November 21, 2009

The AP, describing a case the Supreme Court recently turned down, writes: "the school valedictorian strayed from an approved text to provide a graphic account of Jesus' crucifixion..."

That piqued my curiosity, and not just because I teach "Religion and the Constitution" and want to know about the cases in the area. I wanted to know just how graphically a high school girl would describe the crucifixion in front of the assembled graduating class.
During McComb's speech at the Foothill High School graduation in 2006, officials turned off McComb's microphone when the school valedictorian strayed from an approved text to provide a graphic account of Jesus' crucifixion and credit God for her success in school.
How much piercing and blood-spurting and agonizing pain are we talking about? Did she go all "Passion of the Christ" on them? How long did the school authorities let her go before they freaked out about the Establishment Clause (or the deviation from the approved text) and kill the microphone?

Here's the video. Jesus comes up just after 2:00, when the student, Brittany McComb says "God's love is so great that he gave us his only son..." — and the microphone dies right there. Come on! That wasn't graphic. It wasn't even an account. And — since many Christians would think that God's giving us Jesus means the life he lived with us — it may not even refer to the crucifixion!

64 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

Stuff like this makes you want to shake you head in disbelief. Lighten up folks. This is not the least bit offensive or over the line. The only thing is you have to sit respectfully if the kid on the podium is Hindu or Muslim or whatever.

Free speech is good, but only if it is free.

kent said...

Come on! That wasn't graphic. It wasn't even an account.

What, the AP... lie? GETOUTTATOWN!!!

miller said...

Now if she had shouted "Allahu Akbar!" then we would need to let her speak.

edutcher said...

Someday, somebody is going to inform all these learned jurists and educators what an Establishment of Religion is, and what the phrase "nor restrict the practice thereof" means.

PS miller, you nailed it.

Adele Mundy said...

How many fact checkers did they use on this story?

hdhouse said...

Get a life folks.

Thank god/God is general. Thanking God/god for HER success as in "I thank God/god".

She ddn't do the graphic but no one in an audience in a public/school related function needs to hear the "gave His only begotton son" stuff.

They were right to kill the mic. She had a speech that was approved and she went astray from it. She broke her agreement.

elHombre said...

I'd remove "hyperbole" from the labels. The AP has been aggressively lying for some time now to promote the secular progressive agenda.

WV "dinglyze" = Obviously incorrect! The correct term to describe AP BS is "dunglyze."

Adele Mundy said...

hd hates the baby Jesus.

kent said...

no one in an audience in a public/school related function needs to hear the "gave His only begotton son" stuff.

OUT: "Gave His only begotten son."

IN: "Mmmmmm, mmmmmm, mmmmmm."

Joe Giles said...

This is why the blog GetReligion exists.

"The press...just doesn't get religion." -- William Schneider

Adele Mundy said...

hd hates anyone who is not an extreme left wing urban elite.

Everyone else should have their microphone turned off.

Flexo said...

Some of the most ignorant people in the world are today's "educators." And the worst of the bunch are administrators, who are often nothing more than I'm-bigger-than-you bullies and who act like authoritarian thugs over their students.

God help anyone who is made to spend hours each day with these folks.

elHombre said...

hdhouse wrote: They were right to kill the mic. She had a speech that was approved and she went astray from it. She broke her agreement.

In the fascist/statist world envisioned by hdhouse and his ilk, valedictory speeches are all about approval of, and censorship by, government teachers and administrators.

EDH said...

Personally, I would have cut her off earlier, while droning on about the "good old no grades, no pressure pre-school days" when she tried to put circle blocks into square cut-outs.

Although I'm not sure the mic should have been cut because of the unapproved religious content of her speech, ironically my seat squirming reaction would have been to say "indeed, there is a merciful God in Heaven. Hallelujah!"

chuck b. said...

Too bad they cut her off--that would have been fun! Maybe we can do it here..?

Pogo said...

Maybe she had PTSD from years of dealing with public high school educrats.

If she had blown herself up for PETA, they would have blamed Bush.

In any case, Christianity has survived censors far more brutal than this, so hack away at the Constitution, hdhouse, hack away.

TMink said...

Yeah, what does she know? She only made the highest grades in her class.

Never mind.

Trey

david7134 said...

I don't know how many of you have to put up with the religious element in this country, but being in the South I know exactly what this girl was doing. She was giving her testimonial. She was most definitely not giving a speech. Her testimonial is how she found Jesus, God or whatever was turning her on at the time. It has nothing to do with a school speech. You can tell by the crowd reaction that they were beginning to get into it. The authorities did the appropriate thing as if I had been there, I would have been compelled to leave (by my wife as she would not want me responding to the little girl).

JAL said...

Having sat through the HS valedictorian and salutatorian speeches at youngest daughter's graduation in 2008 this gal probably was pretty mainstream.

The V of my daughter's class -- who we knew -- was a super smart girl committed to getting into an Ivy League school. She took ALL AP classes her senior year.

Her speech was a completely moronic screed on breaking all the rules. Apparently her IQ and family upbringing failed her as she poised on the edge of adulthood.

My estimation of her tanked through the civic center floor.

So flipping the switch on a statement about how God loves us and gave his son (whatever that might mean to whoever) is just childish. Plenty of people and even churches throughout history manage to make that pretty innocuous with a yawn.

So yes, miller, where was the US military when it came to flipping the switch on Nidal SoA Hasan?

Some layers of our culture are seriously unraveling.

v warnap
Do you think we should take a nap before we deal with the war?

kent said...

You can tell by the crowd reaction that they were beginning to get into it.

Oh, dear, sweet, fluffy Baby Obama! No! NOOOOOOO -- !!!

/s

Beta Conservative said...

Are we sure she wasn't a little confused and said God when she meant Obama. Cuz the public schools are fine with that.

David said...

Sounds like someone was tipped in advance that she was going to go all Jesus on them. That's a very quick hook.

Back in my day, the supposed dark ages before progressive thought enlightened us, there was no approval process for valedictorians or other student speakers.

"Approved text . . ." That's the real scandal here.

edutcher said...

david7134 said...

I don't know how many of you have to put up with the religious element in this country, but being in the South I know exactly what this girl was doing. She was giving her testimonial.

... and was dumb enough to take that Freedom of Speech stuff literally.

Doesn't she know that only applies to lefty atheists?

WV "slumstan" Make up your own

PatCA said...

It sounds like the audience is pretty healthy, if the fascists in charge aren't.

Hasan, Brittany. Compare and contrast. This is how sick our society is.

traditionalguy said...

Go easy on Hd. He is afraid to hear the word that could remove his best beliefs in his independence of thought. Jesus can defend Himself. If you are not sure, then read Johns Revelation to the Churches.This war is over the message that Christians call the Good News. To the extent that Christians boldly speak out that message there is a freeing of people from misery and despair and guilt that has been leading them to remain weak serfs with suicidal actions. The Government Nanny Statists cannot permit that freedom of their subjects, or so it seems, because they continue to desparately mis-read the First Amendment as if that shows a superior intellectual level. Don't tell them, but that only shows that they are stuck on stupid for lack of a real argument.

Adele Mundy said...

You should not go easy on hd. He would not go easy on you. His contempt for church going normal Americans knows no bounds. He is an elitist of the first magnitude and a pompous fool who strangely enough cannot converse in the English language. He wants you to shut up and listen to your betters.

Ken said...

Ann,

Aren't you a democrat? You do realize YOU bear responsibility for this. Democrats have been waging a war on the religious for decades now.

I read this blog just to remind myself that there really are people who are so out of touch with the reality of their actions when compared to the things they criticize.

Charlie Eklund said...

Free speech? Sure, it's guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

But only if you stick to the text, which government employees were kind enough to approve in advance.

Flexo said...

Everyone knows that academia's celebration of diversity does not include Christianity.

That said, in countless ways, our Western culture and even our language is undeniably Christianized, even if Christ Himself is spurned.

For example, a fairly typical purpose of graduation speeches is to inspire the graduates, to talk about things that have inspired the speaker and to inspire the grads and families to do great things.

But that very word, "inspire," is a Judeo-Christian concept. To be in/spired means for one to be "in" the "Spirit," that is, for the "Spirit" to go "in" to the person.

