Silenced Joshua ISD Valedictorian Speaks Out, With an Assist from Plano's Liberty Institute

RemingtonReimerFox4.jpg
Fox 4
The debate over Joshua ISD's decision last week to cut the mic on valedictorian Remington Reimer's graduation speech probably should have died by now. The oft-repeated claim that he was silenced for talking about God is belied by, among other things, the lengthy, overtly Christian prayer that closed the ceremony. So, we have to take the district at its word, which is that Reimer veered from his pre-approved remarks. A bit heavy-handed, perhaps, but such is life at a public high school.

We learned last night that this is not going to fade away anytime soon. Reimer made the rounds of local TV news yesterday to argue that the district violated his right to free speech.

See also
Joshua ISD Cut its Valedictorian's Mic Last Night, But Maybe Not for Talking About God
Star-Telegram Cites Fake News Story as Proof Graduation Speeches Should Be Censored

Reimer says the district officials who reviewed his speech were heavy-handed, striking significant portions from his planned remarks. When he got on the stage, he decided to deliver them anyways. NBC 5 has a text of the entire speech here, but the offending portion went like this:

But before I finish I want to thank my family who raised me in a loving Christian home. Thank Dr. Bodiford, through his UIL Social Studies team that gave me a true appreciation for history and motivation to learn. And Lt. Col. Davidson for providing me with opportunities that I would have otherwise never had.

But most importantly, I want to thank God for Giving up His only son for us to an excruciating death on a cross so His blood would cover all our shortcomings and provide for us a way to heaven in accepting His grace. I worked hard to earn the right to address you all tonight as valedictorian and have the constitutional right -- like any of you -- to freely speak about the factors that contributed to my success.

We are all fortunate to live in country where we can express our beliefs. Where our mikes won't be turned off, as I have been threatened to if I veer away from the school-censored speech I have just finished. Just as Jesus spoke out against the authority of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who tried to silence Him, I will not have my freedom of speech taken away from me.

And I urge you all to do the same. Do not let anyone take away your religious or Constitutional rights away from you. This will be the first and last time many of you will hear me speak. I wish you all the best and let's get this race going.

"I felt impassioned about my constitutional rights and I didn't want them taken away from me," Reimer told WFAA, explaining his decision to buck school censors.

Fair enough. We don't begrudge the kid his 15 minutes. But here's how why we suspect this will last a bit longer than 15 minutes: Reimer was accompanied during the interviews by his attorney, Hiram Sasser. Sasser is the legal director of Plano's Liberty Institute. That's the outfit that turned Plano ISD's infamous "Candy Cane Case" into a rallying cry for culture warriors and, more generally, never misses an opportunity to decry minor decisions by local governments and school districts as attacks on religious freedom.

"The school officials violated their own district policy by pre-approving a speech, by censoring a speech, by cutting off the microphone," Sasser told NBC 5. "The board policy says it's the free speech of the valedictorian and they're supposed to be giving whatever speech they want to give."

The rule Sasser is referring to, which is also codified in state law, is a provision mandating that school districts "treat a student's voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats a student's voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint."

What Sasser is doing, in other words, is repeating the charge that Reimer was silenced for talking about God. The Liberty Institute wouldn't be involved otherwise. In any case, don't expect Sasser to let this one die.

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105 comments
whitman
whitman

An old adage said you never discuss religion or politics because you are sure to offend someone and lose a friend or a customer. Of course, that was back when people had class and actually did not want to offend someone. Now people are so convinced that the world revolves around them and their beliefs that they don't care who they offend.

ikc.neghvar
ikc.neghvar

I've got a wonderful idea.  To whoever is moderating this forum.  Look through all our post and delete those whose opinions, views and beliefs do not comply with your views of this situation.  Make sure we are not heard.

gg_0318
gg_0318

I WAS THERE!  Here's a portion of the Student Handbook  EVERY student signs the first day of school at Joshua High School...

