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Valedictorian sues school over graduation speech

Valedictorian sues school over graduation speech

Liberty Counsel is an organization that will file suit whenever schools censor religious or politic speech. And they filed a suit yesterday on behalf of Erica Corder, valedictorian at Lewis-Palmer High School in Colorado:

During her 30-second message Erica spoke about her faith in Jesus Christ. Afterwards, she was escorted to see the assistant principal, who said she would not receive her diploma because of the speech she had given. Principal Brewer later indicated that her comments were “immature.” He said that she could only receive her diploma if she apologized to the school community. Erica prepared a statement saying the message was her own and was not endorsed by the principal. Brewer insisted that she include the words: “I realize that, had I asked ahead of time, I would not have been allowed to say what I did.” Erica complied because she feared the school would withhold her diploma. She was also afraid that the school would put disciplinary notes in her file and would generate negative publicity, which could prevent her from becoming a school teacher. Principal Brewer sent out Erica’s message in an e-mail to the entire high school community. Soon after, Erica received her diploma.

Liberty Counsel sent a letter on behalf of Erica to the Lewis Palmer School District Board of Education, explaining that her First Amendment rights had been violated, and requested that the district apologize for the e-mail that Erica was forced to write and institute a written policy to ensure that no future constitutional violations occur. The school board has thus far taken no remedial steps. Meanwhile, Erica continues to be the subject of public criticism from school officials.

I’ve never understood the objection to letting students speak about their faith publicly. To do otherwise is censorship and infringes upon freedom of speech. I mean, there is no freedom to remain unoffended in the Constitution, and if you get offended over a 30-second speech about Jesus, then you need to get yourself some thicker skin.

While schools reacting to students’ public displays of Christianity like this regularly, they almost never react negatively if it is a non-Christian. Christianity alone is under attack. And with Erica’s case, they took it a step too far, in not only witholding her diploma, but actually threatening to disciplinary notes in her file and publicly criticize her, therefore threatening her future as a teacher.

Now, Liberty Counsel does not usually file suit. After a letter, the school apparently will respond. But Lewis-Palmer High School didn’t, and has taken no steps in apologizing for their behavior, and Erica continues to be the subject of public criticism by school officials. They had no choice but to move forward, a decision that was fully warranted.

When does this assault on Christianity stop? When will Christians decide they’re tired of being bullied and stand up for themselves?

Hat Tip: Stop the ACLU

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  • Gothguy says:


    This just another example of the perverse secularism that has taken hold in schools, and to a large extent, society as a whole.

    The ACLU and those of their ilk, have taken “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” and have perverted that amendment to such a degree that it defies common sense. The intent of that amendment was to prevent the establishment of a national religion, such as the Church of England, or the Russian Orthodox Church under the Tsars, which at the time of this amendment (1791) were intimately involved with the government, and the Founding Fathers did not want that established here in the United States.

    A young lady, addressing a high school, and thanking God, in no way, shape, or form, violates the above amendment, and for that principal to strong arm her into apology is a gross violation of his position of authority.

    If one of the students had their precious little feelings hurt or offended (a highly over used word), so be it, get over it, and most importantly, get a life.

    As my Father used to say, “Suck it up, and walk it off!”

  • Anonymous says:

    Actually, the history behind the “establishment clause” is even more basic than that. The British constitution ostensibly granted freedom of religion to all British subjects. In practice, all schools public and private were required to teach the catechism of the Church of England. This was the main reason the Pilgrims fled England.

    During the colonial period, local government often established mandatory attendance laws for church. This practice drove groups of like-minded worshipers to move to new places to establish religious colonies of their liking (complete with mandatory attendance).

    Thus, historically, the establishment clause was meant to prevent the Federal government in its official capacity from compelling religious observance on individuals. There was never an intent to prohibit local governments from passing such laws.

    Eventually, SCOTUS (incorrectly) ruled that the 14th Amendment superceded the 10th and as a result, a whole bunch of new rights were “discovered.”

