A legal team protecting the rights of a student to read the Bible during his class reading time claims officials in the Broward County school district in Florida lied about their ban on the Bible.
A second demand letter from the Liberty Institute on behalf of the student revealed that while the school apparently was claiming the Bible was disallowed because it wasn’t on a list of approved reading sources for an advanced readers’ program, it actually was.
“One of the reasons you cited on the phone for the ban on the Bible during Accelerated Reader Program time was that the Bible is not included on the Accelerated Reader Program list of approved books that have corresponding online tests,” said the letter from Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the institute, to Marilyn McNamara of the Broward County schools.
“In fact, you flatly stated that there is no tests or quiz for the Bible within the Accelerated Reader Program,” he wrote.
Even “assuming your factual assertion that the ban did take place during Accelerated Reader Program time, Giovanni Rubeo and other students in the school district have a constitutional right to read the Bible as part of the Accelerated Reader Program as well,” he pointed out.
“Enclosed, you will find eleven (11) pages of books listed on the Accelerated Reader Program’s website. These represent but a few of the ‘wide range of books’ from which students, like our client, could choose to read. Among the titles, you will note, are the following: Acts, Amos, Chronicles 1, Chronicles 2, Colossians, Corinthians 1, Corinthians 2, Daniel, Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes,” the letter said.
“As you would imagine, each of these titles – these are merely the titles listed on the first of eleven pages of search results – are books contained within the Holy Bible and of the very same translation (NIV) that our client brought to class on April 8, 2014. Moreover, we note that each of these books are rated for ‘Middle Grade’ readers, meaning the same are suitable for readers between the fourth and eighth grades,” the lawyers explained.
See the WND Superstore choice of Bibles and helps, including “1599 Geneva Bible,” “How to Study the Bible,” “The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible,” “King James Commentary Bible” and “Forbidden Book: The History of the English Bible.”
“Each title provides the coveted Accelerated Reader points for students like Giovanni to earn credit. And, each title has pre-written online quizzes for students to take when they finish reading the same,” the letter said.
The issue arose earlier this month, reported WSVN-TV in Miami, when
fifth-grader Giovanni Rubeo wanted to read his Bible during the free reading time at Park Lakes Elementary but was forbidden by his teacher.
The teacher left a voice mail for the student’s father, saying: “Good morning, Mr. Rubeo, Mrs. Thomas. Giovanni called you because I asked him to. I noticed that he has a book, a religious book in the classroom. He is not permitted to read those books in my classroom. He said if I told him to put it away you would say not to do that. So please give me a call, I need to have some understanding on direction to him about the book he’s reading as opposed to the curriculum for public schools. Mrs. S. Thomas. Thank you. Have a wonderful day. Bye-bye.”
Paul Rubeo, the father, picked up on the constitutional issues immediately.
“When someone’s civil rights and constitutional rights are being violated, and that happens to be your child, I’m sure that any one of you would do that for someone you love.”
The district then mailed a letter stating that religious materiel is permitted before or after class. Two weeks later, officials admitted that the Bible was OK during “free reading” as well.
But the school had been adamant the student’s Bible reading was during a special reading program time, and the program didn’t allow it.
“Broward County Public Schools justified censoring the Bible because they thought it was not part of the Accelerated Reader Program, but, in fact, the Bible and other religious books about the Jewish, Buddhist and other faiths are included,” said Jeremiah Dys, Liberty Institute senior counsel.
“It is unlawful viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment for the school district to selectively censor religious books from the large list of books available to students in the Accelerated Reader Program,” he said.
Liberty Institute said it has given Broward County Public Schools until May 19 to lift the ban on the Bible and other religious books and to take steps to inform classroom officials that they cannot ban the Bible from the Accelerated Reader Program.
See a report about the initial confrontation: