Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Christian appeals unto Caesar

From the Associated Press:

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A high school valedictorian who had the plug pulled on her microphone as she gave an address referring to Jesus Christ has filed a lawsuit against school officials, claiming her rights to religious freedom and free speech were trampled.

Brittany McComb, 18, said she was giving her June 15 commencement address to some 400 graduates of Foothill High School and their family members when the sound was cut.

"God's love is so great that he gave his only son up," she said, before the microphone went dead. She continued without amplification, " an excruciating death on a cross so his blood would cover all our shortcomings and provide for us a way to heaven in accepting this grace."

I addressed this topic last month, warning that Christians face the constant danger of persecution for our beliefs.

Here's what I find hilarious about this whole situation. The school, acting in a childish and petulant way, cut her microphone. They thought they had censored her, but it blew up in their faces. Now, her speech has been talked about all over this country. Far from suppressing her speech, they amplified it and gave her a national stage.

Some supporters of the school argue that, since McComb was a featured speaker at a school function, she could be seen as a representative of the school. That is silly. She is a private citizen. McComb, as the class valedictorian, earned her spot at the graduation ceremony. While the school is free to set time, place and manner restrictions on free speech, no unit of government (including the government schools) is permitted under the Constitution to censor the content of a speech because of views some might find "offensive".

Not one single person would have been forced to listed to McComb's speech had her free-speech rights not been violated by school officials. People in the audience could have walked out at any time. Not one single person would have had their rights violated by hearing what McComb had to say. While this very simple fact is often forgotten in today's effeminate society, there is no right to not be offended by what someone says or writes.

Some have argued that this is not a free speech issue because a school can set rules for their events. These people are wrong. "Public schools" are funded by tax dollars and controlled by elected officials. (A much more accurate term is government schools, for this reason.) Therefore, they are subject to the same Constitutional limitations as any other unit of government. The 1st and 14th amendments prohibit the government from censoring speech it finds "offensive".

I am not suggesting that there is an unlimited right to speak of religious topics in a government sponsored events. School officials, for example, do not have unlimited free speech rights while performing their duties as government employees. As a public employee, a principal or teacher can say whatever he/she wants to while off the clock. While on the clock, he/she is a representative of government. The American Civil Liberties Union could make a legitimate argument that if a teacher or principal made statements like McComb's at a graduation ceremony, there would be issues related to "respecting an establishment of religion".

Even if that's not an issue at all, the government can freely regulate what government employees are permitted to say while on the clock. During that time, they are being paid for services and can be expected to abide by regulations on workplace conduct. Attempting to restrict opinions expressed by government employees who are off the clock or to punish them for those opinions, of course, is an act of treason against the Constitution and is a desecration of everything America stands for.

So what exactly was so horrible about what McComb had to say, anyway? She was to talk about the love of God and how much He sacrificed to redeem those who accept His substitutionary atonement. Would it have been a grave harm to the people in the audience to hear her unedited speech? McComb obviously worked very hard to earn her title. Instead of sabotaging the graduation ceremony like petulant children, the school officials could have avoided this whole controversy. Ultimately, God's word provides us with an answer to why McComb was persecuted for her beliefs.

"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." -- John 3:19-20