Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Freedom of Speech/Religion Upheld in Montana

In a 2008 high school graduation ceremony in Butte, Montana, one of the valedictorians planned to mention her faith in her address. However, the school's principal stepped to forbid the words Renee Griffith planned, which included a statement that she "didn’t let fear keep me from sharing Christ and his joy with those around me" and that she would speak about "being someone who lived with a purpose from God with a passionate love for him."

The principal suggested specific alternative, non-religious wording. Renee did not accept that, and therefore she was not permitted to give her speech. She sued, but lost in the district court. However just a few days ago the Montana Supreme Court overturned that ruling, saying she had the right to speak of her faith.

So here we had a principal that let students give their thoughts, as long as the thoughts were not about religion. And this had to go to the state supreme court to restore her rights.

I believe it is very mistaken for a school official to think that the First Amendment requires this kind of "separation of church and state" (that phrase is not actually in the First Amendment). The amendment prohibits a law from being made respecting an establishment of religion. Schools do not make law, and a student speaking her own words at a ceremony would not constitute the establishment of a religion.

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