JISHOU, HUNAN — Ah, but the wheels of justice turn slowly …
‘Way back in June 2006, high school valedictorian Brittany McComb, after agreeing to school officials’ changes to her Christianity-laced graduation speech, proceeded to use her original text anyway. School officials’ “rapid response team” quickly cut off McComb’s microphone, to avoid anyone getting the idea a public school was preaching Christianity.
Mayhem ensued. Well, mostly legal challenges.
McComb, who is now a student in Biola University in California, acquired the legal backing of the Rutherford Institute, which filed a complaint in federal district court alleging Clark County, Nev., school officials had trampled her rights of free speech and equal protection under the law. The court found in favor of the school officials.
McComb took her case to the federal appeals court, which found no reason to overturn the previous ruling.
Then she took it to the Supreme Court, where it died a quiet death. (Technically, the SCOTUS denied a petition for a writ of certiorari, meaning the Justices were not going to tell the lower courts to hear the case all over again.)
So, what’s it all mean? McComb’s attorneys claimed that Foothill High School, by attempting to cut off her valedictory in midstream, abridged her rights of free speech and equal protection. The courts (all three, basically) said, “Not.”
Here’s a recap of history. Foothill requires student graduation speakers to submit their speeches for approval. McComb’s was quite frank in its Christian message. (The text is still available.) Fearing her religious message would run afoul of the Establishment Clause, school officials required McComb to edit her speech, which she agreed to do.
Then, on graduation day, she proceeded to give the speech as she originally wrote it. Then, in an equally ethical and adult manner, school officials pulled the plug on her mike. McComb ignored it, giving an acoustic version of her message to the gathered
Blah blah blah — war on Christianity — blah blah blah — teenage crusader appears on Fox “News” — blah blah blah — lots of blogging — blah blah blah — lawsuit — blah blah blah.
In truth, high school students have limited rights of free speech. Previous court cases have justified such limitations, and while I disagree with some of their findings, they are precedent. McComb shot herself in the foot (unwittingly, probably) when first she acceded to the principal’s editorial suggestions (giving consent to being “censored”), then going back on her word and giving the speech full speed ahead. Even if she had objected to the cuts before graduation day, I figure she still would have lost, whether she was talking about Jesus, AC/DC (the band, people, the band) or shopping at the mall. If the principal says, “no,” and the school regulations are public record and enforced fairly, the courts will side with the schools.
It sucks, but that’s the way it goes. And that’s the way it went for Brittany McComb.