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Supreme Court rejects case of valedictorian who mentioned Jesus

A high school valedictorian argued that her free-speech rights were violated when she was forced to apologize to the student body for talking about Jesus in her graduation speech. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case Monday.

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A high school valedictorian in Colorado has lost her bid for the US Supreme Court to decide whether school officials violated her free-speech rights when they withheld her diploma until she agreed to apologize to the student body for mentioning Jesus in her graduation speech.

Erica Corder was one of 15 students with a 4.0 grade-point average selected as co-valedictorians for the 2006 class at Lewis-Palmer High School in Monument, Colo. Each of the 15 was to deliver a 30-second speech. The principal required the students to submit their remarks to him for prior approval.

Ms. Corder's written comments were approved, but she delivered a different speech at graduation. She told her fellow students: "We are all capable of standing firm and expressing our own beliefs, which is why I need to tell you about someone who loves you more than you could ever imagine."

She added: "He died for you on a cross over 2,000 years ago, yet was resurrected and is living today in heaven. His name is Jesus Christ. If you don't already know him personally, I encourage you to find out more about the sacrifice he made for you so that you now have the opportunity to live in eternity with him."

After the speech, school officials informed Corder that because of her unauthorized public comments at graduation, she would not receive her diploma unless she publicly apologized.

Corder drafted a statement saying that she never intended to offend anyone by her comments and that school officials did not condone or even know about the content of her remarks before they were made. She said she was sorry she did not share her planned remarks with school officials and the other valedictorians before the speech, but she did not apologize for the content of her speech. Instead, she said, the comments reflected her personal beliefs.

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