Hot on the heels of the media melee about the Nevada valedictorian’s contionabundus interruptus, two conservative legal firms are encouraging the student, Brittany McComb, to file suit against her high school.
School officials pulled the plug on McComb’s microphone during her graduation ceremony when she persisted in using her original valedictory, after officials had edited out several references to God, Jesus and Biblical quotations.
McComb, a bright, photogenic Christian, quickly became a media “star,” especially on conservative websites, blogs and talk shows. She even appeared on the Fox News talkie, Hannity & Colmes. Both pundits agreed that McComb should have been allowed to speak her mind, with Hannity taking special pleasure in citing the whole affair as an example of the “war on Christianity.”
Predictably, those lawyers with an axe to grind came out of their dens to throw their support behind McComb.
The first wolf out of the den was Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Florida-based pro-family Liberty Counsel. Staver contends the school violated McComb’s First Amendment rights when it prevented her from speaking about how important Jesus and God were in her life.
It’s a tack that Staver has taken before, in 2005.
One of Liberty Counsel‘s most famous, and unsuccessful, Constitutional cases was McCreary County, Kentucky, et al. v. ACLU of Kentucky, et al., in which Staver argued before the US Supreme Court that a display of the Ten Commandments in the McCreary and Pulask icounty courthouses was constitutional.
The Court disagreed, however, ruling, 5-4, that the religious nature of the displays violated the separation of church and state. Interestingly, the Kentucky legislature earlier this year voted to erect a monument depicting the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds. Go figure.
The group has also accused public schools and cities of waging a “war on Christmas,” because they have avoided Christmas displays.
Staver’s fellow wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing is The Rutherford Institute, headed by John Whitehead, which announced plans last week to file suit in federal district court against McComb’s school. The Institute contends that school infringed on McComb’s rights of free speech and equal protection under the law.
The Institute is most famous for providing co-counsel for Paula Jones during her celebrated 1994 sexual harassment lawsuit against then-President Bill Clinton, but has since moved into Constitutional legal matters. At times, at least according to this source, the Institute has acted like a clone of the ACLU, differing only in its interpretation of the Constitutional separation of church and state.
The ACLU in Nevada advised school officials to edit religious references out of McComb’s speech, to avoid embroiling the school in a lawsuit. The advice may turn out to be very expensive bad advice, if these lawyers follow through with their plans to sue on McComb’s behalf.
Meanwhile, there seems to be no public intent by the girl or her family to file suit against Foothill High School in Henderson, Nevada, or the school district. So, the wolves may be acting more in their own interests than in McComb’s.