Teen settles with school that refused to let her sing hymn

Sunday, June 1, 2003

WINNECONNE, Wis. -- A student who sued her public school district to sing about God at her graduation ceremony will get her wish, district officials and the student's lawyer said Thursday.

Rachel Honer, 18, had alleged that Winneconne High School violated her constitutional rights of free speech and religious expression when it ordered her to substitute the three references to God in "He's Always Been Faithful" or not perform at the June 8 ceremony.

Honer was told by Principal Jim Smasal that she would have to use "he," "him" and "his" because the references to God could offend some people and would violate the separation of church and state, according to the federal lawsuit, filed last week by the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based group that fights for religious freedoms.

The dispute was resolved with a compromise: Honer will be listed on the commencement program not as a speaker, but as a performer.

"According to our attorneys, it passes constitutional muster," said Robert Reinke, Winneconne school district superintendent. "Because it is a performance, it isn't a speech any more."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: