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.
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.
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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.