Awesome speech case in Newark

Here we go again, back into the church-state turf defined by the words "viewpoint discrimination." It is one thing for a state-funded institution to decline to sponsor religious events and speech in forums that it controls. That's why an Air Force Academy football coach is not supposed to put up Christian banners in a locker room. It's something else to tell an evangelical chaplain that he cannot preach evangelical doctrine in an evangelical service attended by students who freely chose to be there.

Now this.

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- A public school prohibited a second grader from singing a religious song at a talent show, prompting a lawsuit Friday alleging violation of the girl's constitutional rights.

A federal judge declined an emergency request to compel Frenchtown Elementary School to allow 8-year-old Olivia Turton to sing "Awesome God" at the Friday night show, but allowed the lawsuit to go forward.

Note that Associated Press writer Jeffrey Gold is covering a flap caused by a song sung by an individual, not a school choir or ensemble. This is individual free speech and, thus, to single out this song and not others means that we are dealing with "viewpoint discrimination."

School officials merely said that the song's Christian content was inappropriate in this public context. Thus:

The lawsuit charges that the school board violated Olivia's constitutional rights to freedom of speech and due process. The lawsuit, supported by the Alliance Defense Fund . . . argues that the constitutional separation of church and state does not restrict an individual's religious speech.

The girl's lawyer, Demetrios K. Stratis, questioned how the Frenchtown school could reject Olivia's choice but allow another act based on the opening scene of "MacBeth."

"They've got a scene about boiling animals and witchcraft, but they won't allow a song about God," Stratis said.

What's next, students being allowed to do readings from Narnia and Little House on the Prairie?

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