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February 20, 2002

Office of the President
Steven W. Fitschen

It’s time to stop treating Christian students like second-class citizens!
Help us do something about it!

Dear Friend of the National Legal Foundation:

Image you are Nicolas Lassonde. Or his parents. Or his grandparents.

Nick was asked to give the Salutatorian speech at his high school gradation ceremony. As you might imagine, Nick was excited and his family was proud.

But Nick was more than just excited. You see, Nick is a Christian. And he saw this as a chance to tell his classmates and their guests what Jesus meant to him.

Since I’m writing this letter asking for your help, you can probably guess what happened next. That’s right, Nick’s speech was censored!

His principal demanded to see the speech ahead of time. Then he told Nick that he could not tell his friends about God’s love for them.

We need your help to right this wrong! You see, Nick has already lost in court once.

Yes, as unbelievable as it seems, a federal judge in California has already said that there is nothing wrong with what Nick’s principal did.

Nick’s lawyers have appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. When we heard that, we jumped into action! You see, the Ninth Circuit has the reputation for being the most liberal Circuit in the country. So . . . we knew that Nick’s lawyers could use all the help that we could give them.

They gladly accepted our offer of help and we will file our friend-of-the-court brief within days.

And that’s where you come in. We cannot do this without your prayerful and financial support. As always, there is no one to pay for this work except our faithful partners like you.

I want to tell you what happened in the heartbreaking words of Nick and his family (contained in court documents in this case) and see if you don’t agree with me that we must help:

  • Nick told the court, "I have a personal conviction that a personal relationship with God through His only Son, Jesus Christ, is the most beneficial relationship an individual can have."
  • Nick then explain that he had been chosen to speak because of being the co-Salutatorian and that he was allowed to speak on any topic he chose. BUT . . ."two days before the graduation ceremony, Principal Coupe called me into his office to review my graduation speech. Principal Coupe said that he had to check with the school’s lawyers about the speech, given its references to God and Jesus."
  • Nick explained that the day before graduation, the Principal, the Assistant Superintendent, and the school district’s lawyer "censored my speech based on its religious content by informing me that I could not present certain portions of the speech because they constituted ‘proselytizing’ or ‘preaching.’ They told me that I had to either change my speech to remove the offending portions, or I could not give a speech at all."
  • Then Nick told the court how all of this made him feel: "As a result of the Defendants’ censorship, I felt that my views as a Christian were disfavored by the school, and that because of my status as a religious individual, I alone among the student speakers had my speech censored."
  • "I felt, and still feel, that I was denied a right I had earned, the right to express who I am and how I came to achieve the honor of being Salutatorian, based solely on my Christian viewpoint."
  • "I felt, and still feel, that the censored portions were the most important part of the speech, for they contained the central message that I felt not only explained who I was as a person, but answered the question implicitly addressed in any graduation speech; how others could follow my example of success and happiness. I believed, and sought to state, that ‘success’ and happiness in this life depend not on material wealth or personal fulfillment, but upon knowing who God is as our Creator and Heavenly Father . . . ."
  • Nick’s Dad, Mom, and grandmother all told how they felt that day in the audience. Nick’s Dad put it this way: "It would be disobedient for us to fail to give glory to God and speak of our faith in Christ when we are given a public honor, such as the honor given Nick as Salutatorian. I reviewed Nick’s Salutatory speech before he gave it, and I encouraged him to seek ways to give the speech in its entirety. As a father, but also as a fellow Christian, I was disappointed when the Defendants told me and Nick that the speech had to be censored of any ‘proselytizing’ or ‘preaching’ references. These statements made me feel that our views as a Christian family were disfavored by the District . . . as being too ‘offensive’ to state publicly."
  • "I was in attendance in the audience at the Amador Valley High School graduation ceremony . . . . Nick presented his speech at the graduation ceremony, but omitted the portions that the Defendants had forbidden him from presenting. When he came to both censored portions . . . I felt at that point that I and my views were regarded negatively by the School District and the political majority in the community whose views it represented."

How can we not help Nick? How can we not go to court and set a precedent that will help the Christian school kids all across this nation?

Please let me hear from you today so that we can help defend this brave young Christian.

Defending Religious Freedom,

Steven W. Fitschen

P.S. Yes, Nick’s graduation is over. Yes, his rights as a Christian have already been trampled upon. But if you and I don’t stand up and say, "Enough is enough," whose rights will be trampled upon next? The students, parents, and grandparents in your community? How would you feel? Please—send your very best gift today!




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