelings aren't as real as theirs, or that we should be grateful for the chance to learn the truth. Those people don't need this explanation, they just need to f**k off. Not that I'm bitter.

I guess Roger Simon found himself bored at a rally and decided to take offense on behalf of his Jewish mother.

It's hard to say whether Simon's actually consistent about getting religion out of politics, or whether this is just a Politico-sponsored, Drudge-approved cheap shot at the Dems.

Here's one column from his site where he takes a similar line.

http://www.rogersimon.com/archive/2005/03/we_need_to_get.html

Couldn't find any others. At the very least he's guilty of selective outrage, because I can't find any specific denunciations of Bush's War Jesus.

I do not see religious words as foul or dangerous (generally), and so the censorship is my problem

jrudkis, please, both parts of the First Amendment count. Yes, you (McComb) have a right to free speech. But I also have a right not to have you establish your religion at my graduation. The reason religious speech is treated differently than most speech is not because it is viewed as obscene, offensive, or bad, but because in one very specific context -- governmental speech -- it tends to create a government religion. Given the horrific history of religious wars, that's a concern worth making Ms. McComb buy her own soapbox to rant about Jeeeezus.

Trilobite,

I don't see it as religious infringement, but speech infringement. I am sure at any function there is a minority who is displeased with whatever topic the speaker chooses to talk about.

Religion is not established by an 18 year old who earned her right to speak.

jrudkis, how much money would you award her for agreeing to give one speech, and then being interrupted because she decided to give another?

They didn't censor about God saving her. She said that part, with approval. they censored about where she was telling other students that God would save them. Because that's not an appropriate topic for a school sponsored event.

I get it that you seem to be a speech absolutist here. What if she had decided to say that Toyotas are awful cars and people should only buy Chevys. And the administration said, no, that's not really what we're supposed to be doing, and we know your father is a Chevy dealer and all, but you can't say that. She says OK, but then says it anyway. Is this just as bad in your eyes? Should the school have no right to tell the daughter of a Chevy dealer that it's not appropriate to use a school event for advertising?

fwiw: back when I was a Christian in high school, I found the idea that religion was somehow damaged by people not being able to lead compulsory prayers baffling, especially when it was described as "taking prayer out of schools". I prayed a lot in school, but all of it was silent, and between me and God. No one would have been able to stop me if they'd wanted to. I failed to see why that sort of prayer was inadequate for the chunk of the day spent in high school.

Perhaps this was because, earlier, as a little atheist, I had found it very puzzling that I was, essentially, ordered to lie by my school, which was what being ordered to say the 'under God' part of the Pledge of Allegiance felt like. Iirc, I asked if I could not say it since I didn't believe in God, was told that I had to say it, and then mouthed the words without saying them for six years.

Private school, so no Constitutional issues.

She earned her right to give a speech over which the administrators had approval authority.

don't see it as religious infringement, but speech infringement. I am sure at any function there is a minority who is displeased with whatever topic the speaker chooses to talk about.

How was it censorship? It was a school run event, and the school vetted and approved ALL speeches given by students. She submitted a speech, modified it, had it approved.

There is no first amendment right to use a school microphone and a school function to say what you wish. She had no Constitutional promise of access to that microphone for anything. She could and can say whatever she wants, when she wants. But if she wanted to use the school microphone, and say it at a school function, she had to submit an acceptable speech and stick to it.

She did not. Her Constitutional rights were not violated in the slightest.

I truly don't understand what was going through Mr. Simon's head as he wrote this.

I'm going to guess that it was air.

I'm glad someone finally pointed out this trend toward the slippery slope of people going around praying to the God they worship instead of praying to the ones they don't think exist.

And when asked, well, how would you like a Jewish or Muslim or Hindu prayer, they sorta shrug and say it wouldn't bother them, so what's the problem.

And yet I can think of at least three instances in recent years in which non-Christians were invited to give prayers or invocations at public events and Christians, in fits of pique, walked out. In two cases, it was an atheist giving an invocation; in one, it was a Muslim.

An interesting related piece on WorldNetDaily, of all places.

"jrudkis, how much money would you award her for agreeing to give one speech, and then being interrupted because she decided to give another?"

Good job issue spotting! I hadn't noticed that the student actually has two causes of action against the school.

If it was unconstitutional (and clearly it was) for the state to coerce a citizen into editing the content of her speech, then the "agreement" was automatically void against public policy. It was a separate (also unconstitutional) act to, in the event, force the student to stop speaking.

