High School Student Fighting for the Right to Say "God Bless"

( [email protected] ) Jan 28, 2004 12:49 PM EST

A pro-family law firm the American Center for Law and Justice is defending a high school student in Illinois who was suspended for at least a month for saying “God bless” to people through the school’s daily TV broadcast before the Christmas break.

James Lord from Dupo High School in Dupo, Illinois, was suspended at least a month for telling people: "Have a safe and happy holiday, and God bless." The school claims the last comment on God was inappropriate and charged Lord violation against "separation of Church and State."

Lord’s attorney, Frank Manion with the American Center for Law and Justice, says the school acted unconstitutionally. "This is, at best, a sham, an over-reaction, [and] a misinterpretation of what the law requires with regard to religion in schools," Manion says. "We are prepared to vindicated James' First Amendment free-speech rights in court, if necessary -- and we hope it won't be necessary."

A member of Dupo School Board says he personally has no problem with such comments, but he believes Superintendent Michael Koebel "knows the rules and knows what people can say and can't say."

"Obviously, schools have the right -- perhaps the duty -- to supervise and monitor what is broadcast within the school over the public address system or, as in this case, a closed-circuit TV system," the attorney says. "And the decisions they make are normally not going to be second-guessed, as long as they reflect some legitimate, pedagogical concern" -- a phrase used by the Supreme Court.

"In this case, it's clear that there is no [such] concern with a student uttering the words 'God bless,'" Manion states.

Yesterday, Tuesday Jan. 27, Lord addressed his local school board by asking members to revoke his suspension and acknowledge the right of a student to use the expression "God bless." He said he would keep fighting until he could return to the TV show again with the right to give such expression.