The Montana Supreme Court has ruled valedictorians have a right to mention "God" and "Christ" in graduation speeches.
Butte School District No. 1 had ordered valedictorian Renee Griffith to remove those words from her speech in 2008.
But on Nov. 29, the state supreme court ruled officials violated her First Amendment rights. The Rutherford Institute represented Griffith in the case.
In a 5-1 ruling, the court upheld the Rutherford Institute's arguments that Griffith had a constitutional right to free speech at graduation and that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment would not have been violated by allowing her to include religious references in her remarks.
"No objectively reasonable observer could perceive that Griffith's religious references bore the (endorsement) of the school district," the court ruled.
"The Montana Supreme Court's decision is a victory for the free speech rights of public school students," John W. Whitehead, president of the Institute, said. "I hope this sends a message to school districts across the country that students should not be treated as second-class citizens."
Founded in 1982 by constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute is a civil liberties organization that provides free legal services to people whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.