CONDUCT

Applicability of School Rules

As required by law, the board has adopted a Student Code of Conduct that prohibits certain behaviors and defines standards of acceptable behavior—both on and off campus—and consequences for violation of these standards. The district has disciplinary authority over a student in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct. Students and parents should be familiar with the standards set out in the Student Code of Conduct, as well as campus and classroom rules.

Graduation Speakers

Certain graduating students will be given an opportunity to have speaking roles at graduation ceremonies.

A student must meet local eligibility criteria, which may include requirements related to student conduct, to have a speaking role. Students eligible for speaking roles will be notified by the principal and given an opportunity to volunteer.

......no where in there says he HAD to speak if he didn't like that his speech had to be approved prior to graduation! He was mad about the speech having to be approved PLAIN AND SIMPLE!!!  He just decided to use Religious events and Freedom of Speech references to drive home his dissatisfaction!

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

All in all, this is a pretty eloquent argument for why schools are allowed to regulate student speech.

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

In the middle of your next article I want you to stop typing. I am censoring what you want to say. Never mind that you worked hard to come up with what you wanted to really say, because we can't have you saying that here on the internet. Oh and at the end of the article, we're going to have someone else come along and pray using the same examples that you were going to write about. It's ok for them to say it, not you though, you are the one being censored. You ok with that?

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Wait just a minute!  You lot are the same ones who love to applaud the armed forces for preserving our rights, like Free Speech.  Now, you're saying that American servicemen are not entitled to Free Speech? 

ikc.neghvar
ikc.neghvar

Ponder this.  What if the valedictorian was Muslim.  Do you think he would have been silenced if he spoke of his faith and prayed?  We fear censoring or insulting Muslim's faith because of potential retaliation, which has occurred.  Christians are not known for such acts, thus not one fears suppressing, persecuting or insulting them.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

As a christian, I'd desperately like for this to have 1st Amendment application.  However, I just can't see where the 1st applies here.  I'm sure someone could cite SC cases where 1st amendment restrictions in public school are upheld.  There are certainly scripture references where christians are admonished to pray and worship in private, so as not to bring glory and attention upon themselves, instead of on God.  If I recall, the valedictory speech included a reference to God that was not cut off, and it was only when his speech veered from the pre-approved text that he was cut off.  In Romans, Paul admonishes us to obey the authorities, for their authority comes from God, and the punishment they mete out is God's punishment.

What now, exalted Valedictorian?  Are you defying the authorities God put in place over you?  Are you questioning God's judgement in the punishment He allowed to be laid upon you?

ikc.neghvar
ikc.neghvar

He believes in our country's constitution and the first amendment.  Many great things would never have happen if it were not for the first amendment.  Martin Luther King Jr. probably would not have made his famous "I have a dream" speech (That offended plenty of people), Susan B. Anthony's inspiring speech "On Women's Right to Vote" and so many other speakers from presidents to paupers whose voices have changed our nation and our world.  

The principal views the first amendment a freedom of speech except when what is said could potentialy offends someone or says something someone dose not agree with or believe in.  That is not freedom of speech.  That is censorship, which when left unchecked and unopposed will lead down a path to tyranny in which there is fear to speak one's mind and risk being silenced by the thought police.  

The cutting off of Mr. Reimer's speech shows we are already heading down that dangerous path and Joshua ISD's "school officials" are helping to lead our nation down that path.


observist
observist

Whiny valedictorian doesn't know the difference between free speech and free amplification.

peaceandplaygrounds
peaceandplaygrounds

He should have included all of that religious stuff in his submitted speech (for pre-approval). If they made him take it out, THEN he would have a claim that they were censoring him in violation of the 1st Amendment.  As it was, they have an an interest in pre-approving the speech to make sure there is nothing vulgar or profane or hateful in the speech. When he went off-script, he wasn't following the right procedures, which were content-neutral (other than with regard to obscenity, etc).

