In The School

Student Takes Bold Stand Against Government Religious Censorship

Posted May 11th, 2012


Shultz v. Medina Valley I.S.D.

In 2011, a federal judge threatened Angela Hildenbrand, a model high school student and valedictorian, with jail if she prayed during her graduation speech.

This seems impossible, but it actually happened. Who would have thought that the very courts charged with defending the Constitution would threaten a student’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech. The government cannot censor the religious speech of its citizens…including public school students.

The Facts

  • In 2011, a family filed a lawsuit against Medina Valley High School near San Antonio, Texas, complaining about the school district’s inclusion of an invocation and benediction during graduation ceremonies.
  • A U.S. District Judge agreed with the plaintiffs and issued a temporary restraining order that not only disallowed the school’s “invocation” and “benediction,” but also banned prayer offered by anyone during the graduation, regardless of whether it was offered by a student or another private speaker.
  • In response to this order, Angela Hildenbrand, valedictorian of Medina Valley High School, contacted Liberty Institute for help. She planned to offer a prayer during her speech to her classmates, and also wanted to mention her faith…but she didn’t want to go to jail.
  • On behalf of Hildenbrand, Liberty Institute filed an emergency motion for intervention and request for relief from the temporary restraining order. Texas Governor Rick Perry, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, and the Medina Valley School District also urged the federal appeals court to reverse the District Judge’s ruling.
  • On June 3, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the ruling, allowing Hildenbrand to offer a prayer during her graduation speech and permitting her to exercise her constitutional right to freely express her religious beliefs.
  • In August 2012, Liberty Institute launched The Angela Project, a nationwide effort to stop the widespread assault on religious freedom in our public schools. Through this project, Liberty Institute will educate and empower students to stand up for their faith.

Although the Fifth Circuit Court ruling was a victory for Hildenbrand and religious freedom, we still have a long road ahead of us and we need your help. Please share this information with your friends and family, pray with us, and donate now!

Also, if you know of any student, teacher or school district facing this type of hostility, please have them contact us at 972-941-4444 or through email at


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