Monday, October 13, 2008

Religious freedom: Student threatened with loss of diploma for faith statement

This American case is right up there with France not permitting students to wear crosses, yarmulkes or head scarves, only it's worse. Basically, in May 2006, a straight A student witnessed to Jesus during her valedictory speech. And then
Afterwards, she was escorted to see the assistant principal, who said she would not receive her diploma because of the speech she had given.
Which the Lewis Palmer school district in Denver, Colorado, had no right to do. Then
Under duress, Erica prepared a statement saying the message was her own and was not endorsed by the principal. Brewer insisted that she include the words: "I realize that, had I asked ahead of time, I would not have been allowed to say what I did." Erica complied because she feared the school would withhold her diploma. She was also afraid that the school would put disciplinary notes in her file and would generate negative publicity, which could prevent her from becoming a school teacher. Principal Brewer sent Erica's coerced statement in an email to the entire high school community. Liberty Counsel tried to resolve the issue, but the school district refused
Liberty Counsel is litigating on former student Erica Corder's behalf.

I've no idea what gives school districts the idea that they have a duty to stop students from making personal faith statements in graduation addresses or wearing religious gear. That has nothing to do with the establishment of religion. The student is not trying to establish a religion, but to speak honestly about personal motivations and aspirations.

One outcome of suppressing faith statements is the growth of social dishonesty and false assumptions. If faith in God is the reason a student stays in school, off drugs, and out of jail - but that fact cannot be confronted - the false impression is created that spirituality has no function.

Of course, maybe some people would like that impression to be created.