(Volokh) That’s what the Hollywood Reporter reports, stating that school district officials acknowledged the incident and apologized for the principal’s disinvitation decision:
[Gerald Molen] was invited to speak to the graduating class at a Montana high school. But upon arriving, was told by the principal he would not be allowed to deliver the speech he had prepared….I should note that I don’t think there’s any First Amendment problem with a school’s inviting or not inviting a guest speaker based on the person’s past political activity — giving such a speech is an honor, and a school might consider a person’s opinions in deciding whether to honor him. Nor do I think that there’s any First Amendment problem with the disinvitation: A school need not delegate the decision about who will speak to the students, or to any particular official, and a principal may undo what lower-level officials have done, or even what he himself had done. (Four Justices have suggested that decisions to stock a book in a school library, once made, can’t be unmade for ideological reasons, but four other Justices disagreed with that, and in any event even the Justices who thought there were limits on library book removal decisions recognized that a school had brought authority to set and change “curriculum” — and I think the invitation of honored guest speakers is a part of that curriculum.) The cancellation might be a breach of contract, though it’s not clear what the damages would be, but not a constitutional violation.
Molen says [Principal Tom] Stack told him straight up that he wouldn’t be allowed to address the students because he was “a right-wing conservative.”
“He said some callers didn’t want the kids exposed to that, despite not knowing what my message would be,” Molen told The Hollywood Reporter….
For the Ronan students, Molen planned to use [Oskar] Schindler as an example of what courageous individuals could accomplish, and he also planned to ask them to “imagine your future is a movie. Forty years from now, you’re writing a script about your accomplishments. What would that script look like?”
“It was a totally apolitical speech,” Molen said….
This having been said, it sounds like the cancellation was also a sign of both intolerance and impoliteness, and a poor example to set to students — as the superintendent of schools has acknowledged. The principal is leaving the school and going to work at another school 70 miles away (right around the block by Montana standards, I hear), apparently for reasons unrelated to this incident. I hope that his new employers persuade him to behave better in his new position.
For Molen’s own account of the incident, see here. Thanks to Dan Gifford for the pointer. Note that, notwithstanding the Hollywood Reporter headline, this apparently involved a speech to the graduating class but not a graduation speech (the graduation was apparently June 3, and the Molen incident happened before May 26).
I have a big problem with public tax payer money going to political discretion. I have no problem advocating a matter of taste in art, but we should not tolerate a vibrant political sphere in the United States that is acceptable to half the country as a reason to reject the ideas of it's speaker. That might not be law... but I would do everything I could to push it if it isn't. Rejecting someone because of a broad American term like Conservative is ugly. I'm from a family that might feel likewise about Conservatism, and I believe it is an ugly point of view. That said... I don't like the smell here and I'm guessing this is some Juden Hass going down.