High Court Refuses to Revive Battle Over Religious Graduation Speech

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By Lawrence D. Jones, Christian Post Reporter
November 17, 2009|8:24 am

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear the case of a high school valedictorian whose speech was cut short by school officials after she began speaking about the role her beliefs played in her success in life.

The justices said Monday they will not revive the lawsuit filed by Brittany McComb of Henderson, Nev., who has accused school officials of violating her free speech rights and having engaged in viewpoint discrimination when they censored her speech in 2006 because of its Christian content.

McComb, who was one of three valedictorians selected to give a speech at Foothill’s annual commencement ceremony in spring 2006, was in the middle of delivering her speech to the crowd of nearly 400 graduates and their families when school officials turned off her microphone. Officials had cut short McComb’s speech after she departed from the officially-approved text and went on to mention Jesus and the Bible.

Despite extensive jeers from the audience over the school officials' actions, McComb was not permitted to finish her valedictory speech. As a result, McComb filed a First Amendment lawsuit against Foothill High School officials in July 2006 with the assistance of The Rutherford Institute.

In June 2007, the U.S. District Court for Nevada rejected a second attempt by the school district to have the case dismissed and affirmed that the lawsuit raised substantial claims of infringement of McComb's right of free speech. School officials subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeals, which dismissed the case, holding that McComb had no right to give her speech, which it deemed to be "proselytizing."

Following the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear McComb’s case, John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute said it was a “sad day for the cause of freedom.”

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"When the Supreme Court cannot clear their calendar to hear a case of this magnitude, then our freedoms are in jeopardy,” he stated.

“Such censorship and discrimination should not be permitted in America."

Video footage of McComb's interrupted speech and The Rutherford Institute's Supreme Court petition are available at www.rutherford.org.

The case is McComb v. Crehan, 08-1566.

 

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