The government can only regulate speech in content-netural manner, that is, time, manner and place. You can put restrictions on the size of billboards, but you cannot say pro-American billboards can be twice as large as anti-Amrican billboards.

So the school is completely justified to edit the material in a content-neutral manner, say editing the speech because its too long. But unless the school said, you need to make your speech shorter (in fact, the school chose which sections to cut), then the government's action was not content-neutral.

I can't believe anyone here would take the side of the school over the girl. Look, constitutional rights don't start by the state going after the war hero, the chamber of commerce president or your mom. The erosion starts when the government starts violating the rights of drug dealers and communists and religious wingnuts.

If you don't stand on principle to defend people you dislike, well don't come crying to me when the government gets around to pushing your mom around.

to correct a typo--

"Look, the erosion of constitutional rights doesn't start by the state going after..."

beowolf: I can't believe anyone here would take the side of the school over the girl.

Because the school is - quite properly - taking the side of all the kids required to attend graduation, whereas the girl was trying to force all the other kids, whatever their religion, to listen to her Christian sermon.

Well, beowulf, I'm a teacher and I think that if the school doesn't have some ability to edit, truncate, demand, or do other potentially oppressive stuff, it can't really be a school because it will not be able to appropriately guide students. Perhaps a school may go too far, but take away the ability to make demands like this and the whole concept of an educational institution is meaningless.

beowulf, imagine for a moment that the speech the student wanted to give contained, for whatever reason, Steve Martin's diatribe from Planes, Trains & Automobiles in which he says "f*ck" 10 times in two sentences. Would the school have been justified in asking her to remove it? If so, why?

The government can only regulate speech in content-netural manner, that is, time, manner and place.

Yes, and in this case, the regulation was: School graduation is not the proper place for sermons. Those are for church. You can talk about your personal faith in god all you want, but you cannot proselytize or have altar calls or anything of the sort.

Roger Simon is clearly talking rubbish about inclusive prayers. On the other hand, there is a point about whether it is appropriate as a matter of taste to use the necessarily exclusive method of praying to commemorate victims of many different faith positions. It wouldn't make sense to pray to Allah so why to the Christian god? I could certainly understand from a faith leader but not from someone meant to represent all people and hoping to be *the highest* representative of all people in the country.

Pejar: It wouldn't make sense to pray to Allah so why to the Christian god?

Allah and YHWH and the Christian God are the same God, Pejar.

And it would make perfect sense to me if Keith Ellison were invited to pray at a memorial service for the VT students, that he should begin "O Allah! Grant protection to our living and to our dead..."

The girl can proselytize all she wants, except at the graduation, a school sponsored event, where she is a featured speaker.

So beowulf, much much of the taxpayer's money would you give this girl?

I've just got to ask. Beowolf, do you really believe that Christians are a persecuted minority in the United States? I saw nothing in the portions of her speech printer above that would place her outside mainstream christianty in the United States. From my perspective, most of the persecution some christians love to wail about consists of not being allowed to marginalize everyone who disagrees with their theology.

Allah and YHWH and the Christian God are the same God, Pejar.

Many Moslems, Jews, and Christians would not agree with that statement. Certainly, neither Moslems nor Jews accept the doctrine of Trinity, which is a fundamental part of Christian theology.

Many Moslems, Jews, and Christians would not agree with that statement.

Yes, that's possible: nothing requires all adherent of any faith to understand their theology or history.

But, nonetheless, the three Abrahamic religions all worship one God, and it's the same God.

Certainly, neither Moslems nor Jews accept the doctrine of Trinity, which is a fundamental part of Christian theology.

True. And neither Muslims nor Jews accept that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, though Muslims honor him as the greatest prophet before Muhammad.

I would award her the cost of the lawsuit, and an injunction against further censorship of the content of speeches.

You don't have to like her speech to believe that having a government official redact portions is clearly wrong.

You don't have to like her speech to believe that having a government official redact portions is clearly wrong.

You don't have to dislike her speech to see that it's clearly unConstitutional to allow her to establish her religion with government funding.

So, beowulf, it's unconstitutional for the school to exercise any editorial control over the content of its graduation ceremony? There's nothing they could do if she wanted to do the Chevy ad in the middle of her speech?

An 18 year old establishes religion? How low does your bar go?

An 18 year old establishes religion?

The official speaker at an official function, funded entirely by the government, preaches religion to a group of people who are required to be there. You don't have to dislike her speech to see that it's unConstitutional.