    Constitutionally, under a proper view of the 14th Amendment, a local school would be well within its rights to prohibit or deny religious observance as this cannot be construed as the Federal government in its official capacity endorsing or denying a particular religion.

    The real problem is that the law is selectively applied. If our young heroine had shouted “Allahu Akbar!” the liberal hordes would br climbing all over themselves to defend her.

  • Huck says:

    “I’ve never understood the objection to letting students speak about their faith publicly.”

    I agree. As long as it is not proselytizing, I think students ought to be able to mention their faith in such moments.

    I will say that I also have never understood the need for students to mention their faith in such moments.

    Sometimes, it seems to me as if the purpose of these moments is more of a political statement than it is an expression of faith. A kind of “up yours” to the secularism within the public educational system.

    But while I agree with Cassy’s point about this as a matter of free speech rights, I don’t think her extension of this to a broad claim of the persecution of Christianity is warranted.

    I’m a devoted and practicing Catholic Christian. I have never been told or never, ever felt as if I couldn’t practice or proclaim my faith. I have never understood why people insist that if they can’t put up nativity scenes on the front lawn of City Hall that their faith is under attack. That just doesn’t register as true.

    The day that someone tells me that I can’t attend a prayer group at my Church or that I can’t attend Sunday mass is the day that I believe Christians are persecuted and under attack in this country.

  • Anonymous says:

    What else would we expect from educators in Colorado. It starts with the top Universities in the state and goes on down. Yes, Colorado has a history of none Christian believers migrating to the state (flower children)living among the believers. You would think Colorado would try and clean up the tragedies in their public schools. At least one fact the boys who killed their classmates in the tender teen years of their lives would have never given death a thought if they had had a good understanding of Christ.

  • Anonymous says:

    The reason for this is obvious. Anti-Christian hatred. If that was a Muslim they wouldn’t dare pull this. They would fear retribution. They know Christians are easy marks because they won’t retaliate.

  • Joe says:

    This really isn’t about religion, it’s about a petty high school principal who is trying to pretend that he is important. I’ve had to deal with assholes like this way too many times in the last few years (due largely to my in-your-face daughter.)

    One thing that continually amazes me is how unfit many principals and vice-principals are for the job. One had such open contempt for teenagers, and even admitted such when I directly confronted him, that I still can’t understand why he made it his chosen profession.

    (Now, to be fair, over the years my kids, wife and I have had several excellent elementary and high school principals. It makes a huge difference.)

  • Josh says:

    Thanks for this!

  • Susan's Husband says:


    Clearly, Erica can’t proclaim her religion. Does it count as persecution yet?

    On the other hand, I find it a bit odd to think a student shouldn’t mention their faith. They can apparently talk about anything else that’s important to them or their fellow students, favorite rock bands, books, sporting activites, clubs, but faith? Why is that specifically unmentionable?

  • Huck says:

    susan’s husband – First, remember that I agree that she shouldn’t be prohibited from expressing the importance of faith in her life as a matter of free speech. We don’t disagree there. What I said was that I didn’t understand the need for her to do so. Incidentally, I’d say the same if she mentioned a rock band or favorite music or TV sitcom or anything else that I would consider less directly relevant to the celebration of a shared academic accomplishment.

    And, actually, I’d defend her right to do so as a matter of free speech, though I would question why she would need to do so.

    But I will hold to my contention that being told that it is impermissible to proclaim one’s religion in one context equals a blanket statement of religious persecution. She can proclaim her religion in many other venues and she can freely practice her faith. People who claim religious persecution following such events I think don’t really understand what persecution means. It’s a conflation of imposing limitations and parameters and responsibilities attendant to our freedoms with oppression. And I don’t think such things equal oppression or persecution. For the same reason, I have little sympathy for the communist activist who incorrectly complains of oppression and persecution because he is expected to follow a certain protocol or guidelines or rules for participation in a public meeting. In fact, I might agree that the rules are unfair, but I would certainly not think he is being persecuted for being escorted out of such a meeting for failing to follow such rules.

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