Graduation Eagle Feather Fight in Federal Court

Caney Valley High School senior Hayden Griffith wasn't able to wear an eagle feather for her graduation last May—her case is now in federal court.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

On May 22, 2015 Caney Valley High School senior Hayden Griffith, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and the Delaware Tribe, graduated without an eagle feather on her cap.

Griffith sued Caney Valley in 2015, siting a violation of her First Amendment rights and her rights under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, reports Tulsa World. But that was denied. Accepting a federal magistrate’s recommendation, Chief U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell denied the injunction that would have allowed her to wear the feather at graduation.

Griffith’s case is now in federal court. The Cherokee Phoenix reports that a motion for a jury trial is still pending, but Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed an amicus brief with the Northern District of Oklahoma. The state isn’t siding with Griffith or Caney Valley, but has asked the court to reexamine its interpretation of the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act, says the Phoenix.

“ORFA considers exercise substantially burdened so long as the inhibited or curtailed practice at issue is religiously motivated, regardless if the practice is religiously required and regardless whether there is any religious detriment,” Oklahoma Deputy Solicitor General Mithun Mansinghani told the Phoenix. “ORFA in no way excuses, justifies or minimizes a governmental burden on free exercise simply because a plaintiff may have other options for religious exercise, as defendants contend.”

The Phoenix reports that Griffith is currently a freshman at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, and that no timeline has been set for a possible trial.

RELATED: Feather at Graduation or Lawsuit? That’s Up to Caney Valley School District