I'm not a lawyer, so I may be way off track here, but...

I would have to assume that there is nothing mandating speeches at graduation ceremonies. So the speeches given do not result from some "earned right", but are a privilege granted by the school. I don't know that once you grant that privilege all bets are off, but I would think that privileges can be granted in any manner the grantor sees fit, provided it's done fairly.

Generally I have understood the limit to be on any religious speech that has been approved by a government agent. While a religious speech would be inappropriate at a high school commencement, the school would not have a problem and there would be no prior restraint if the school did not insist on approving the speech. The problem arises when the required approval makes the speaker an agent of the government.

Now, how many school districts will start allowing student speakers to say what they want at a graduation ceremony? How many people believe it when the administration says (*nod* *nod* *wink* *wink*) that they didn't put the student up to the prayer as long as the school insists on approving speeches.

I'll let any student say anything, as long as the school district really stays out of the whole process. If they don't, they are just conspiring with the students to subvert the First Amendment. What kind of a civics lesson is that?

I would award her the cost of the lawsuit, and an injunction against further censorship of the content of speeches.

You don't have to like her speech to believe that having a government official redact portions is clearly wrong.

Does a school student have a constitutional right to a school microphone? Does freedom of speech and freedom of religion mandate you have an audience?

You seem to have missed my post on it, but that's the issue here.

It was the school's function, the school's microphone -- vetting her speech was entirely within their rights, and because they are a government entity dealing with the mandatory education of minors, it was their duty to do so.

You seem to think that this girl had some sort of Constitutional right to use a school's microphone, at a school's event, to speak to a school's audience, about whatever she wanted and that the people who actually ran the school somehow got no say.

They get every say. It's their school, their microphone, their function.

jrudkis,

I don't think the 18 year old is doing the establishing, the school is. Morat20 pointed out above that schools are subject to strict scrutiny on first amendment issues. Specifically because the freedoms of high school students are to some degree limited while in school (locker room searches, dress codes, etc...), whatever the administration does allow at official school functions is assumed to carry some degree of official sanction. Under strict scrutiny, allowing a student to preach at such a function certainly seems to be a potential establishment clause violation. Of course, IANAL, so if I'm wrong hopefully on of the actual lawyers here will set me straight.

I think it's crucial to note that all student speeches were apparently pre-screened. Without that, I don't see establishment coming into play. But given that they were, I don't see the school having much choice. She may have earned the privilege of speaking, but she then chose to abuse that privilege by ignoring the restrictions placed upon it. Had they not cut her mike, it would have made a mockery of the screening process. I'd have a little more sympathy with her claims that her rights were violated had they asked her to remove all religious references from the speech, but they just asked her to skip the explicit proselytizing. She can quote scripture all she wants, she just can't do it at a school function. There is no absolute right to free speech in such circumstances. Do you think a valedictorian should be allowed to go on a profanity-laced tirade, or to explain to the audience why she thinks Islam (or Judaism) is a false religion?

BTW, the WorldNetDaily piece KC links is worth reading. That might be a first for them, but it's a good look at what it feels like when the shoe is on the other foot.

Aside from the Constitutionality issue there is the issue of good manners. She was speaking at an event that was for the entire school, particularly its graduating class. The purpose of the event was to honor graduates, not for any individal to engage in self aggrandizement or salesmanship. People didn't go to the event to hear her. They went to participate in a group ritual.

She used the opportunity, not to honor the school or her classmattes or even her own efforts, but to make the case that HER religous experience was what EVERYBODY else needed--a self-aggransizing sales pitch . In effect she said they should forget their religious experiences (or irreligious experiences), forget their traditions and beliefs because its all about her and her experiences. Everybody needs to be like her.

Her behavior was disrespectful, arrogant and boorish. Now, to top it off, she's playing victim!

I agree that her speech was boorish, and had it been at my graduation, I suspect there would have been a lot of "booing" and "shut up." But I would prefer that rather than have a government agency screening for content.

