Monroe, MI – A student at Monroe High School won first place in a school talent show last night by singing a Christian song that school officials had banned the day before the program. School officials reversed their position after Liberty Counsel became involved and allowed sixteen-year-old sophomore James Whipper to perform the Christian rap song, “He’s Calling.” After James performed to wild applause, a DJ for a local radio station that was broadcasting the event asked for an encore. During James’s second performance, a roar swept through the crowd as students spontaneously joined in the chorus, singing “He’s Calling” while pointing upward.
The talent show was part of a student-initiated Spirit Week. Students chose their own songs, auditioned for the show and participated in practice sessions. James had already performed the song in an audition and practice without objection. However, at the dress rehearsal the day before the talent show, Assistant Principal Montyne Barbee objected. Barbee insisted that James change to a nonreligious song or not participate in the talent show.
James’s mother, Kenyetta Whipper, contacted Liberty Counsel for assistance in resolving the issue. Kenyetta met with Barbee and showed her Liberty Counsel’s brochure entitled Students’ Rights in Public Schools. Barbee firmly stood by her decision until she learned that Liberty Counsel’s legal staff was involved and was sending a letter to the principal. Liberty Counsel’s letter advised that when the school conducts talent shows or other events where students choose their own material, the school cannot censor out religious speech.
Barbee then agreed that James could perform the Christian song. James’ song can be heard on Kenyetta’s web site at www.spiritofdance.org.
Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented, “Student-initiated speech endorsing religion is fully protected by the Constitution. It is unconstitutional to eliminate Christian viewpoints from a school talent show or any other time where secular viewpoints are permitted. The free speech right of students is not that difficult to understand. Common sense and the Constitution both compel equal treatment of Christian viewpoints.
This press release was first issued by the Liberty Counsel on October 11, 2007.