Saturday, June 4, 2011

ACLU Speech Police Lose Bid to Force Public School to Remove Religion from Graduation Ceremonies; Federal Appeals Court Reverses Censorship of God by ACLU; American Library Association Labels Such ACLU Censorship as Success Stories

"ACLU is dead."—
5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
ACLU speech police lose bid to force a public school to remove religion from graduation ceremonies.  A federal appeals court reversed a federal district court that approved the censorship of God by the ACLU.  And the American Library Association [ALA] approves of such actions by the ACLU to censor students.

I recently wrote, "ACLU Double Standard in Public Schools on a Single Person Bringing Complaints."  Well, the ACLU threatened yet another school, again based on the complaint of a single person, actually got a federal judge to order the school what not to say—so much for freedom of speech, right?—and a federal appeals court just overruled the lower court and ordered the ACLU to take a flying leap.  See for yourself:
  • "Federal Court Lifts Ban on Public Prayer at Texas High School Graduation After Uproar," by Todd Starnes and AP, FOXNews, 3 June 2011, emphasis and hyperlinks mine.
    "This is a complete victory for religious freedom and for Angela," said Kelly Shackelford, president/CEO of Liberty Institute, which had represented class valedictorian Angela Hildenbrand in the appeal.  "We are thrilled that she will be able to give her prayer without censorship in her valedictorian speech tomorrow night.  No citizen has the right to ask the government to bind and gag the free speech of another citizen."

    Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery's initial ban had been denounced as an "activist decision" by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who called it "exactly the wrong civics lesson to teach to the class of 2011."

    Biery had ruled Thursday in favor of Christa and Danny Schultz, who sued to block such religious expressions at their son's graduation.  Among the words or phrases Biery had banned were:  "join in prayer," "bow their heads," "amen," and "prayer."

    He also ordered the school district to remove the terms "invocation" and "benediction" from the graduation program, in favor of "opening remarks" and "closing remarks."

    Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott responded by voicing support for the school district in its appeal.

    "Part of this goes to the very heart of the unraveling of moral values in this country," Abbott told Fox News Radio, saying the judge wanted to turn school administrators into "speech police."

    "I’ve never seen such a restriction on speech issued by a court or the government," Abbott told Fox News Radio.  "It seems like a trampling of the First Amendment rather than protecting the First Amendment."

Can you believe this?  The vaunted ACLU promoting censorship and forcing schools to be speech police, all the while unraveling the moral values of our country.  Words of the news story, not mine.  The ACLU is trampling the First Amendment.  The Texas Attorney General said that, not me.

But it's true, is it not?  See, e.g., "Faith Under Fire: Graduating Students Defy ACLU; Seniors Stand and Recite Lord's Prayer," by Bob Unruh, WorldNetDaily, 5 June 2009.

To remind everyone why I raise this issue, it is because the American Library Association approves of such censorship.  It should not be viewed as authoritative on issues it claims are "censorship."  It keeps using the shibboleth that schools should not be help hostage to a single parent, yet that's what the ACLU does again and again while the ALA labels such actions as "success stories."  The ACLU is the ALA's comrade-in-arms.  Consider, e.g., US v. ALA et al. (the "et al." includes the ACLU), where both worked together to stop the "Children's Internet Protection Act."  They both lost.  Children won.

That Old Devil ALA!
Indeed, the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom [OIF] was created by an ACLU state leader (see also, "That Old Devil ALA!," by Karen G. Schneider, American Libraries, October 2000) and it is the OIF that, by itself, made keeping inappropriate material from children tantamount to a crime (I'm thinking, e.g, of the current squirting sperm book removed from a public school in Phoenix, AZ, where arguments are being made that the school violated "due process" and must return the book to the children).  It is the OIF that calls anyone who complains about any material "censors."

Will the ALA speak out about the ACLU's censorship, its trampling of the First Amendment, the intellectual freedom of school children?  Of course not.  It is just another ALA double standard.

Indeed, the ALA tracks and approves of cases where the ACLU tramples student's rights in public schools.  This is censorship of which the ALA approves.  No, I am not kidding.  For example, in the ALA OIF's  "Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom," in a section entitled "Success Stories; Schools," the ALA reported as follows:

Kanawha County, West Virginia
The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia and Americans United for Separation of Church and State applauded the decision of the Kanawha County School Board to end a policy that permitted school-sponsored prayer at graduation ceremonies. U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr., approved a settlement between the parties August 14.
"The resolution of this lawsuit guarantees the religious liberty of every family in the community," said Ayesha Khan, legal director of Americans United. "Thankfully, the new policy will strike the right balance.  Students will be free to pray if they wish during graduation, but to protect everyone’s rights, worship will no longer be an official part of the ceremony."
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Tyler Deveny on May 29, 2002.  Deveny, an atheist, objected to the prayer at his graduation at St. Albans High School which he called an exercise in ostracism.  The ACLU and Americans United successfully won a temporary restraining order blocking the prayer the next day.
The Superintendent of the Kanawha County Schools, Ron Duerring, agreed in the settlement to immediately abolish the district-wide policy that permitted schools like St. Albans to have student-led prayer at their graduation.  Duerring said in a statement, that "such an outcome is best for the school community and pays proper respect to constitutional requirements."
Shortly after the May 30 graduation ceremony took place, Deveny was assaulted allegedly because of his participation in the case.  The ACLU, AU and the superintendent strongly condemned this assault.  "Mr. Deveny was exercising an important constitutional right to seek redress for alleged violations of the Constitution," Duerring said in his statement.  "Mr. Deveny’s actions have served to educate Kanawha County Schools and the community as a whole about constitutional requirements."
In connection with the settlement, Duerring will review Kanawha County curriculum and professional staff development programs to ensure adequate education and training on First Amendment issues, particularly the separation of church and state and freedom of religion.
Reported in: Americans United press release, August 14.
"Success Stories; Schools," by ALA OIF, Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, LI:6 (November 2002).

The ALA thinks such censorship is a "success story" while it tells communities keeping inappropriate material from children violates their rights.  But what do you think?  Please comment below.  Freedom of speech is allowed here.


Here is a story with video of high school hero Angela Hildenbrand, the Medina Valley High School valedictorian, speaking the very words the ACLU sought to censor, the type of censorship the ALA applauds as a "success story," and listen to the reaction of the crowd afterward:


  1. This is a big victory for free speech. Why does the ACLU always seem to spend so much effort because of one person’s complaint? That person can still show respect by standing but not participating. Let the majority rule.

  2. Clay Boggess, thanks for writing.

    As to "Let the majority rule," I say let the US Constitution rule. Under that standard, it's not always majority rule. Consider, for example, the Electoral College.

    Thanks again.


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