Valedictorian Censored

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Denver, CO – Liberty Counsel argued today at the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of Erica Corder, a high school valedictorian who was forced to publicly apologize for sharing her Christian faith during her 30-second message at graduation. Steve Crampton, Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel for Liberty Counsel, presented oral argument this morning.

The lawsuit against Lewis Palmer School District began in August 2007. Erica was one of fifteen valedictorians from the Lewis-Palmer High School class of 2006. At the graduation ceremony that year, Erica deviated from her prepared speech and expressed her faith in Jesus Christ and encouraged the audience to learn more about Him.

Immediately afterward, Erica was informed that because of her speech she would not be receiving her diploma with the other students and would have to meet with the principal, Mr. Brewer. Principal Brewer forced Erica to write an apology for her actions in order to receive her diploma, which she then did under protest. The apology was disseminated to the entire school community.

The trial court dismissed Erica’s complaint, finding that her speech was not her own, but was “school-sponsored,” and therefore the forced apology was not improper. On appeal, Liberty Counsel argued that Erica’s speech was private and entitled to full protection under both the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Steve Crampton commented: “Erica Corder should have received a medal for her courageous message. Instead, the dream of her graduation address turned into an ongoing nightmare. We are hopeful that the well-prepared panel who heard argument today will agree with us that there is simply no legitimate pedagogical interest in the school’s harsh treatment of Erica, simply for her sharing her faith. Forcing Erica to write an apology with which she did not agree is something you might expect in a totalitarian regime, but not in a free republic.”

The case is Erica Corder v. Lewis Palmer School District No. 38, Cause No. 08-1293.

This article is excerpted from a Liberty Counsel press release