Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, June 30, 2006

ACLU to American Students: OK to Mention God in Public - As Long as It's Cussing

Thanks to Brittany McComb, the Christian girl from Henderson, Nevada who dared to thank God and mention Jesus Christ in a high school graduation ceremony, speaking as class valedictorian. But not many of the four-hundred people in the audience heard that, since school officials turned off the microphone to spare delicate student ears from hearing the word "God" in a non-cussing context. The school has since enlisted the help of the ACLU to defend its position, which appears to be consistent with the ACLU's unwritten policy: "Nobody should ever mention God in public, unless it's cussing."

Whose Constitution are they "defending," anyway?

Folks, the freedoms fought for in 1776 are being taken away by our own modern order of Nehor and kingmen. The Book of Mormon is becoming more prophetic than ever in the way many of its themes from before the coming of Jesus Christ are being replayed today.

25 comments:

Connor Boyack said...

I couldn't agree more. I also posted about this as soon as I heard the news. It's appalling what the ACLU does sometimes. But she's planning to sue the school district, so hopefully, if anything, they will issue a formal apology to her.

Bookslinger said...

I'll have to side with the school on this one.

When you're on school property and participating in a school event on school time, you have to obey the school's rules or else receive the consequences.

My mom taught me to say this to my friends:

When I'm at you're house, we'll play by your house's rules. When you're at my house, we'll play by my house's rules.

If you don't want to play by someone's rules, you don't have to play at their house.

The solution to the girl's dilemma was not to utter words forbidden by house rules. The proper solution would be at the school board or school corporation level. In any school district, ultimately it's the school board that has the right to set the rules.

If parents don't like the school's rules, they have several options:
1) move, 2) home school the kids, 3) private secular school, 4) religious (Catholic or other church) school, 5) lump it.

In essence it's the Gold Rule, "He who has the gold makes the rules." If government (taxpayer) money pays for the school, then government (school board or government courts) is going to set the rules.

Mormanity said...

Man, they always told me that the government was there to represent the people and protect their rights. But that was the old days.

Connor Boyack said...

Bookslinger,

This wasn't the school's rules. This was the school district and its laywers cowering to the recommendations of the ACLU. The school district itself has no rules against saying God or talking about the Bible.

Good grief, what has our society come to? Are we attempting to be 100% politically correct in everything we say and do? Tisk, tisk...

Bookslinger said...

I'm sad that God has been removed from schools. But that's not the issue in Brittany McComb's case.

The issue is who gets to set the rules that are to be observed in the school-house. And that right belongs to the school corporation, as determined by the school board.

If the school board cannot be convinced to change the rules of what is acceptable speech at a graduation ceremony, then voters can elect a new school board if they choose.

It's not like standing on a soap-box and voicing your opinions on a public street or the public square.

A graduation ceremony is put on by an organization with a defined structure (the school corp) and that organization has the right to determine what is said and done at their own event over which they have legitimate authority, and especially if the event is held upon property over which they have legitimate authority.

The gospel equivalent is the fact that the church chooses to obey, and encourages members to obey, the laws of whatever country in which they are located, even when those laws adversely affect the worship or proselyting activities of the church and its members.

Allowing Brittany to speak things contrary to the school corp's rules, would be like us opening sacrament meeting to anyone to say anything they wanted. At an LDS program, on LDS property, you better be in line with what the organizers of the program want said and done.

As much as I disagree with that school's "anti God" rule, I have to support that school's right to enforce their rules at their own programs.

Implicit in the 11th Article of Faith is men's right not to worship God or acknowledge his existence. "... let them worship how, where, or what they may."

Connor Boyack said...

Bookslinger,

There is no standing rule in that school district's code about such an event. This was simply decided upon the recommendation and dumbing-down of her speech by the ACLU's lawyers.

If there was something written into the district's policies to prevent such a thing, then sure, I can understand that. But as Jeff has said, we're taking God out of the classroom, but then we're also putting in liberalistic notions and ideals: evolution, anti-americanism, perverse sexual education...

This trend deeply upsets me.

Bookslinger said...

