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. "The NEA union's illegal scheme was designed to harass and humiliate teachers of faith," says Randy Wanke, of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is representing the teachers.

Virgin Mary apparition disappears after window is cleaned

Hundreds of people have traveled to a small home in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to see an outline resembling Our Lady of Guadalupe. Some called it a miracle, but Msgr. Michael Alliegro, sent by the local diocesan office to inspect the window, said, "There really is no outline; it's a rainbow-colored splotch." In any case, the image disappeared after Ramon Collado, whose window had the splotch/Mary, washed it. "Cleaning the window didn't remove her," says Collado. "She left when she was ready to leave."

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Speaking of rainbow-colored splotches …

Neighbors of a Methodist church in south Wales wish they could make the church's paint job disappear as easily as Collado cleared away the Virgin Mary. Blue, red, yellow, purple, orange, and silver don't really go together, they say—especially not on a church. "I must admit I think it looks terrible," says Councillor Bill Harris. "The multi-colored paintwork has really spoiled the appearance of the church and spoiled the appearance of the estate. These are the sort of colors you would expect to find in the Caribbean—the church used to look respectable but now it has lost its character." The church, which says it is "fed up with the complaints," says they painted it to attract youth to the church. One can imagine the meeting where the paint job was decided: "These kids today. They really like purple." "Actually, I talked to my grandson, and he really likes orange." "Yeah, but we need something for the 21st century. Something that says now. Like silver." "Hey guys! I've got a great idea!" (Here's a story about a rainbow controversy of a different color.)

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