Updates to school-related posts 2: Brittany McComb

Nevada senior Brittany McComb made a name for herself in June 2006 when she delivered a valedictory that testified to her love for Jesus, and encouraged other students to find Him. She had earlier agreed to leave such remarks out of the speech. School officials disconnected her mike in the middle of her delivery in response.

Juvenile behavior all around.

McComb, who is now a freshman at a Christian school, Biola University in California, became the darling of conservative Christians looking for more examples of the “war on Christianity” and the pernicious influence of the American Civil Liberties Union. The conservative legal group, the Rutherford Institute, agreed to take her case to the U.S. District Court in Nevada, alleging her free speech rights were violated.

The text of the suit is here — Adobe Reader required.

The case has been stalled in the courts since. The defendants in McComb’s suit filed two motions to dismiss, which the district court judge denied. They have since appealed to the Ninth District Court of Appeals in California, and filed opening briefs earlier this month. Rutherford Institute attorney Doug McKusick says McComb’s lawyers will file their replies in January.

The case raises several issues. Was McComb badgered into deleting the overtly Christian references from her valedictory? Were school officials acting legally when they first told her to delete the references, and then pulled the plug on her speech? Was McComb herself at all culpable, agreeing to tone down the speech then proceeding with the original text? Given that schools cannot favor one religion over any other constitutionally, was McComb a representative of the school and bound by those restrictions, or was she merely speaking her own mind?

Time will tell whether the courts will answer those questions. Appeals take months to proceed, and if the defendants lose their appeal, the case will end up back in District Court to drag on some more. McComb may be a senior before it’s all settled.

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