BAY MINETTE, Ala. — A Christian student told he could not perform a religious song at a high school talent show was permitted to perform it with another student Friday, after ADF attorneys representing the student sent a letter to Baldwin County Public Schools officials on his behalf. The student’s song won the talent show.
“Christian students shouldn’t be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman. “In this case, students were invited to perform an act of their choosing. It was a violation of our client’s constitutional rights to tell him what song he could or could not include simply because it was religious in nature. Once we explained this to the school district, it did the right thing. Officials there should be commended for deciding to respect the First Amendment rights of their students.”
Spanish Fort High School invited students to perform at an April 11 talent show. Timothy “T.J.” McCarty, a senior, submitted two songs to perform, both of which contained religious messages. A teacher facilitating the show and the school’s principal prohibited McCarty and another student from co-performing one of the songs because it was deemed “too religious.”
After district officials received a letter from ADF attorneys advising them of McCarty’s constitutional rights, the school agreed to let him perform both songs. McCarty co-performed the song that was originally prohibited, and which ultimately won the talent show, by accompanying another student who sang the song while he played piano. McCarty took second place with his other song, which he sang himself.
“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “ADF will continue to be available to students and school districts that wish to know more about the free speech and religious expression rights students have under the Constitution.”
A copy of the letter sent to Baldwin County Public Schools officials by ADF attorneys April 4 is available at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/SpanishFortLetter.pdf.
ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.