Western culture and language is invariably Christianized, even if not (now) specifically Christian.

traditionalguy said...

Adele...Hd is an educated man, and he is loved by God since Jesus seems to love sinners more than You or I like to love them. It's never over until death. Hd could read the Gospel of Mark in a modern translation, such as J B Phillips, and become a believer. He acts a lot like a certain Saul of Tarsus mentionned in scripture, who met the resurrected Jesus and then did some valuable things and wrote some powerful words to help us non-Jewish Christians catch up.

miller said...

Seriously, now.

Think about this. You are at a graduation ceremony. It's about the kids. It's a formalized affair (not necessarily "formal"), ritualized. We expect to hear someone speak to us, and we don't expect to pay much attention.

Some girl gets up and gives a fairly predictable speech. You listen politely and applaud, and then the next thing happens, and the graduation ceremony proceeds, and you go home.

For some reason, you just can't sit there politely while someone tells her story?

What's wrong with us that we are so unable to simply listen? We don't have to approve of someone's speech.

At my high school graduation I had to listen to a few valedictorians. I don't think I remembered any of them even 10 minutes later. And some of them were weirdly pharmocopially affected. (It was a California high school. Go figure.)

Somehow I survived it all.

But our precious ears must - simply must - be protected from religious speech because somehow that is EVIL!

Tender dainty ears. Of kids who are off to college.

I don't get it.

Palladian said...

Whether this student's speech was appropriate for the occasion is not the issue here.

Testimonial of her faith, screed about evil Rethuglicans, heartfelt plea to save abandoned Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, whatever speech they might have cut off, it should please no one and disturb everyone when government employees are so afraid of speech as to silence it. Unless she was hurling obscenities or getting seriously out of control and inciting a riot, she should have been allowed to speak. If the crowd didn't like it they could have responded using their right to free speech. I don't like people proselytizing to me, but if it was a short little bit about how faith related to her success, what's the harm? If she had gone on and on people could have gotten up and left or even (gasp!) responded to her. Much healthier than having some government employee deciding what people can and cannot hear in a government-controlled space. At a private school it would be a totally different issue but at a public school the 1st Amendment certainly applies.

I have a feeling that the spluttering hdhouse would be cheering the brave dissenter who turned his speech into a rant about George W. Bush, and decrying the fascism of the school officials who cut that person's microphone. And he'd be right in his outrage. But of course it's not free speech some people care about. It's correct speech. I am always happy to hear people speaking freely, and happily respond if I don't like what's being said. Freedom isn't always comfortable, and free speech isn't only applicable to people who you agree with and want to hear.

These "educators" just gave a dangerous parting lesson to these students: those with the power to silence speech should do so at the slightest hint of their discomfort.

Adele Mundy said...

You are true Christian traditionalguy. So I agree with you. Let’s hope hd will be like Saul of Tarsus.

I would like to see him struck by lightning.

traditionalguy said...

Adel...Remember that Saul was sent into his new career with God's offhand comment that, "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name".

JAL said...

@ Palladian Unless she was hurling obscenities or getting seriously out of control and inciting a riot

Err... Palladian. Why the limits? Surely you know that obscenities are more protected than the word "Jesus."

And getting out of control and inciting a riot ... isn't that sort of what the Gates deal bordered on? Look where that got Officer Crowley and Prof Gates. The White House! Sort of.

OK, so not in a public forum, but hey. Gotta control dangerous and seditious speech.

Adele Mundy said...

When American colonialists were captured by Iroquois, the thing they feared the most was to be turned over to the women.

elHombre said...

David 7134 wrote (10:42): I don't know how many of you have to put up with the religious element in this country, but being in the South I know exactly what this girl was doing.... The authorities did the appropriate thing as if I had been there, I would have been compelled to leave (by my wife as she would not want me responding to the little girl).

Your wife is evidently a wise woman who knows how to keep you from embarrassing yourself. You should ask her to monitor your comments here.

Sam said...

