2018 Holy Cross Valedictorian Honored with Hugh Hefner 1st Amendment Award

The 2018 valedictorian of the Holy Cross High School class of 2018 was honored with a Hugh Hefner Foundation First Amendment Award, it was announced Thursday.

Christian Bales was barred by the Diocese of Covington from presenting his valedictory speech during the class's graduation ceremony a year ago at Thomas More University in Crestview Hills. 

At the time, a statement from a spokesperson for the Diocese indicated that Bales's speech was not submitted for review before the deadline, and then after the speech was received for review, it was "found to contain elements that were political or inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church."

In a story published at The River City News last May, Bales said of the speech, "I thought it was pretty mild. Maybe part of it was (political), I referenced the Stoneman Douglas teenagers. I know they have been strong advocates for gun reform, but I didn't talk about gun reform, so I really have no idea." He was referencing the student activists that emerged following the deadly shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last year.

Bales, now a freshman at the University of Louisville, also said at the time that he was not sure whether his speech was rejected because he is gay. 

In the announcement of the First Amendment Awards recipients, for which Bales will be honored in the category of education, the Hugh Hefner Foundation described Bales as "an openly gay and gender non-conforming student, who was not allowed to deliver his valedictorian commencement speech at his Catholic high school’s graduation ceremony. Christian decided to deliver his speech with a bullhorn following the graduation ceremony surrounded by students and faculty."

A large crowd of supporters encircled Bales as he delivered his speech outside the Connor Convocation Center following the Holy Cross graduation ceremony.

The class's salutatorian, Katherine Frantz, was also barred from delivering her speech during the ceremony

The awards will be presented on May 15 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The Hefner Foundation presents the First Amendment Awards each year to recognize individuals that the foundation, named for the Playboy magazine founder, believes to have helped protect and enhance the First Amendment rights of all Americans.

“Americans’ First Amendment freedoms are under assault like never before. From a reporter being stripped of his White House press pass, to newsrooms being threatened and attacked, members of the press are being viciously targeted while ‘fake news’ has become a common term used by politicians and the public, " said Christie Hefner, founder and chairman of the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards, said in a news release. "Millions of students are exposed to a censorship culture within our education system as free speech violations take place at our schools and on college campuses. We cannot allow First Amendment threats to become commonplace in our country.”

The awards were founded in 1979 by Christie Hefner.

“Because of the dedication and commitment of Americans who refuse to be censored, threats to the First Amendment do not go unchallenged,” she said. “We honor and recognize America’s unsung heroes: the individuals who put themselves and their organizations at risk by bravely defending their constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression. The Foundation is honored to recognize this year’s award winners who were carefully selected from hundreds of nominations. Assaults to the First Amendment cannot go unnoticed. We’ll continue to raise awareness of these violations and recognize America’s brave free speech heroes.”

The complete list of winners:

  • Law: Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and global Co-Chair of the firm’s Litigation Group, for his work on behalf of CNN and Jim Acosta in connection with the restoration of Acosta’s White House press credentials.

  • Government: Dr. George Luber, Former Chief of the Climate and Health Program in the Division of Environmental Health Science and Practice at the National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After the 2016 election, Dr. Luber was directed to cancel a conference on climate change with Al Gore; he refused on the basis of science education and was outspoken on the issue. The CDC sent Dr. Luber home on administrative leave. After taking a public stand, the CDC withdrew Dr. Luber’s proposed termination.

  • Book Publishing: Greg Lukianoff, President and CEO, FIRE, & Jonathan Haidt, Social Psychologist, NYU’s Stern School of Business, for their book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.

  • Journalism: Grace Marion, former Editor-In-Chief of her high school newspaper, The Playwickian, for her fight against school censorship after she saw about a dozen articles censored. Grace was able to publish her final jaw-dropping article during her last year at the school, which outed the school for the lack of sexual misconduct records for its teachers.

  • Education: Christian Bales, an openly gay and gender non-conforming student, who was not allowed to deliver his Valedictorian commencement speech at his Catholic high school’s graduation ceremony. Christian decided to deliver his speech with a bullhorn following the graduation ceremony surrounded by students and faculty.

  • Lifetime Achievement: Floyd Abrams, Senior Counsel, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, for his lifelong devotion to Constitutional law. Abrams has argued numerous significant First Amendment cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. Many arguments he has made orally and in his briefs to the Court have been adopted by it as binding precedent protecting freedom of speech and the press from infringement by the government.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Christian Bales (provided)