According to news reports, the University of California in Los Angeles yielded to media pressure and agreed to allow a graduating student to thank Jesus in her personal statement. UCLA student Christina Popa claimed the school’s Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology was denying her freedom of speech when a faculty advisor told her that she could not mention “Jesus” in her graduation remarks.
“Public universities don’t get to censor student speech just because the speech is religious. That’s called viewpoint discrimination, and it’s unconstitutional. Let’s hope that UCLA’s biology department knows more about biology than it does about constitutional law,” said Luke Goodrich, legal counsel to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
According to email exchanges that Popa posted on Facebook and that were reported by the press, UCLA Biology Professor Dr. Pamela Hurley deliberately censored Christina’s proposed speech, and emailed Christina saying: “UCLA is a public university where the doctrine of separation of church and state is observed,” and the professor proposed a censored version of Christina’s proposed speech, deleting any reference to Jesus Christ.
When Christina objected, Dr. Hurley threatened, “If you prefer, Christina, I can read none of what you wrote. I am very sorry that this is a problem for you.”
“The Becket Fund will defend any graduate from a public institution who wants to exercise his or her First Amendment right to engage in religious speech,” added Goodrich.