Summer Savings! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.
Readers Respond
News Opinion Readers Respond

The right to speak one's faith

As another graduation season is upon us, I can't help but think about certain graduates from past years.

Brittany McComb, Class of '06, Foothill High School (Henderson, Nev.), Renee Griffith, Class of '08, Butte High School (Butte, Mont.) and Kyle Gearwar, Class of '11, Fair Haven Union High School (Fair Haven, Vt.) — all had their valedictory addresses censored because of religious content. The reason given was their speeches violated the First Amendment.

The First Amendment is the one that guarantees the rights of religion and speech. Not one or the other — both. To censor a speech on the basis of religious content while citing the First Amendment is a despicable thing for anyone to do to anyone. For a school to do this to its top student is unconscionable.

The First Amendment is there for a reason. The Constitution that Congress presented to the states was not good enough — it needed to be improved. The First Amendment is first because It was the first improvement Congress had to make in order for the constitution to become acceptable to the people. The message was clear: No free religion, no free speech, no deal.

Centuries later, at the hands of certain lawyers, lobbyists and judges, the First Amendment is being used for the exact opposite of its intended purpose. Make no mistake, a private citizen can never be in violation of the First Amendment. The law is not aimed at us, it is aimed at Congress. It exists to tell the government that it cannot violate our right to worship as we please or to speak our own minds. The backward argument used in these high school graduations is that, as students of public schools, these kids were not private citizens, but part of the government. Further, the First Amendment has been interpreted to mean protection from religion and speech.

So a student, who becomes the government by attending a school he is required to attend, is considered to be making an unconstitutional law if he speaks about his faith before an audience of citizens, who are at a ceremony they are not required to attend, because someone in that audience might not want to hear it.

I hope that students will continue to stand up for their rights, and I pray that the schools will not stand in their way.

Ed Hopkins, Odenton

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • State has taken great strides to improve youth safety

    Since 2007, an improved Department of Juvenile Services and law enforcement, working closely together, have driven down juvenile homicides by 32 percent statewide; have achieved a 53 percent decrease in the number of youths killed who ever had any contact with DJS; and have achieved a 60 percent...

  • Same-sex marriage opponents are bigots, not 'activists'

    I cannot tell you how disturbing I found the recent article describing the petition against Maryland's same-sex marriage law ("Activists exceed petition target," May 30). The suggestion that a group of people going around the state and collecting signatures in support of discriminating against...

  • Harbor would benefit from more police

    Regarding concerns over safety at the Inner Harbor ("Lack of familiarity breeds contempt for Baltimore," May 27), I frequently visit the harbor and have always had a pleasant experience.

  • Junket to Vegas a joke on city taxpayers

    Twelve people from cash-poor Baltimore City go to Las Vegas, while Baltimore County, with much more to offer, sends just one ("Officials head to Vegas to drum up business," May 27). Is there something rotten in Denmark here?

  • David Simon's brave words

    Thank you for printing the full text of David Simon's Georgetown University commencement address. It was the best I have read, excepting Woody Allen's, of course.

  • Middle school overcrowding has a 'Solo' solution

    Regarding the Solo Cup factory zoning ("No 'courtesy' for Wegmans," May 27), why is no one talking about using the facility for a new middle school in the northwestern part of the county? Franklin Middle School has 1,292 students, Deer Park Middle has 1,235 students and Pikesville Middle has 1,017....

  • Add two more names to Maryland's top 175 athletes

    I would like to mention two athletes who should have been included in Mike Klingaman's list of Maryland's 175 top athletes ("The top 175," May 17).

  • More trees, please

    Your article, "More trees mean less crime, study says," (May 20) was most interesting. A 19th century study revealed that people who lived on tree-lined streets had 50 percent less instance of contracting contagious diseases than those living on non-tree-lined streets. This was the impetus behind...