There is both more and less to this case than the post indicates. The school district takes the view, categorically, that all speech during commencement ceremonies is speech controlled by the school district. Its rules said that the district would not exercise that control by restricting speech on the basis of religious expression, it reserve the right to bar speech that it considered to be proselytizing religion on the ground that such speech (given the premise of school district control) violated the establishment clause. Thus, while this speaker, and at least one other of the valedictorians spoke at some length about their religious views, the school district cut off the portion it felt was proselytizing. (The speaker had agreed to omit that portion but apparently changed her mind).
The problem here is more fundamental than either the post or the comments suggest. This school district, like a great many, characterizes student speech in many contexts as under its control; many feel that this is outrageous while others believe that students have no rights at school (some statements by Justice Thomas trend toward this line). Then, having asserted control over student speech, the school district treats such speech as effectively its own for establishment clause purposes -- which does involve some interesting issues about when a state is doing indirectly something that it cannot do directly.
Finally, these policies then require the school district to engage in line-drawing between what is and is not proselytizing speech, which is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
Those who think this is about a particular religion miss these more basic issues and ignore the considerable religious content of the speech that was permitted at the ceremony in question. Perhaps the good professor could draw on her course materials to give some further assessment.

miller said...

Let's suppose this benighted girl spoke glowingly about AGW or SSM or some other leftwing talking point.

Would she have the same restrictions?

Of course not.

This is stifling the speech based upon content.

Is that somehow OK when it's about Baby Jesus and not OK when it's about Nationalized Health Care?

All these people who claim to be strong enough not to believe in God seem to require a lot of protection from speech about a non-existent harmless deity.

Synova said...

Our school started requiring pre-approval for valedictorian speeches after one girl got up there and said that everyone sucked, the school and all the teachers, that any success she had was in spite of them and she was glad to be out of there.

;-)

Those things are what make graduation ceremonies and car races fun. There's always a chance of something dramatic happening.

In any case... or rather, in the case of the AP is anyone surprised that they misrepresented the boring truth in favor of something dramatic?

I think they actually *teach* that in journalism schools. Granted, I have only anecdotal evidence of it from one journalism major who "edited" a newsletter article I wrote and replaced all the boring verbs with strong, active ones.

"Squirmed" for "sat", as I recall.

TMink said...

david wrote: "if I had been there, I would have been compelled to leave"

What is inside you that would compell you to flee the Gospel? That sounds like a major problem for you. Possibly an eternal problem. Maybe you should leave the South so you hear less about Jesus, I hear there are ways out of here. They leave every day.

Trey

Synova said...

"...The authorities did the appropriate thing as if I had been there, I would have been compelled to leave (by my wife as she would not want me responding to the little girl)."

elHombre: "Your wife is evidently a wise woman who knows how to keep you from embarrassing yourself. You should ask her to monitor your comments here."

I'll admit... I don't quite "get" the notion of admitting in public that an adult would go off on a young person for stating her beliefs in a speech that was supposed to be a testimonial about herself and her school career and what she felt contributed to her success.

Who admits something like that?

It's that a bit like saying... "my wife steered me away from the dwarf in the wheelchair because she knew that I couldn't resist dwarf tipping if I got in arms reach."

Really.

miller said...

Synova

I laughed out loud. Because I share in that weakness for dwarf-tipping.

I guess I just have a short temper.

JAL said...

David 7134 I don't know how many of you have to put up with the religious element in this country

?

I can think of a few places in the world where that might not be a problem for you, if indeed it is a problem.

Church steeples annoy you much?

david7134 said...

I note that my earlier post upset a few of the believers. This little girl giving a testimoney as a speech is entirely inappropriate. She most definitely has freedom of speech. So she could be escorted out to the sidewalk and she can continue her speech all night. As to compelling others to listen to the syrupy, meaningless drivel, that is different. If you want to do the religous thing, what is wrong with confining your actions to a church or doing it in private? Why do you feel compelled to go on and on and on about it around people who could care less?

Freeman Hunt said...

I was an atheist at the time I graduated high school. Our co-valedictorians each spoke about Jesus extensively, as I recall, attributing their successes to him. There was even a prayer.

Never occurred to me to be offended. Just like none of them later complained that they were offended when I didn't bow my head.

Palladian said...

"So she could be escorted out to the sidewalk and she can continue her speech all night."

A public school is public property. No need to go out to the sidewalk.

"Why do you feel compelled to go on and on and on about it around people who could care less?"