If the student was merely selected to give a speech, I would see this entirely differently, because the selection process would make it a tool of the government agency. In this case, it was a speech that was earned, and any student was eligible had they been smart and diligent enough. People who are unhappy with her content should tell their kids to study harder so they don't have to hear speeched they don't like, but get the stage themselves.

beowulf, your 3:39 AM is not, as far as I know, correct in regards to what the government can do in a limited public forum, as opposed to a traditional public forum. Some content restrictions are allowed. One would have to argue either that high school graduation speeches are not a limited public forum or that what happened was a viewpoint restriction.

jrudkis - But the government already screens the speeches for content. When they stop approving the speeches of high schoolers then, and only then, will the student be allowed to say what they want. As long as they insist on vetting speeches, they are barred from approving religious teachings.

jrudkis: I agree that her speech was boorish, and had it been at my graduation, I suspect there would have been a lot of "booing" and "shut up." But I would prefer that rather than have a government agency screening for content.

So, your feeling is that once a high school student is valedictorian, they get to say anything they like - literally, anything at all - and the school ought not to be allowed to "censor" that student's comments, whatever the student says?

It seems a bit anti-religionist to describe her speech as self-aggrandizing or as a sales pitch. I would probably ignore her, but I think she found something of great value to her that she wanted to share with others. It was probably more Jesus-aggrandizing than self-aggrandizing. And I don't think she was trying to profit (or prophet, heh) in any way.

it was a speech that was earned

Earned? Again you use language implying she had some right to make that speech, some right to stand up in front of her peers and subject them to whatever was on her mind whether they wished to listen or not.

She was valedictorian. She earned that title by dint of her hard work. She did not earn the right to say whatever she wanted over the school microphone.

jrudkis,

If the student was merely selected to give a speech, I would see this entirely differently, because the selection process would make it a tool of the government agency.
Whether or not the student is selected by the school, the act of screening the speeches makes the school complicit for First amendment purposes.
In this case, it was a speech that was earned, and any student was eligible had they been smart and diligent enough.

I take you to be arguing that the school should not screen speeches at all, but I'm a little confused as to why you think the fact that the speech was earned is relevant to that question. Do you believe that a valedictorian speech has (or should have) absolutely no restrictions on content? Could she get up there and read from the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, or just start insulting all of the classmates whom she dislikes? After all, she earned it, right?

Just out of curiousity, what are your feelings on school dress codes or the right to privacy of students while on school grounds?

I would award her the cost of the lawsuit, and an injunction against further censorship of the content of speeches.

She wants more money than that, and is clearly not entitled to an injunction, since she's already graduated.

Her sister might be able to get to an injunction (she's suing too) although I think the agreement to give the edited speech probably cuts that off.

BTW, I'm not trying to say that what she did say was remotely as offensive as either of my examples. I was just trying to offer up examples that show that the school might have a legitimate interest in limiting the content of such speeches.

It's hard to beat the Ninth Circuit's discussion of the issue in Lassonde v. Pleasanton Unified School District (mostly discussing its decision in Cole v. Oroville Union High School):

Cole held that the school district’s actions were necessary for two related, but subtly distinct, reasons. First, the school district had to censor the speech in order to avoid the appearance of government sponsorship of religion. Id. at 1101; see also Santa Fe, 530 U.S. at 305-10. Second, allowing the speech would have had an impermissibly coercive effect on dissenters, requiring them to participate in a religious practice even by their silence. Cole, 228 F.3d at 1104;see also Lee, 505 U.S. at 593.

As for the sponsorship concern, in Cole we determined that the school district’s “plenary control over the graduation ceremony, especially student speech, makes it apparent [that the sectarian] speech would have borne the imprint of the District.” 228 F.3d at 1103. The school district authorized the valedictory speech in Cole as part of the graduation program, the graduation program was financed by the district, and the principal had supervisory control over the graduation and had the final authority to approve the content of student speeches.Id.

In Plaintiff’s case, the school district exercised the same“plenary control” over the graduation ceremony. Speakers were selected by the school solely because of their academic achievement; that is, the school endorsed and sponsored the speakers as representative examples of the success of the school’s own educational mission. The principal reviewed and approved the speeches beforehand. The facilities, although not owned by the school district as in Cole, were rented andinsured by the district for the ceremony and were, during the ceremony, operated completely by the school. As further support for our decision in Cole, we held that allowing the sectarian speech “would have constituted District coercion of attendance and participation in a religious practice because proselytizing, no less than prayer, is a religious practice.” Id. at 1104. “[A]llowing [the] speech at graduation would have compelled a dissenter’s implicit participation in the proselytizing.” Id. Relying on the Supreme Court’s opinion in Lee, we explained that the relevant inquiry is “whether‘a reasonable dissenter . . . could believe that the group exercise signified her own participation or approval of it.’ ” Id. at1104 (quoting Lee, 505 U.S. at 593) (emphasis in Cole).

