A Colorado student forced to apologize for mentioning Jesus in a graduation speech brought her case before a federal appeals court Wednesday.
Liberty Counsel lawyers argued that Erica Corder's "courageous message" during a 2006 high school graduation was protected speech under the First Amendment.
Corder was one of 15 valedictorians invited to speak at a graduation ceremony for Lewis Palmer High School in Monument, Colo. During her 30-second message, she deviated from her prepared remarks to talk about her faith and encourage peers to learn more about Jesus.
"We are all capable of standing firm and expressing our own beliefs," she began, "which is why I need to tell you about someone who loves you more than you could ever imagine."
Corder's speech earned her a visit with the school's principal who told her she would not receive her diploma until she gave a public apology.
"Erica Corder should have received a medal for her [speech]. Instead, the dream of her graduation address turned into an ongoing nightmare," Liberty Counsel attorney Steve Crampton said. Liberty Counsel is known for defending religious freedom cases.
Corder didn't get her diploma until she issued a written apology stating, "I realize that, had I asked ahead of time, I would not have been allowed to say what I did." The apology was distributed throughout the community.
She says she wants school officials to acknowledge publicly that they violated her Constitutional rights. She is asking for the court to issue an injunction against the school to prevent future cases from happening.
Initially, a trial court dismissed Corder's case in 2007, saying her address was "school sponsored" rather than private speech. The case in now in the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Sources: The Christian Post, Liberty Counsel