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Censored Valedictorian Stands Up for God, Free Speech

The high school valedictorian whose speech was cut short by school officials last week appeared on ‘‘Jay Sekulow Live!’’ on Tuesday and defended her decision to thank God and make Christian references in her address. 

“I was hoping they were going to turn it back on,” she told Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. “... But God had bigger plans. It was kind of exciting, because everybody was upset.

Last Thursday at Las Vegas-based Foothill High School, senior Brittany McComb’s speech was ended abruptly to the dismay of the crowd of nearly 400 graduates and their families after she departed from the officially-approved text and went on to mention Jesus and the Bible.  Officials had cut her microphone before she could finish her speech as people in the audience “angrily booed” school officials, according to Atlanta’s WSB-TV.com.

“It was just nice to see people standing up for God, number one, and then freedom of speech, number two,” McComb said on the Christian legal-focused radio show. “There was an atheist that called in to one of the news stations saying that I should have been able to talk and that they shouldn't have turned off my microphone. And he doesn't even believe in God.”

McComb’s officially approved speech had been revised by administrators who cut six references to God or Christ and omitted two Biblical references.  Moreover, a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion was also deleted.  Officials had told McComb that her speech might offend some people. 

However, the Foothill graduate said to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that “God's the biggest part of my life. Just like other valedictorians thank their parents, I wanted to thank my Lord and Savior.”

The matter of free speech also played a role in the valedictorian’s decision to defy authorities, said McComb. 

“The thing is, it is freedom of speech, so I was upset,” said McComb on the “Jay Sekulow Live!” radio program.  “I was really leery about having to defy authority…It took me a while, but I answer to a higher authority and it’s my freedom of speech, and I had to come to terms with that.” 

The general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, however, defended school officials’ decision to end the speech, saying that McComb’s speech could have been viewed as a school-sponsored prayer. 

“There should be no controversy here,” Allen Lichtenstein said when he read McComb’s unedited speech according to the Baptist Press. “It’s important for people to understand that a student was given a school-sponsored forum by a school and therefore, in essence, it was a school-sponsored speech.”

The Clark County School Board, which oversees Foothill High School, in a 2003 amended regulation prohibited district officials from organizing prayers at graduation or choosing speakers in a way that favors religious speech.

During the radio program, the chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice and host of the show, Jay Sekulow, concluded, “You had the right to make that speech.  You had the right to include a reference to your faith. You had the right to include a reference to Jesus. And you should not have been censored. And the ACLU and the school district here is absolutely wrong.”

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