Inasmuch as this is the law that binds the school officials, it's hard to say that in acting as they did with Brittany McComb there was some kind of gross deprivation of constitutional rights. Now maybe Ms. McComb will be able to get the Supreme Court to take cert from her inevitable loss at the Ninth Circuit. Don't bet on it.

Now maybe Ms. McComb will be able to get the Supreme Court to take cert from her inevitable loss at the Ninth Circuit.

Kennedy is with the 6-3 majority in Santa Fe (which I would think governs here), but it seems fairly plausible that Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito make the necessary four for cert, and maybe they think they can convince a fifth after argument.

It seems a bit anti-religionist to describe her speech as self-aggrandizing or as a sales pitch.

Matthew 6:5-7

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

It was probably more Jesus-aggrandizing than self-aggrandizing.

The above verse tells me that Jesus would not agree.

If she were praying, I would agree.

Jes,

Yes, I would argue that the government should have no control over a speech that was earned and not assigned. I would think that the number of students that would abuse the opportunity would be dwarfed by those who don't, and that the community standards would regulate well enough for most.

Having the government censor speech is wrong. When the government selects speakers that is different, and they have responsibility to control, but when the spot is not under government control, they have no right to censor it.

If some dope takes the opportunity to sing a bunch of bad karaoke, I see little harm. If another dope decides to preach, I see similar effect.

Jrudkis: I find it odd -- you seem to keep dodging the point.

Does your right to freedom of speech entitle you to a government microphone?

Does the government OWE you a megaphone to shout your views?

No, but when I earned the microphone, the government can not tell me what to say.

Do you think the government can tell you what to say?

No, but when I earned the microphone, the government can not tell me what to say.

Do you think the government can tell you what to say?

No one earned the microphone. She earned her degree. Now, it's been a LONG time since High School, but I don't recall EVER getting told "Hey, if you're first in your class we give you a microphone and make the rest of the graduating students listen to whatever you want to say!".

In fact, they were quite specific -- you get to make a speech, and the school has to approve it.

That seems to be what you're ignoring as hard as you possibly can. The school owns the microphone, and they put restrictions on it's use -- restrictions everyone knew about.

It's the school's microphone and the school's event. They control the agenda, and if you don't want to stick to it -- you can go get your own microphone and throw your own party.

Why you don't seem to grasp that is beyond me. You seem to have this odd sense of entitlement.

It's really simple -- she wanted to use that microphone, she had to obey the school's rules on it. When she started breaking them, they cut off the mike. Sounds perfectly fair to me.

Now, if the school had told the student in question to stop preaching in the halls between class, even though she wasn't disrupting a thing -- I'd be right there supporting her.

You're acting for all the world like she <>bought that microphone. Tell you what -- you go find where the school promised her the freedom to speak about what she wanted, for as long as she wanted, in return for her graduating first in her class and then we'll talk.

What you don't seem to grasp is that the school, as a function of government, has no right to proscribe what someone will say in the microphone, whether they provide it or not.
Now I agree that the tension within the 1st amendment does make some restrictions necessary because were it left to the individual selecting speakers, it could be manipulated as to what speech is given. But in this case, the speaker was not selected, but awarded. Once awarded, the speaker does not have the aura of speaking for the government: she was a private citizen who through hard work and ability won the spot.

Unless you have evidence that the selection of who graduated academically first was manipulated inorder to get the speech the government wants, than all you have is censorship.

jrudkis- So, are you saying that if, in response to a legal order from a superior officer, a soldier said "go f*ck yourself", that's free speech under the first amendment that the gov't can impose no consequences for?

No, because the carve out for the military in the Constitution is fairly complete with regard to the Executive and Legislature making the rules, whereas there is nothing comparable for schools.

jrudkis: Yes, I would argue that the government should have no control over a speech that was earned and not assigned. I would think that the number of students that would abuse the opportunity would be dwarfed by those who don't, and that the community standards would regulate well enough for most.

So, can you point me to where in this high school's constitution it says "When you get the highest marks in the class, you earn the right to stand up in front of the entire school with a microphone and say whatever you want to say, and no one is allowed to stop you."

No, because the carve out for the military in the Constitution is fairly complete with regard to the Executive and Legislature making the rules, whereas there is nothing comparable for schools.

Well, could you point me to the place in the first amendment that bars states from imposing free speech restrictions?

