Schools can take religion out of valedictorians' speeches, says federal court

In 1998, the two co-valedictorians at Oroville (California) High School were told to cut out the evangelistic parts of their invocation and valedictory speech. They couldn't say "God" or "Jesus" or use any other "nondenominational" language. When the students refused to change their remarks, they were prohibited from speaking. Lower courts ruled that because the graduation ceremony is part of the school's curriculum, such remarks can be censored for "inappropriate" speech. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit mainly focused on the mootness of the case—both men have long since graduated—but agreed with the lower courts' decision to approve the censoring. "We conclude the district's plenary control over the graduation ceremony, especially student speech, makes it apparent [the valedictory] speech would have borne the imprint of the district," Judge Raymond C. Fisher wrote. "An objective observer familiar with the district's policy and its implementation would have likely perceived that the speech carried the district's seal of approval." The decision, which includes some of the valedictorians' speeches, is available in Adobe Acrobat and HTML formats.

National Education Association violated religious rights of members, says EEOC

The Cleveland office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sent a letter to the National Education Association and its Ohio branch criticizing "unnecessary delay" responding to members who were "religious objectors" to the Ohio union's backing of abortion, homosexuality, and other issues. The religious educators wanted a portion of their dues to go to charities rather than to the union's political agenda. ...

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