For the same reason, I guess, that "you people" go on and on and on about how much you hate religion. It's called free speech! There's nothing in the Constitution or its Amendments about freedom from being offended.

And the correct phrase is " couldn't care less". Since we know you're not reading the Bible or the Koran in your spare time, why not try reading some grammar textbooks?

TMink said...

As Bible believing southern straight guy I was going to set David's tires but I see my Yankee gay atheist friend Palladian beat me to it.

I love you man.

Trey

Shanna said...

Personally, I would have cut her off earlier, while droning on about the "good old no grades, no pressure pre-school days" when she tried to put circle blocks into square cut-outs.

At least they didn't have to hear FOUR graduation speeches, two about Forest Gump!

kent said...

She most definitely has freedom of speech. [...] If you want to do the religous thing, what is wrong with confining your actions to a church or doing it in private?

Unintentional self-parody of such a rare, high order legitimately qualifies as performance art.

Synova said...

"If you want to do the religous thing, what is wrong with confining your actions to a church or doing it in private?"

If you want to do that homosexual thing, what is wrong with confining your actions to gay bars or only seeing your boyfriend in private?

After all, it's not stopping you or punishing you for being gay, just because people never want to hear about it or know you exist.

holdfast said...

Take heart Christians! The more that @sshole school administrators try to suppress Christianity, the cooler it will become.

In all seriousness, having grown up Jewish in an area with pretty much no other Jews (1350 students at my high school, and 4 of them Jewish, including me), I guess I got used to Christians doing their thing and not letting it bother me in the least. I mean, the carols still had Jesus back in them when I was in Elementary School, and the only people who didn't want to play along were the Jehovah's Witnesses, and they just went to the library and read their book.

In other words, lighten up Francis!

miller said...

The thing is, we must at all costs prevent people from being uncomfortable at certain speech, but not at other certain speech.

So kid in high school telling her peers and parents what it was like in high school and mentioning a religious figure?

BAD BAD BAD

Kid in high school telling same how he was persecuted for being gay?

GOOD GOOD GOOD

It's all about who's being offended. Offend the bourgeoisie? Good. Offend the liberal elite? Bad.

It's all so clear to me now.

hdhouse said...

Adele Mundy said...
hd hates anyone who is not an extreme left wing urban elite.

Everyone else should have their microphone turned off."

I'd turn yours off Adele if I didn't have to reach up your butt to find it.

Adele Mundy said...

You never disappoint hd.

miller said...

It's not that he never fails to disappoint - it's more that he simply is predictable.

Althouse says X and hdhouse says Not X.

Predictable, and tiresome.

And if confronted, he retreats into vulgarity.

So cool to use power language!

kent said...

It's not that he never fails to disappoint - it's more that he simply is predictable.


False binary. ;)

The Crack Emcee said...

You teach "Religion and the Constitution"?

You're kidding, right?

Ann Althouse said...

Why does that seem ridiculous?

Palladian said...

"Why does that seem ridiculous?"

Everything seems ridiculous to Crack Emcee.

Palladian said...

"As Bible believing southern straight guy I was going to set David's tires but I see my Yankee gay atheist friend Palladian beat me to it.

I love you man.

Trey"


Thank you Trey, though I'm not an atheist, I'll accept the compliment.

kent said...

Why does that seem ridiculous?


Because you're not teaching "Race, Transgenderism and the Constitution: the Corprocratic Blood-for-Oil Paradigm," instead. The way a real, true intellect, like -- oh, say, Andrea Dworkin, or Ward Churchill -- would, in your position. ;)

WV: dimentic. At the very least.

Kev said...

There's nothing in the Constitution or its Amendments about freedom from being offended.

Well said, Palladian. Now, if we could only keep people from forgetting that important point so often...

Kev said...

Some of the most ignorant people in the world are today's "educators." And the worst of the bunch are administrators, who are often nothing more than I'm-bigger-than-you bullies and who act like authoritarian thugs over their students.

Flexo, you're speaking my language here. And for the latest example of this idea, I bring you here to Texas, where a school sent a seventh-grader home for the heinous crime of wearing "emo pants" to school. (That worked so well that the kid is now going to be homeschooled.)