Elizabethton, TN – The Hampton High School class president who expressed her desire to acknowledge God in prayer at her graduation has received support from Liberty Counsel which sent a letter today to the School Board demanding that it protect her and other students’ free speech. Principal Dale Campbell said that any students who pray or even attempt to pray would be stopped, escorted from the building by police and arrested. The principal has since backed away from his statement, but continues to send mixed messages in the community and among students.
Liberty Counsel is demanding that the school honor the rights of these students and not censor their viewpoints. The law is clear that students do not shed their constitutional rights at the graduation podium. Student speakers who choose to include a religious viewpoint are free to do so. Liberty Counsel has published a pamphlet called Students’ Rights on Public School Campuses, which explains the rights of students during graduation.
Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “The Principal of Hampton High School has crossed the line from being neutral, which the Constitution requires, to being hostile, which the Constitution forbids. These students have a right to include religious viewpoints in their message and even pray if that is their own decision. The school should not censor student messages solely because they present a religious viewpoint.”