Censoring faith expressions violates 1st Amendment

Monday, June 19, 2017
 | 
Bob Kellogg (OneNewsNow.com)

high school graduationA religious rights firm wants to set school officials straight after they told a Pennsylvania student she couldn't invoke the name of Jesus during her graduation speech because it would be unconstitutional.

Beaver Area School District superintendent Dr. Carrie Rowe told Moriah Bridges she couldn't express her faith during her graduation speech and couldn't recite a prayer that excludes other religions. Rowe stated in a letter:

"Students who speak at graduation, including the valedictorian and class president, know that the District will review their remarks in advance, and the District assumes responsibility for the content. In Moriah's case, the District could not approve a speech written as a prayer, but did approve a second version that she submitted."

First Liberty attorney Jeremy Dys says Rowe is wrong when it comes to student freedom of speech.

"Any time the government – through the superintendent or someone else – begins to say what is permissible and is not permissible when it comes to the specific viewpoint of a speech being expressed by a student, I think we have cause for concern here," the attorney tells OneNewsNow.

First Liberty sent a letter to school officials asking for a meeting to ensure student free speech isn't hindered in the future.

Dys, Jeremy (WV Family Policy Council)"... All we're asking for is that the school district acknowledge that they made an error here," Dys explains. "And then we're looking forward for an opportunity to sit down with the school district and evaluate a way in which they can protect student religious expression going forward so that this kind of thing doesn't happen to students in the future."

In her letter, Rowe states the district acted on the advice of legal counsel and cites a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 2000 involving Santa Fe Independent School District.

First Liberty makes available for download the "Religious Liberty Protection Kit for Students and Teachers."

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