Local school officials in California censored the graduation speech of a Christian student, telling him “reference to religious content is inappropriate and… will not be allowed” and threatening to cut off his microphone if he expressed his faith in Jesus Christ. Now the student’s lawyers are demanding an apology or they will sue in federal court.
Brooks Hamby was the salutatorian this year at Brawley Union High School. He is a committed Christian who wanted in his speech to give God credit for the blessings in his life and to quote the Bible’s instruction for people to be “the salt of the earth”–that is, a humble, constructive, honorable, and wholesome member of society.
School officials demanded he submit his speech to them beforehand for approval. He did, and it was rejected because he included words of prayer thanking God “for the immense opportunities and blessings you have provided us throughout our lives” and asking God to bless all of his classmates with wisdom and success.
They also rejected his second draft, because he still included a reference to Jesus Christ, and then his third, because it was still “too religious” and contained the word “Bible.”
Finally, he gave his fourth version, substituting for “Bible” a reference to “the bestselling book of all time.” Even this was too much for some militant secularists, and Hamby faces the possibility of a negative mark on his final record.
Hamby has retained Texas-based Liberty Institute to represent him, and his lawyer spoke exclusively with Breitbart News.
“Censoring a top student and threatening to turn off his microphone mid-speech just because he references his faith is a bullying tactic that a school superintendent should never use,” says Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys. “The Supreme Court has made clear that students do not surrender their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate–or the graduation ceremony.”
Liberty Institute is demanding a meeting with the school superintendent followed by a formal public apology to Hamby exonerating him of any wrongdoing. They also want a promise that Brawley Union High School will make the necessary policy changes to ensure this unconstitutional censorship never happens again.
Dys added that he hopes students across the nation know that legal help is available to protect their constitutional rights. “Students should never rely on the legal advice of their school’s attorney when they are threatened with censorship. They need to call Liberty Institute and let us help defend and restore their religious liberty,” Dys concluded.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.