Critics are wrong to fight religious speech at Texas high school
But, as a card-carrying liberal, I stand by the right of people to disagree with me. And I'm especially delighted that the conservative side now wants to protect students' free speech, after years of trying to muzzle it.
"No student should ever have to leave his or her religious expression at the schoolhouse gate," one of the cheerleaders' attorneys said last week. The gate metaphor comes straight from Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court's landmark 1969 ruling allowing students to wear antiwar armbands in school.
Since then, liberals have struggled to protect student free-speech rights and conservatives have chipped away at them. In 2007, for example, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court barred an Alaska high school student from displaying a banner declaring "Bong Hits for Jesus."
The Kountze cheerleaders delivered a more reverent message about Jesus, of course. Just like the Alaska student, though, they invoked the Tinker case. Liberals should be happy about that. And they should rededicate themselves to protecting all student speech, no matter how pious - or impious - it might sound.
Jonathan Zimmerman teaches history and education at New York University. He is the author of "Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory." He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.
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