The Rutherford Institute has successfully defended fifth-grader Jessica Otto’s right to sing a song with religious content in her school’s talent show.
Jessica, a student at Foulks Ranch Elementary School in Elk Grove, Calif., sang the song during a mid-December try-out for the show. PTA officials reviewed a tape of her performance and informed her on January 20 that she could not sing the song because of its reference to “Jesus.” School officials also wrote a new policy forbidding religious content in the talent show.
Jessica’s mother approached the Rutherford Institute and requested legal assistance. Brad Dacus, western regional coordinator for The Rutherford Institute, contacted the school district superintendent and advised him of Jessica’s legal rights. The following day, the superintendent assured the Institute that Jessica would be allowed to sing the song she chose.
“These actions against Jessica were apparently the result of simple ignorance of the law,” said Dacus. “Nonetheless, such actions of anti-religious censors can have a major chilling effect upon the free speech rights of children.”