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Nat Hentoff: Free religious speech for students in school?
Jewish World Review ^ | 4/7/2010 | Nat Hentoff

Posted on 04/07/2010 8:24:28 AM PDT by rhema

Like Jefferson and Madison, I strongly believe in separation of church and state. And if a principal were to mandate school-directed prayer in classrooms, then that would be a violation of that separation. However, if at commencement, a valedictorian speaks of what God and Christ have meant to her life, that is her First Amendment right to free speech! The Roberts Supreme Court does not appear to agree.

Last November, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Brittany McComb who — as a 2006 valedictorian at Foothill High School in Nevada — had her microphone cut off by school officials when she started to speak about how God and Christ had taught her to experience something greater than herself, inspiring her to rise above her early high school failures.

Brittany had been forewarned. Her high school required a prior draft copy of commencement speeches, and censored all references in hers to her religious faith. She went ahead anyway because, as a student of the First Amendment, she knew she was speaking as an individual — and not on behalf of the state as represented by officials of her public high school.

With the help of the Rutherford Institute, headed by John Whitehead — a premier protector of all rights in the Bill of Rights — Brittany appealed the literal cutting off of her First Amendment rights ("Brittany McComb v. Gretchen Crehan").

The "liberal" 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals supported the school's censorship because she was "proselytizing." But Brittany was speaking for, and about, herself. She was not trying to convert anyone.

(Excerpt) Read more at jewishworldreview.com ...


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: mccomb; moralabsolutes; whitehead

1 posted on 04/07/2010 8:24:28 AM PDT by rhema
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To: rhema
While I think it is wrong that one whiney student gets to ruin graduation for everyone else, I still think the best way to deal with this kind of crap is to simply have one or more private graduation ceremonies that students could choose to attend. This also eliminates the converse of this problem... what if someone wanted to invoke a prayer from a... non-mainstream religion?

The only official act that the school would be tasked with handling would be the mailing of the diplomas.

2 posted on 04/07/2010 8:30:50 AM PDT by pnh102 (Regarding liberalism, always attribute to malice what you think can be explained by stupidity. - Me)
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To: rhema

The superintendent of schools refused to permit the performance because “Ave Maria” is religious in nature and its presence might have offended members of the audience.

How long before someone is offended by the sight of a Cross on a Church?


3 posted on 04/07/2010 8:35:34 AM PDT by Paisan
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To: rhema

So what if she was proselytizing?


4 posted on 04/07/2010 8:39:08 AM PDT by mbarker12474 (If thine enemy offend thee, give his childe a drum.)
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To: pnh102

BS. The Valedictorian speech should include something about what makes someone a valedictorian! Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that Christians believe that everything they have and everything they are is a gift from God... what right does the school or anyone else have to tell them to find someone else (government?!) to thank? Not only are we censoring the religious liberty of one, we are removing the possibility of inspiration from the rest!

GK Chesterton noted that the end result of political correctness, where politics and religion weren’t acceptable topics of discussion in a polite society, is that we are pretty much left with discussing the weather. So every graduation will have the same speech from now on so that no one’s knickers can get in a twist... and no one will learn a damn thing from those who have achieved success.


5 posted on 04/07/2010 8:39:42 AM PDT by pgyanke (You have no "rights" that require an involuntary burden on another person. Period. - MrB)
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To: rhema; zot

good for Hentoff


6 posted on 04/07/2010 8:41:38 AM PDT by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: rhema

Mr. Hentoff, like alot of people, does not understand the Constitution. The Constitution only prohibits the establishemnt of a state religion. Commencement addresses are the exercise of religion but not an establishment.

There are some Jews who hold their liberalism higher than their Judaism.


7 posted on 04/07/2010 8:43:27 AM PDT by oneamericanvoice (Support freedom! Support the troops! Surrender is not an option!)
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To: rhema
To me there is no question that the act of a government official to cut her microphone power mid speech was a prohibition against the free exercise of her religious beliefs; which, by the way, includes proselytizing.

Allowing the valedictorian to say what inspired him or (more likely) her to greatness is not the government “respecting the establishment of religion”, but disallowing any mention of religion or God is most certainly an abridgment of her right to ‘freely exercise’ her religious beliefs.

8 posted on 04/07/2010 8:45:03 AM PDT by allmendream (Income is EARNED not distributed. So how could it be re-distributed?)
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To: rhema

Way back when I graduated from a public, secular high school in a Red State, we had a baccalaureate service, followed by a graduation ceremony. The baccalaureate was religious, and usually featured an address by a local Protestant pastor. The graduation was totally secular.

Despite the generally Protestant character of the baccalaureate (reflecting the majority religious makeup of the community at the time), I know of no objections to it by Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, or Jewish students or parents. We had students of all of these faiths. (We had no muslims at the time.)

This old way of doing things I am sure is now illegal for public secular high schools. But provided attendance at the baccalaureate were voluntary, it would provide a good solution to this issue.


