Does religion have a place at public school graduations?
Wed, Jun 29, 2011 (2:15 p.m.)
In 2006, Foothill High School valedictorian Brittany McComb was silenced after deviating from a previously-approved speech at the school’s graduation. This wasn’t just a consent issue—her mic was cut because she began to read from her speech’s original version, one that included references to “the Lord” and “Christ” and bible citations. But McComb didn’t go quietly. The new graduate brought a suit against the Clark County School District for violating her First Amendment rights.
Those at Green Valley High School’s June 22 graduation ceremony at the Thomas & Mack Center might have been reminded of that controversial 2006 case when County Commissioner Mary Beth Scow took the mic. Scow, who had also spoken at McComb’s graduation, was in attendance to see her last child graduate from the Henderson school. She ended her speech with a piece of advice, “Choose the right.”
The saying, often abbreviated to “CTR,” is a motto commonly used by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—a reminder to Mormons to always act righteously.
They were the last three words the Commissioner uttered, so Scow’s mic was not cut off. No one booed or jeered, and the audience seemed completely unaffected by the not-so-secular saying.
Still, when even a longtime member of the CCSD Board of Trustees invokes religion at a public school graduation, how can officials expect anyone to refrain—to, in this case, “choose the right”?