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Commentary

Student Wins Fight with College That Threatened Her over Jesus Reference in Graduation Speech

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Not a bad showing for an outfit liberals call a “hate group.”

When a Colorado Mesa University student was chosen by her classmates to speak at a ceremony for graduates of the school’s nursing program, administrators tried to clamp down on the woman’s decision to use a verse from the Gospel of John in her speech to her fellow graduates.

Then the Alliance for Defending Freedom came to her defense — and the school officials backed down fast.

According to the Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, Karissa Erickson was one of two nursing program graduates chosen to speak at a pinning ceremony — a celebration that is separate from the school’s commencement ceremony for all graduates.

Administrators reviewing the short speech Erickson planned to give balked at her inclusion of biblical verses. (The school was still smarting from a 2015 legal attack by the atheists at the Freedom From Religion Foundation over Gideon Bibles being offered to students at the ceremony, the Daily Sentinel reported.)

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Instead of giving in, though, Erickson turned to the Alliance for Defending Freedom, a non-profit law firm established to support religious liberty in the United States, and one that has had success arguing its cases all the way to the Supreme Court.

In a strongly worded letter sent on May 4, the ADF informed Colorado Mesa officials that their attempt to force Erickson to cut her biblical references was an unconstitutional infringement on her religious freedom — and made it clear the ADF was willing to take the matter to court.

“As you know, ‘state enclaves and universities are not enclaves immune from the sweep of the First Amendment,’” the letter states, quoting Supreme Court decisions, “and ‘the loss of First Amendment freedoms, even for minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’ That is, we insist that you withdraw your demand that Miss Erickson purge her remarks of religious content and assure us that you will do nothing to restrict how she discusses her faith.”

Four days later, the university backed down, calling the whole matter a mistake.

Would you like to see more students stand up for their faith like this?

“It was a well-intentioned misunderstanding of what was appropriate,” CMU spokeswoman Dana Nunn told the Daily Sentinel.

“I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people have their own interpretations of the separation of church and state, and the faculty member that initially asked for the change was just trying to do the right thing, she was just not correct legally.”

There’s a lot of that going around these days, after eight years of the Obama administration attacking Americans’ religious freedoms on fundamental matters of faith like abortion.

And liberal groups, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, have done their part to encourage attacks on religious freedom by branding organizations that promote First Amendment rights as so-called “hate groups” unworthy of support by the American public.

In fact, the Alliance for Defending Freedom was one group the Southern Poverty Law Center has specifically cited as an organization that should be denied fundraising support from major companies like Amazon.

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ADF attorney Travis Barham told the Daily Signal that the kind of problem Erickson faced is particularly bad in higher education.

“This sort of thing pops up with alarming frequency, where university officials come under the mistaken conclusion that the First Amendment requires them to purge all speech of anything that’s religious,” Barham told the newspaper.

“They think they’re fulfilling the commands of the First Amendment, but they’re actually violating it.”

That might be the most charitable way of looking at it. But it still shows how much conservatives need a legal army to fight the legal battles liberals keep forcing with ignorant or malicious interpretations of the law or the Constitution.

Those battles aren’t always won as quickly or cleanly as the one at CMU, though.

Not bad for so-called “haters” at all.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.
Birthplace
Philadelphia
Nationality
American




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