High Court Asked to Review Religious Graduation Speech Case

The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to review the decision of a lower court that affirmed that there was no constitutional violation in the case a high school valedictorian who shared about Jesus Christ in the course of her graduation speech.

 Fla.-based legal group Liberty Counsel filed the request this past week on behalf of Erica Corder after the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the ruling of a district court, which said it was not improper for Lewis-Palmer High School in Monument, Colo., to force Corder to apologize for her 2006 speech as it was "school-sponsored."

But Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, argues that "a valedictorian's speech is not government speech."

"Everyone knows that a valedictorian earned the high GPA and understands the speech belongs to the student," he stated this past Thursday. "It is reprehensible that the school district threatened to withhold Erica Corder's diploma, merely because a few sentences of her 30-second speech included references to God."

According to Liberty Counsel, Corder was escorted to the assistant principal's office after deviating from her prepared speech for Lewis-Palmer's 2006 graduation ceremony and inviting the audience to learn more about Jesus Christ.

"We are all capable of standing firm and expressing our own beliefs, which is why I need to tell you about someone who loves you more than you could ever imagine. He died for you on a cross over 2,000 years ago, yet was resurrected and is living today in heaven. His name is Jesus Christ," Corder had stated. "If you don't already know Him personally I encourage you to find out more about the sacrifice He made for you so that you now have the opportunity to live in eternity with Him."

In response to Corder's statement, Principal Mark Brewer said the valedictorian's diploma would be withheld from her unless she issued a public apology for her actions. But even when she did, Corder was still not allowed to graduate.

Corder wasn't issued a diploma until she added the sentence: "I realize that, had I asked ahead of time, I would not have been allowed to say what I did."

Since August 2007, Corder has been asking the courts to issue an injunction against the school preventing similar acts that violate the First Amendment rights of students.

The school district, meanwhile, maintains that "all actions taken by school officials were constitutionally appropriate."

The case is Corder v. Lewis-Palmer School District No. 38.