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

The U.S. Naval Academy will teach him he difference between free speech and insubordinaton. Or a future employers unless less he works for weirs or christian brothers mechanics,etc.

ikc.neghvar
ikc.neghvar

@Cliffhanger 

yes, allowed to regulate speech and hope that the students continue to think that speech is regulated after high school and college and into the rest of their life.  That way when more people think speech is regulated and they can't speak their thoughts and opinions.  It will become open season for tyranny to take over when people are under the impression that they cannot freely say what they believe.   The easiest way for tyranny to take root is when people of good conscience remain silent.  And this is what our government and schools are trying to teach our kids.  To remain silent and just take it from behind.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@ChangingF8

Are Republicans really this surprised to learn that their free speech rights have limits?  Or are they just pretending to be ignorant out of loyalty to the party?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@ChangingF8 Is the internet now a public school?  Apples meet Oranges.

Peacock214
Peacock214

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Unless he's already begun midshipman status at Annapolis, he isn't a serviceman yet. Also, there's a difference between denying a person free speech and not providing a pulpit for it

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@ikc.neghvar 

But no Muslim did that.  That's just a scenario you made up in your own mind to rationalize your hatred for Muslims and your desire to be seen as a victim.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@ikc.neghvar Like this kid, a Muslim would have been silenced for doing anything that was not pre-approved.   It's really that simple.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@RTGolden1"Are you defying the authorities God put in place over you? "

Funny, Golden. I thought We elected them. This puts a whole new light on the Constitution.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

  • Second, Roberts cited Bethel School Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser. The jurisprudence of Fraser is controversial, but Roberts declined to apply or resolve the disputed holding of that case ("We need not resolve this debate to decide this case”); instead, he explained that "[f]or present purposes, it is enough to distill from Fraser two basic principles”:
  1. that “the constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings” (“in light of the special characteristics of the school environment”).[28]
  2. that the “substantial disruption” analysis prescribed by Tinker "is not absolute” (i.e. it is flexible/optional).[29]
Third, Roberts cited the most recent student speech case, Hazelwood School Dist. v. Kuhlmeier. In that case, the Court permitted a school to "exercise editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities”

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@ikc.neghvar Change 'principal' and 'school officials' to United States Supreme Court and your comment would be accurate.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@Sharon_Moreanus 

Pre- Bush, that was probably true.  But he ran the good ones out, and promoted the evangelicals. 

An attitude like his will not only serve him well in the Navy, it will open many doors that should have remained closed to him.

crimjunkie
crimjunkie

@ikc.neghvar You have a kernel of a decent point buried somewhere in all that hyperbole, ikc.

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

@RTGolden1 Is censorship not censorship regardless of what cloak it is currently hiding behind? The guy did not go off about how bad the school was. He did not drop drug references or advocate violence or teen pregnancy. What did he do that was so offensive they felt the need to censor him? If a Valedictorian is just supposed to get up there and regurgitate whatever pre-approved drivel the District thinks he should say then why even try to keep up appearances here? Just say "We don't really care what the smartest guy here wants to say!" and hand out the empty folders. The truth is that he wanted to give praise to God about what blessings he has received from Him and they censored it. Whatever reasons they want to hide behind is just that, an excuse not to allow him to do it. Thus my analogy here, putting this situation into the author of this entry here and seeing if he still agreed with it then. I can hid behind the same cloak and say I have the right to censor him because I support the DO, I had ice cream for lunch, or whatever thin defense I have to support my censorship and we all have to accept it and not say a word against it, right?

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@ikc.neghvar 

None of those melodramatic scenarios even come close to matching this one.  Seriously - the kid was just a belligerent Christian, misbehaving at school.

It wasn't like he ran into a church and murdered a doctor for Jesus.

Man, bigots sure are drama queens!

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bmarvel @RTGolden1 It's in the Bible, Bill. Romans I believe.  Christians are admonished to obey the rulers and laws over them, for all those rulers obtain their authority from God.  I didn't write it, but if the kid wants to quote from the Bible or speak to his Faith, he ought to at least know something about it.

