Illinois Student Broadcaster Suspended For Saying 'God Bless' Reinstated

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - An Illinois high school student suspended for saying "God Bless" on the air has been reinstated to anchor the daily newscast, which is aired on the closed circuit television system at the school.

The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm, represents James Lord - a senior at Dupo High School in Dupo, Ill. - who was suspended for one month from his daily news broadcast after signing off his December 17th broadcast with the sentence: "Have a safe and happy holiday, and God Bless."

Lord said the school principal told him that the use of the words "God Bless" was inappropriate and suspended him from the broadcast for one month - a suspension that was due to expire on February 1st.

Lord contacted the ACLJ for assistance in the case, and attorneys then prepared a legal memorandum outlining the law regarding the First Amendment rights of students.

At a meeting last night, Lord and ACLJ attorneys appealed to the school board to revoke the suspension and permit Lord to return to his broadcast immediately.

After hearing from Lord and ACLJ attorneys, the Dupo School Board voted Wednesday night to revoke the suspension and allow Lord to return to the broadcast immediately. School officials also said they will permit Lord to use the phrase "God Bless" on the broadcast in the future.

The ACLJ called it "a very important victory for our client and the First Amendment."

"To punish a student for ending a broadcast with the words 'God Bless' was an outrageous and unbelievable over reaction by school officials. We're delighted that the school board has revoked the suspension and permitted our client to return to the broadcast immediately," said ACLJ senior counsel Francis J. Manion.

"At the same time, we will monitor the situation closely to ensure that our client is not punished in the future for exercising his constitutional rights," he said.

"We want to ensure that James Lord and other students are not censored when it comes to exercising their First Amendment rights in the student broadcast," said Manion.

"To punish students for using the phrase 'God Bless' on-air constitutes a violation of their constitutional rights and we are prepared to take whatever legal action is necessary to protect those students and ensure that their constitutional rights are protected," he concluded.

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