Connor,
The decision to follow the ACLU's recommendations is itself a decision by the school corporation.

I believe my stand is in line with the 11th and 12th Articles of Faith.

When you're participating in someone else's program, on someone else's property (or even "public" property under the jurisdiction of a legally constituted body, IE, the school district/corp/board), then you "should" play by their rules, no matter how unfair those rules are.

Agreeing to participate in someone's program is tantamount to agreeing to abide by their rules for that program, no matter who recommended those rules.

"Freedom of speech" is not universal nor unlimited. You do not have freedom of speech on my property, and vice versa.

School property is technically owned by the taxpayers, but it is not like the town square where everyone has access. It is a limited access venue subject to the dictates of the school corporation or school board.

Bookslinger said...

Whether it was a standing rule or an ad-hoc rule or decision, it doesn't matter. The school has the right to make that decision either way.

I agree that the things you point out are disturbing trends. But you're trying to counter it in the wrong manner. It should be done at the school board level.

And if the school board won't change, then the voters should change the school board. And if the voters won't change the school board, then the dissenters (those who are pro-God in this case) have the option of voting with their feet, or finding alternative local schooling for their children.

Connor Boyack said...

I agree that things should be done at the schoolboard level, but issuing day-before-the-speech commands reminds me all too much of our activist judges taking the law into their own hands today.

These types of decisions should be established in the district policy, where there is an open forum for concerned students and parents to be aware and involved in the process.

Making some gestapo-like executive decision, out of line with anything in the established policy, does matter. It is intolerable, unconstitutional, and irresponsible.

My 2¢.

Walker said...

Book:

I agree with you, but only to an extent. What I don't agree with is that the school even has those rules to begin with. Yeah, we should play by the house rules, but what if the house rules are wacked and take away the fundamental right of expression? We, the voters, change them.

Of course, this goes without speaking of the evils of "censorship" (odd that all kinds of things bypass the censors in the name of free expression yet a simple high school valedictorian is banned from expressing her core beliefs). Is the student merely an organ for the school or do we actually get to hear REFLECTION and THOUGHTFULNESS in the speech? For the ACLU, apparently, one is only considered thoughtful if stick the realm of the innocuous theoretical world of ivory towers rather chapels and synagogues.

Schools ought not fear religion more than they fear the -isms. The reason they do is because of all things, religion has had major impacts on individuals--for great good and horrific ill. Communism, capitalism, etc. coming from a high school senior is fairly innocuous, but religion, there's something one can sink their teeth into. There's something that claims to change individuals from the inside out. There's something that educates in the fullest sense--again, whether it be the education of heaven or hell.

ghettooutlaw said...

Man this makes me glad that I send my children to a private Christian school! A lot of my co-workers say I am crazy to be spending that kind of money but this incident only emphasizes that it is worth every penny. There are some in my office that tell me I should check out some of the public schools in the area. I admit that some public schools have competent, dedicated teachers. However, it is important to me that my children have a Christ centered education. I cannot remeber the author of the quote but I agrre with what I once heard someone say, "Take a child, lock them in a cage, tell them they came from a monkey, treat them like an animal, and you have the United States public school system."

Bookslinger said...

Walker wrote: "Yeah, we should play by the house rules, but what if the house rules are wacked and take away the fundamental right of expression?"

I'm sorry, but what you're missing is that you DON'T have a "fundamental right of expression" in someone else's house. In this case, it's the school board's house.

To Connor: these types of things are self-correcting. If a school official acted without the school-board's approval, then this is an excellent test case for the school-board to come up with written guidelines for acceptable content of a graduation speech.

I'm sorry, but I'm "old school." Students do NOT have "freedom of expression" while on school property, at school functions, on school time. Some silly judges somewhere may have ruled the opposite, but they are wrong.

I was on the school newspaper back in the day. We thoroughly researched this. And I have researched it since. You do NOT have "freedom of expression" on someone else's property while on their time and on their dime.

To allow a student to say literally anything they want at a school function on school property is to let the inmates run the asylum.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think God, Jesus, and religion in general should be banned from schools. But the school board and their employees do have the right to make that ban if they want to.

