Supreme Court Tunes Out Student’s ‘Ave Maria’ Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from a public school student who wanted to play religious music during her graduation ceremony.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Everett (Wash.) School District was within its right to deny permission to student Kathryn Nurre to play “Ave Maria” during graduation. The title of the song is Latin for “Hail Mary,” and the school said musical pieces at graduation should be secular.

Nurre, who appealed the decision to the high court, was represented by the Rutherford Institute. She argued in Nurre v. Whitehead that the school district violated her constitutional rights.

The justices’ refusal to hear the dispute brings the matter to a close.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a six-page dissent arguing that the court should have taken the case. He claimed the school may have infringed on Nurre’s free speech. 

“When a public school purports to allow students to express themselves,” Alito wrote,” it must respect the students’ free speech rights. School administrators may not behave like puppet masters who create the illusion that students are engaging in personal expression when in fact the school administration is pulling the strings.”

Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the 9th Circuit. AU attorneys said school officials did not violate Nurre’s rights and have a responsibility to uphold church-state separation.