9 posted on 04/07/2010 8:45:37 AM PDT by Honorary Serb (Kosovo is Serbia! Free Srpska! Abolish ICTY!)
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To: pnh102
To equate being "whiney" with merely stating that her faith was instrumental for her academic success, is stunning. It shows how our nation, founded on religious principles and the affirmation of God, has drifted from its founding spirit. The idea of "separation of church and state" has now been misappropriated to include separating America from her soul.

Let her speak, freely.

10 posted on 04/07/2010 8:46:51 AM PDT by McBuff
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To: Paisan

Some Moonbats in my neighborhood wanted the church bells at my parish silenced on Sundays because “children were terrified”. The church has been there for 150 years.


11 posted on 04/07/2010 8:48:52 AM PDT by massgopguy (I owe everything to George Bailey)
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To: pnh102

Who is whiney? The group that is trying to suppress her free speech and practice of her religion are the whiners.

Most of those that are protesting would have no protest if it were a speech by a non-mainstream religion. This is an attack on Christianity and the practice of religion as set forth in the Constitution.

Who would pay for the multiple graduations?
These kids interacted throughout their attendence, why segregrate them now? Life isn’t like that. School is preparation for adult life.

I’m not Christian, yet I find no problem with her invoking Jesus’ name.


12 posted on 04/07/2010 8:51:00 AM PDT by oneamericanvoice (Support freedom! Support the troops! Surrender is not an option!)
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To: pnh102; rhema; mrreaganaut

I went to a HS graduation when I lived in Utah. The LDS students gave the Invocation and the Christian students (their terms) gave the Benediction.

At our HS one graduation, after the Jewish valedictorian was told he could not pray, he sneezed and the entire student body responded loudly “God Bless you!”.

I think what the school did was completely wrong. She has a right to say what is important to her, including her faith, that isn’t proselytizing in the least.

It is freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion, and this whole separation of church and state junk has been misinterpreted and misused by the GD’d Atheists.


13 posted on 04/07/2010 8:52:56 AM PDT by reaganaut (- "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: Paisan

How long before someone is offended by the sight of a Cross on a Church?

- - - - - -
Already happened. There was a lawsuit about it.


14 posted on 04/07/2010 8:54:12 AM PDT by reaganaut (- "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: oneamericanvoice

Did you read the article?


15 posted on 04/07/2010 8:58:38 AM PDT by Mr. Lucky
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To: pnh102

NO, CLOSE THE GOVERNMENT RE-EDUCATION CAMPS. THAT AVOIDS ALL OF THESE PROBLEMS. BUT, THEN, CONSERVATIVES WOULD HAVE TO GIVE UP THEIR FAVORITE WELFARE ENTITLEMENT -”FREE” GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS.


16 posted on 04/07/2010 9:07:21 AM PDT by achilles2000 (Shouting "fire" in a burning building is doing everyone a favor...whether they like it or not)
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To: rhema

Hentoff doesn’t have any understanding at all of what the religion clauses are or were intended to do.


17 posted on 04/07/2010 9:08:39 AM PDT by achilles2000 (Shouting "fire" in a burning building is doing everyone a favor...whether they like it or not)
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To: achilles2000

Did you read the article?


18 posted on 04/07/2010 9:16:25 AM PDT by Anitius Severinus Boethius
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To: rhema
The only dissenter from the "conservative" Roberts Supreme Court's refusal to even hear "Nurre v. Whitehead" was Justice Samuel Alito, who channeled Jefferson and Madison, saying:
"When a public school purports to allow students to express themselves, it must respect the students' free speech rights. School administrators may not behave like puppet masters who create the illusion that students are engaging in personal expression when in fact the school administration is pulling the strings."
My initial reaction to the case was that it mirrors the situation on FreeRepublic: our postings here are our own, the publication of them on FR web site is an expression of the opinions/beliefs, and the First Amendment rights, of Jim Robinson. Ultimately anything that JR doesn't want on the site, doesn't stay on the site; the site itself exists if, and to the extent that, Jim choses that it be so.

If the school were a private institution as FR is a private institution, the school could properly kill the mike, which it owns, at its own discretion. But as Justice Alito suggests, a "public" school is a government institution, and if the government provides a venue for the expression of the beliefs of an individual the government may not censor the individual.

Does anyone suppose that Harriet Miers would have written that lone dissent?


19 posted on 04/07/2010 9:42:58 AM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion ( DRAFT PALIN)
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To: rhema

Stories like this only serve to further reinforce my belief that public schools shouldn’t even exist in the first place. These clashes between different religious persuasions are inevitable, and it’s silly for anyone to be put in a position where a whole bunch of lawyers has to figure out what constitutes an “acceptable” valedictorian speech.


20 posted on 04/07/2010 9:48:05 AM PDT by Alberta's Child ("Let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark.")
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To: pnh102
Didn't they cut-off George Washington during his 1st inaugural address when he attempted to thank God with these words from his prepared inaugural address:

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge.

