A.M., a devout Christian, was elected as a co-class president of her 8th grade class at Taconic Hills Middle School in New York. One of the privileges of being president is the opportunity to speak at the 8th grade graduation celebration, which the school calls a "moving up" ceremony. As part of her speech, A.M. wanted to conclude with words of encouragement and well-wishes for the future. Her speech concluded with: "As we say our goodbyes and leave middle school behind, I say to you, may the Lord bless you and keep you; make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." But when school officials reviewed her speech, they determined that it was "too religious" and told her to remove the offending lines if she wanted to give her speech. A.M. did so under protest.
With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom and our allied attorneys, A.M. challenged the censorship of her religious speech. Unfortunately, both the district court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the censorship of her speech, determining that "a reasonable observer would perceive A.M.'s speech as being endorsed by the Middle School." Alliance Defending Freedom asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, but the Court declined to do so. As a result, the ruling of the lower court stands.
Alliance Defending Freedom is still fighting for the rights of every student, including those selected to speak at graduation or other school events, to freely express their faith in their speeches.
What's at stake
The freedom of students to share their faith at school without fear of censorship or punishment.
Students being told that they can't include religious content in graduation speeches.
Our role in this case
Alliance Defending Freedom and our allied attorney David Gibbs III represented A.M. in the defense of her rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.