Pomp and Supplications

Valedictorian forced to remove references to God from speech http://abc13.com/3507370/

Lawsuits about prayer at graduation ceremonies were incredibly common during the 1990s and early 2000s, but I haven’t seen much litigation here in the last decade. Having worked with school districts on a number of these disputes, while I have no idea what this particular student planned to say, I have seen some valedictorian speeches that were one “Amen” short of a good old-fashioned Baptist sermon — and proselytization can make the event very uncomfortable for many members of the audience. That said, I suspect that a court faced with one of these disputes today would follow the lead of the recent Town of Greece decision from the Supreme Court and rule that if a graduation speaker is chosen through a relatively neutral method, the government should not interfere with what the speaker individually decides to say. But given cases like Lee v. Weisman and Santa Fe ISD v. Doe, both of severely limited religious speech at high school events (Lee in particular was a graduation ceremony case), it simply is not clear what a court would do with overtly religious speech in a high school valedictorian address.