In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.

Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage.

These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed.

You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

21 posted on 04/07/2010 10:06:50 AM PDT by Gee Wally
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To: McBuff; oneamericanvoice

I want to make clear that I meant the people being whiney were the ones protesting the prayer at the graduation, not the student or students who were offering the prayer.


22 posted on 04/07/2010 10:27:38 AM PDT by pnh102 (Regarding liberalism, always attribute to malice what you think can be explained by stupidity. - Me)
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To: achilles2000
NO, CLOSE THE GOVERNMENT RE-EDUCATION CAMPS. THAT AVOIDS ALL OF THESE PROBLEMS. BUT, THEN, CONSERVATIVES WOULD HAVE TO GIVE UP THEIR FAVORITE WELFARE ENTITLEMENT -”FREE” GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS.

Agreed entirely. I am just focusing on this case in particular.

23 posted on 04/07/2010 10:30:58 AM PDT by pnh102 (Regarding liberalism, always attribute to malice what you think can be explained by stupidity. - Me)
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To: rhema

The government-run schools prohibit expressing one’s faith and mandates secular humanist propaganda.


24 posted on 04/07/2010 10:58:57 AM PDT by walford (http://the-big-pic.org)
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To: rhema
For goodness sakes....eARLY IN OUR HISTORY, THE CONGRESS PRINTED 1000 BIBLES....WITH pUBLIC FUNDS.

They also set aside Town lots for religious purposes.

And.....thousands of Town meetings were held in church. It was either the church or the saloon...

25 posted on 04/07/2010 11:02:12 AM PDT by Sacajaweau (What)
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To: pnh102

I was just shouting at the assembled multitude ;-)


26 posted on 04/07/2010 11:02:15 AM PDT by achilles2000 (Shouting "fire" in a burning building is doing everyone a favor...whether they like it or not)
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To: Anitius Severinus Boethius

Yes, of course.

Here is where Hentoff displays a complete lack of understanding of this part of the First Amendment: “Like Jefferson and Madison, I strongly believe in separation of church and state. And if a principal were to mandate school-directed prayer in classrooms, then that would be a violation of that separation.”

Neither Madison nor Hamilton held such a view, nor was such a view part of the Constitution. At the time of ratification, many states had established churches, and the entire point of the Federal Constitution’s “Establishment Clause” was to keep the federal government out of the religious affairs and settlements of the states. If the First Amendment had been understood in the anachronistic way that Hentoff takes for granted, the Constitution would NEVER have been ratified. BTW, when Jefferson was in charge of the D.C. schools, he used the Bible and Watts’ Hymnal as textbooks.


27 posted on 04/07/2010 11:09:23 AM PDT by achilles2000 (Shouting "fire" in a burning building is doing everyone a favor...whether they like it or not)
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To: oneamericanvoice

good post


28 posted on 04/07/2010 11:41:05 AM PDT by highlander_UW (First we take down the Democrats, then we clean the Augean stable that is the GOP.)
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To: Paisan
How long before someone is offended by the sight of a Cross on a Church?

They're already offended. Try to put up a cross in California, even on private property - you might even get death threats.

29 posted on 04/07/2010 12:19:47 PM PDT by mrreaganaut (Love is all we need. God is love.)
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To: achilles2000
CONSERVATIVES WOULD HAVE TO GIVE UP THEIR FAVORITE WELFARE ENTITLEMENT -”FREE” GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS.

First of all, it is courteous to take the CAPS LOCK off when you type. Secondly, as a conservative, I am insulted by your assertion that I have a favorite welfare entitlement - I do not. American conservatives oppose mandatory public anything, including education. Apparently you have some superior philosophy which allows you to look down your nose at conservatism; perhaps you should enlighten us as to what that might be.

30 posted on 04/07/2010 12:33:12 PM PDT by mrreaganaut (Coolidge for President!)
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To: mrreaganaut

First, I meant to leave the caps on. If you don’t like it DON’T READ IT.

Second, perhaps you haven’t noticed that your views about conservatism aren’t widely shared by people who call themselves conservatives. Even here on FR there are many who defend various mandatory elements of the welfare state. In particular, with respect to education, there are many on FR who rail against single-payer health care and yet are ready to defend our single payer model of government education.

I don’t disagree with your principle of opposing mandatory government anything, as you put it, but you might reconsider whether that principle is as widely shared by self-identified conservatives as you think.


31 posted on 04/07/2010 12:52:38 PM PDT by achilles2000 (Shouting "fire" in a burning building is doing everyone a favor...whether they like it or not)
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To: GreyFriar
good for Hentoff

Yes, and shame on the U. S. Supreme Court.

32 posted on 04/07/2010 1:32:25 PM PDT by zot
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To: rhema

Read and pingout tomorrow.


33 posted on 04/07/2010 8:37:35 PM PDT by little jeremiah (Asato Ma Sad Gamaya Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya)
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