A similar story about a valedictorian at a South Carolina high school ripping up his speech and delivering the Lord’s Prayer, in defiance of school policy, got a lot of reaction on the reader blogs. Today comes another story about a valedictorian in Texas who got his mic cut off after he diverged from his school-approved remarks into talking about how his faith helped him through adolescence.
Reimer thanked his parents, teachers and classmates. “Most people have never ever heard me speak much less see me smile,” said Reimer.
He then talked about his faith and God, “Most important I want to thank God for giving us the only son who went through excruciating death on a cross…”
Then he said it was his constitutional right to talk about such topics. “I was threatened with having the mic turned off,” and right then the mic was turned off. Reimer continued with his speech, but not everyone heard it. …
JISD officials approve all speeches and some students said Reimer went with a copy of one that wasn’t approved.
“He sent in a prior speech before that and they threw it away so he wasn’t going to let them tell him what to say – what not to say,” said graduate Bryce Daniels.
The school defended itself by saying the problem wasn’t so much the religious content of the speech but rather that the student had departed from his pre-approved remarks:
The District has reviewed the rules and policy regarding graduation speech, and it has been determined that policy was followed at the Joshua High School 2013 Graduation Ceremony. The valedictorian, salutatorian, and class historian speeches were reviewed in advance by the campus staff, prior to the graduation ceremony. Student speakers were told that if their speeches deviated from the prior-reviewed material, the microphone would be turned off, regardless of content. When one student’s speech deviated from the prior-reviewed speech, the microphone was turned off, pursuant to District policy and procedure.
This is quite the lesson in free speech these students are getting. Either they stick to government-approved speech, or they’ll be silenced. One could argue that public schools have an interest in pre-approving student speeches to ensure student discipline, but as Ed Morrissey notes I don’t see that the schools have carte blanche to censor content.
We seem to have reached a strange crossroads in the history of American liberty, where speech and religious expression are restricted, ludicrously, under the guise of “tolerance” and “diversity.”
What’s happening is called a heckler’s veto. Those intolerant of religious expression cause so many problems with complaints and protests and lawsuits that the freedom of the religious to talk about or express their faith in public is being infringed.
Just because you’re an atheist, or just someone who disapproves of public expressions of religion, doesn’t mean your intolerance is a trump card limiting other people’s freedom. Living in a free society, living in a diverse society, means tolerating that other people hold views different from your own and have the same rights you do to express those views in public. Of course, that goes for Christians tolerating Muslim expression. And Muslims and Christians tolerating atheist expression, etc., etc.
I always have to laugh (as an atheist) at atheist and supposed “civil liberties” groups using their 1st amendment right to protest as a bully stick with which to beat down other people’s right to express their religion.
Or, I would laugh, but it’s not very funny.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, taxpayers have paid for a prayer space and foot bath for Muslim taxi drivers.