ACRU

ACLU Says: Better Drunk Than Religious

ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight wrote this article on September 30, 2010.

Despite the ACLU’s effort to censor a “religious” speaker at a Nebraska high school, students on Wednesday (Sept. 29) got to hear a compelling account of why they should not drink and drive from a man whose brother was killed by a drunk driver.

The appearance at Lyons-Decatur Northeast High School by Keith Becker, who says he has spoken to more than 150 Nebraska schools and who makes no secret of his Christianity, was opposed by the ACLU’s local chapter when they got wind of it.

ACLU Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller had warned school officials in early September that Becker’s presence might be a violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishment of religion. In the ACLU’s atheist-biased world, religious references or speakers in a public setting are always suspect.

Even Miller allowed that, “A tangential reference, speaking personally, probably does not violate the First Amendment. But a primarily religious message or an exhortation for students to follow his path does definitely cross the line.” She vowed to be ready to file a lawsuit if anyone was later found to have been offended.

The Omaha World Herald found no such offended students after the event, noting that Becker had referenced the Bible only once and referred to a church-going man another time in the 75-minute presentation. The paper summarized the presentation this way:

Keith Becker’s primary message was that poor choices led to his brother’s death and that students can avoid his fate by making good ones. Keith Becker blamed himself for being a poor role model and enabling his brother to slide down a path of sex, pornography and alcohol. Todd Becker, a standout Kearney High School athlete who pole vaulted and played football and baseball, died in a 2005 crash at age 18. The driver and front-seat passenger survived. Todd Becker was in the back seat. All had been drinking.”

Some students reportedly said that Becker’s tale left them in tears, and others said it reinforced their decision to stay sober. “It keeps me confident with my choice to not drink,” student Evan Malloy told Omaha’s KETV-7.

In 2009, Nebraska had 34,662 crashes related to alcohol, in which 223 people died and 17,775 were injured, according to the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles.

If the ACLU pursues a legal challenge, Lyons-Decatur Superintendent Fred Hansen said he is ready for it.

“We love our kids. They really need to hear that message: Make good choices,” Hansen said.