And I hope the voters of that community vote out that school board and vote in school board members who are not anti-God or anti-faith.

You can make all sorts of good arguments against the decision. But don't call it "denying the girl her rights of freedom of speech/expression." Students do NOT have that right on school property and on school time.

Jeff is wrong on this one. Or he's right, but for the wrong reason, or something like that. :-)

Anonymous said...

Who do the public schools belong to? It's not private property. The guardians of the school are entrusted by the public in their duties. Sure, they need rules and procedures, but to shut down a reference to God is going overboard. As Jeff implies, I bet they would have had no trouble if she used the Lord's name in vain. But saying thanks is evil??

Connor Boyack said...

Bookslinger,

I never said that she had freedom of speech/expression while on the school campus (though I could certainly make an argument for that).

The point I was trying to make is that school districts must adhere to their policies and code, not making last-minute executive decisions based on third-party attorneys. If they want to ban something like this, then bring it up at the next meeting, and get it voted on and put into the code. That gives parents and the community at large ample opportunity to let their voices be heard on the matter.

I'm proud of Brittany. I would like to think that I would have done the same thing in her shoes. Others posting here are right - chances are high that had she used God's name in vain, they would have let it slide. But any act of deference, gratitude, and respect gets canned immediately.

This isn't about politics, this isn't about being politically correct,, this is about good vs. evil, plain and simple. Brittany did as Captain Moroni of old would have done. Good for her.

Connor Boyack said...

I just came across this article on the topic.. very well written.

lief said...

Wow, how far we have all come since the days when the Protestant establishment used theimprimature of government institutions to persecute members of our church. Well, come to think of it, it really wasn't so long ago that the ACLU came to the defense of LDS students who whose public school adopted religious rhetoric of a mildly anti-mormon variety. When will the body of church membership finally realize that we are all better off without government endordement of religion? I wait in vain. Yes, the government is supposed to safeguard our basic rights - why don't we care about the faithful Sikh or Jewish student who doesn't need to hear a Christian proselytizing message on top of being a minority already? Oh, I forgot, the government should just adopt the religion of the majority and be done with it.

Connor Boyack said...

Lief,

I must say that I disagree with what you wrote...

Well, come to think of it, it really wasn't so long ago that the ACLU came to the defense of LDS students...

So the fact that the ACLU once defended a mormon justifies their other (evil) positions?

...we are all better off without government endordement of religion

Allowing Brittany McCombs to make references to God and the Bible in her speech does not in any way constitute the government's endorsement of that religion, any more so than it would if I were to stand up in a public square and cry repentance unto the people. Brittany has free speech rights, and her views are hers alone. The government does not condone such acts simply because she says them in a school.

why don't we care about the faithful Sikh or Jewish student who doesn't need to hear a Christian proselytizing message on top of being a minority already

Maybe you don't, but I do care about these other people. But sanitizing a message to make it politically correct simply to not offend the minority is absurd. This nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and virtues, and those principles afford the Jew, the Hindu, and all others the same rights that we Christians enjoy. I would welcome the chance to hear somebody of another faith expess their testimony and beliefs. Would you not?

Oh, I forgot, the government should just adopt the religion of the majority and be done with it.

Again, the government isn't adopting anything. But surprisingly, the ACLU and other organizations are so bent on suppressing anything Christian so as to provide "tolerance" to those of differing views.

When are we going to stop bending to the minority's wishes at the expense of the majority?

lief said...

Connor,

I see, we see the situation fundamentally differently. I certainly agree with you that individual students should be free to express their religious views on the public school campus. Even the ACLU would vigorously defend this position.

The problem with the Brittany McCombs case is that her speech was sanctioned by the school (i.e. a part of a mandatory school event, her speech was screened by school officials as they all are), so that her speech appears to be endorsed by the school. The issue is that, even though her private speech is protected, the school cannot be seen to be endorsing her speech if it has religious content.

I think she should have and would have been allowed to give the same speech from a soapbox on school grounds during lunch or recess.

When are we going to stop bending to the minority's wishes at the expense of the majority?