Crotus
Crotus

@RTGolden1 What can I say?  Well put. This is well reasoned and has actual facts (cited, even) as its basis.  Thank you. 

doublecheese
doublecheese

@bvckvs @Sharon_Moreanus You can always tell when someone is talking out of  his ass when they refer to "the evangelicals".  bvckvs, you don't know what that word means, and you can't possibly use it to meaningfully describe anyone's politics or beliefs.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bvckvs @Sharon_Moreanus Once again talking out of your nether regions?  Never served in the military, huh?  I would guess you haven't because you got everything wrong.  Bush ran some good ones out, Obama ran other good ones off.  This attitude will most definitely not serve him well in the Navy or any other branch of the military.  Subordination to authority is the cornerstone of military discipline, without it, you don't have a military, you have a mob.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ChangingF8 @RTGolden1 

when you were thinking of your "analogy" did you stop at any point and say to yourself "hmmm, I wonder if the writer's story gets reviewed by someone, and that someone has the power/authority to say not to publish the story, or make changes to the author's work"?

not exactly an applicable "analogy" is it?.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @doublecheese Not HAH!  He's right, in a limited sense.  Servicemen do not have full freedom of speech or association WHEN IN UNIFORM.  Out of uniform, they carry the full range of freedoms in the Constitution, with the caveat that they do not bring discredit on the service or the country.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@RTGolden1 Just to add a fine point, Golden, most translations of Romans 13; 1-7 speak of obedience to"authority," and of authority coming from God. In a democracy, it could be argued, that authority, which comes from God, resides in the people, who delegate it to elected officials subject, in our case, to the Constitution. 

So obedience to authority can be construed as obedience to ourselves, our Constitution. If the Constitution declares that freedom of speech shall not be abridged, then "obedience to authority" might, in some cases, require that one ignore the efforts of officials to silence that speech.

The Supreme Court has affirmed the right of school officials to limit the free speech of students under certain circumstances on the grounds that such limits may be necessary to maintain order and that, as minors, students do not yet possess full citizenship.

But the boundary between "free" speech and limited speech flows back and forth over time, subject to the pressures applied on one side or the other -- by those who argue for limitless free speech and those who argue that in certain circumstances speech must be limited for the public good -- and subject, of course, to the whims of the courts.

Therefore, those who push the boundaries of free speech, like our valedictorian, are really doing us all a favor, whether they win or lose, by keeping up the pressure, just as, for example, those lawyers who argue on behalf of unpopular clients are, in effect, defending all all our rights to a fair trial. Imagine a country in which the right to speak out in favor of unpopular causes-- belief in God, for example, or UNbelief in God -- was regulated not just by school officials, but by ALL officials.  

   

bmarvel
bmarvel

@RTGolden1 You seemed to be quoting it with approval, or at least recommending that Reimer piously observe it. I should have known that you were merely employing sarcasm.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@bvckvs  Nevertheless, bvckvs, cheese is right. One of the most common mistakes about religion on this and other blogs is to confuse evangelicals with fundamentalists. 

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @bvckvs 

That's because my grasp of reality extends well beyond what the military says is real.

Clearly, you have a more conservative grasp.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bvckvs @RTGolden1 I did not denounce you, nor would I have denounced anyone who did not serve. I don't base my opinion of one's loyalty on one's service in the military.  There are other ways to serve the country, even volunteering for a politician I am opposed to is service to country.

 I opined that you didn't serve, because your grasp on how the military functions is lacking in a few key areas. I stand corrected, you served, thank you for that.  Your grasp on military reality still doesn't coalesce with mine.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @bvckvs 

I did serve in the Navy.  As usual, your right-wing fanaticism has gotten the better of you and has you denouncing loyal Americans who served, for not serving.

That kind of anti-American sentiment is like a PLAGUE among Republicans.

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