What you don't seem to grasp is that the school, as a function of government, has no right to proscribe what someone will say in the microphone, whether they provide it or not.
. . . But in this case, the speaker was not selected, but awarded. Once awarded, the speaker does not have the aura of speaking for the government: she was a private citizen who through hard work and ability won the spot.

This is absolute nonsense. I am willing to bet a sizeable amount of money -- at least four figures before the decimal point -- that nowhere, nowhere in this school district's published regulations does it say: "CONTEST-- Graduating senior with highest grade point average gets to stand in front of student body and say whatever s/he wants for as long as s/he wants!" I guarantee it/

OMFG Jes and I said almost the same thing. Buy yourself a Guinness and charge it to me!

Seems to me there's a carve out for imposed religious activity.

You can say people who don't like it can leave until you're blue in the face, but that's not what Establishment is about at all. You don't have to agree with the Ninth Circuit about either the support or coercion prongs, but surely you understand why someone might agree with the Circuit on one or both.

People should stop trying to hijack the power of the state to try to advance their religious agenda. That's what the Constitution says, clearly enough, and it's too bad that bitter-enders on this point have no scruples at all about wasting vast sums of public money on their crusades.

jrudkis: Way to hang in there.

Good luck in the sandbox. It has been a pleasure having you here.


Andrew: Keep your head down. OK?


I will raise a cold one, in the sand on the beach, to the both of you in July. I’ll do my best to beam the taste/satisfaction in your direction.

And it goes without saying, if either of you make it to the Eastern Shore in years to come; your money is no good anywhere on the peninsula.

Ugh,

See the 14th amendment, which applied the 1st to the states and local government.

Charley,

No one is hijacking anything. It is citizens speaking, which is a founding principle for our nation. You seem to think it is fine for the government to determine the content of speech. I disagree.


Phil and Jes,

No. But I can point to the 1st and 14th amendment that say that there can be "no law" restricting the freedom of speech.

It would be potentially different if the state (school) wanted her to say this speech. They didn't. How can that be an establishment issue, if it violated the states intent?

See the 14th amendment, which applied the 1st to the states and local government.

Can you point me to where in the 14th A it says such a thing?

No. But I can point to the 1st and 14th amendment that say that there can be "no law" restricting the freedom of speech.

When invited to make a speech on behalf of an organisation (which, as I understand it, is what the valedictorian does) that does not mean the organisation has to let you say whatever you feel like saying.

Indeed, from wikipedia, I cannot even find that there is a recognised tradition that the valedictorian gets to compose valedictory oration: only that the speech the valedictorian delivers is the last one at the graduation ceremony.

jrudkis,

It would be potentially different if the state (school) wanted her to say this speech. They didn't. How can that be an establishment issue, if it violated the states intent?

It seems to me that there are two questions here, and they are getting confused somewhat. One is whether the schools should exercise any control at all over the content of student speech at school functions. I'm somewhat sympathetic to your position here, but I think that there are a few problems with your insistence that a valedictorian has "earned " the right to speak freely. It seems to me that the Ninth Circuit addressed this in the opinion CharleyCarp quoted above:

Speakers were selected by the school solely because of their academic achievement; that is, the school endorsed and sponsored the speakers as representative examples of the success of the school’s own educational mission.

After all, the only reason that the valedictorian, rather than the prom queen or class clown, is given a microphone at all is because school itself wishes to hold them up as an exemplar of proper behavior. There's no getting away from the school's imprimatur if the school is choosing the speaker.

The second question is whether, given that the school did have a policy of screening speeches, the school acted properly in cutting her mike. I think this one is pretty clear-cut. The act of screening and approval automatically makes certain subjects off-limits. A public school cannot approve a speech like hers without raising Establishment questions. They were therefore correct to request that she refrain from outright preaching. She agreed, then proceeded to violate that agreement. At that point, what else can they do but cut the mike? Allowing her to flout the rules invites further flouting, and reopens those Establishment questions.

Jrudkis, I'm not saying the the government can or should review any old speech any old citizen wants to make ever. I'm saying I think the factors identified by the Ninth Circuit are legitimate parts of the government mission, and that these factors give the school the right to review in the circumstances. You're free to think the Circuit is wrong, although pretending that there's no body of law justifying the school's action isn't very, uh, persuasive.

Can you point me to where in the 14th A it says such a thing?

Section 1, sentence two: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; ..."

IIRC, the rights granted as against the federal govenment by the Bill of Rights were decided to be privileges and immunities immune from State power, too.

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