Well, that's just the thing. We purposely don't live in a majoritarian country on certain issues. The founding fathers decided that there are certain inalienable rights that even a majority can't take away. The right not to be religiously coerced by taxpayer-funded instituions appears to be one of these rights - and not exclusively through the actions of "liberal, activist" judges.

If you are familiar with the history of these kinds of cases in the Supreme Court - the question is whether a reasonable observer would infer that the school had endorsed the content of her message.

Walker said...

I really do hear where you're all coming from on supporting the school's decision. We need to curb against hate language. If McCombs were to launch into a diatribe about how Muslims had caused all of the problems of the world, etc., I would be alongside the school to smack it down. School's are intended to be the vessel in which civil people are formed--civil, in this case, being defined as being able to disagree without being disagreeable.

However, the school is still OUR house--not some abstract house of the state. Free speech is not wholly abandoned, just limited. If we expect truthfulness from our students, we should allow them to express the feelings of their heart--we want to know how they succeeded in the manner they did, don't we?-- provided they do not seek to denigrate the beliefs of another.

Ezra Child said...

Freedom of religion never meant freedom from it. One student's opinion is a far cry from organized school prayer led by the teachers.

I wonder if they would have dared to pull the plug if she was giving praise to Allah? I doubt even the ACLU would touch that one.

Stories like this one I find frightenimg and disgusting. They just reinforce my decision to move my family from ultra-liberal Northern California to Utah.

Copedi said...

I have to admit I'm of mixed thought on this one. Legally, the question boils down to whether a graduation speech is taking place in a free-speech forum.

For some reason, I doubt that any school district in most of Utah or southern Idaho would allow a student graduation speaker to give a graduation speech in which he or she rails against the homophobic church leadership in Salt Lake City, calling on students to free themselves of such oppression. From a legal standpoint, I don't see how this young woman's speech was any different.

Part of me says either speech should be allowed, as it's not clear that the content of a graduation speech is something endorsed by the school district. On the other hand, part of me says the school district is well within its rights in either case to control the content of speech.

I just don't see how you can treat one situation differently than the other.

Walker said...

Please compare:

"The Mormon Church is the source of evil in the world. They have demeaned human life by excluding homosexuals from their rightful place at the table of the family"

And then:
I believe in God. I believe in Christ. John 3:16 is an example of that belief.

Enormous difference. The first is hate speech--the second is simply opinion, no different then declaring that one is a Republican (or at least it shouldn't be any different). What is the difference here from quoting G.K. Chesterton, Karl Marx, or ANYONE for that matter? I could get up in arms if someone quoted Lenin or Marx (which has certainly been done in public forums such as this), claiming that they are appealing to the ideology that has led to (if not actually caused) the death and suffering of millions. Yet when someone dares to discuss the man who had the chutzpah to decry violence, suddenly, s/he becomes intolerant.

The logic here?

Anonymous said...

How about this perspective... this girl was the valedictorian. That means she worked her fingers to the bone for four years. This was her graduation speech. Would it really have been more disruptive to the event to let her say "God" than it was to turn off her mic in the middle of the speech? They ruined her moment, and she'll never forget that.

As far as I'm concerned, she should have been able to get up there and thank Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Spongebob, or Tupac. If anybody doesn't like it, work harder so you can give the speech.

Anonymous said...

Being a Henderson local, knowing many of those at the graduation and on the school board, this whole thing is a joke. What she should have done is slammed the policy itself..."I was goinng to mention how God and Christ played a role in my life.....but the school district's policy is one of censorship, business decisions, and religious bigots (many of whom are LDS, btw) that bow to the ACLU and not to the truth of what has happened in my life". The CCSD is a bunch of backwards pansies. The homeschool community has grown tremendously there, partly b/c the CCSD cares more about bottom line than kids.

Dennis in Vancouver said...

As valedictorian, Brittany represented high achievment within the school system. She was reasonable in her decision to share ingredients of that success with others who may also wish to do well. She was right to share her perfectly legal approach to schoolwork. And whoever pulled the plug on her microphone was trumping her good news with a statement of their own.
I'm curious what would have been done if the naysayers took a less cowardly tack and tried instead to shout her down.