STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union, perhaps better known for helping keep religion out of the classroom, came to the defense of a high school graduate whose yearbook entry was censored because it contained a biblical verse.
Moler, the class of 2001 valedictorian, was among a group of students asked by school officials to offer their thoughts for the yearbook. Her entry included the biblical verse, Jeremiah 29:11: “`For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, `plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”
The entry was deleted from the yearbook because of its religious nature, school officials told Moler at the time. She responded by asking the ACLU for help.
“We wanted to shed some light on this issue in the public schools,” Moler told the Detroit Free Press for a Wednesday story. “There just seemed to be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding this issue.”
Under the settlement, the school district agreed to place a sticker with Moler’s original entry in copies of the yearbook on file at the high school; ordered current yearbook staff to not censor other religious or political speech; to train its staff on free speech and religious freedom issues; and to write Moler a letter of regret.
“The Supreme Court has said there can be school oversight in official publications, but the schools still have to honor the constitutional rights of their students,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan.
“I’m thrilled,” Moler said. “We got everything we asked for. I received a wonderful education from Utica schools and now that I’m entering the teaching profession, I wanted to do my part in maintaining the excellence in education.”
Utica school officials would not comment on the settlement, according to the Free Press and The Detroit News.