(NaturalNews) A Florida teacher has sparked a controversy over religious freedom after she ordered a fifth-grade student to hand over his Bible.
As reported by Breitbart News, officials at Broward County Public Schools summarily banned the boy from reading his Bible during "free reading," time, according to attorneys with the Liberty Institute, a civil rights organization that is threatening to sue the school district over violations of the student's freedom of religion rights under the First Amendment.
The student, Giovanni Rubeo, was given the Bible at church as a Christmas gift. He says it is his favorite book, leading him to decide upon bringing it to school during the time in class when students are supposedly free to read anything they choose:
Swornia Thomas is Giovanni's teacher. On April 8, Thomas told Giovanni he's not allowed to read the Bible in her class and ordered him to put it away. Giovanni asked her to call his father, Paul Rubeo, about the incident.
Thomas did so, leaving a voicemail that included, "I noticed that he [Giovanni] has a book--a religious book--in the classroom. He's not permitted to read those books in my classroom."
It's a simple First Amendment case
What is amazing is that there are still people in America who don't realize that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is under assault by the radical left.
Following the phone call, the father contacted school Principal Orinthia Davis, who showed up to a meeting with him with the school district's lawyers. None of them were willing to acknowledge that the fifth grader's reading of a Bible -- or a Koran or any other religious book or materials -- is a constitutionally protected activity.
At that, Mr. Rubeo contacted and retained the Liberty Institute, and must now force the issue through legal channels, despite the First Amendment's clear language: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Granted, a school district isn't Congress, but the historical meaning of that passage is that Americans are free to practice, observe and engage in the religion of their choice (or no religion at all, if they so choose).
In response, the Liberty Institute has fired off a letter to the Broward County Schools demanding officials cease and desist in violating the boy's constitutional rights, or face a court battle.
'They violated the Constitution and federal law'
"Banning religious books like the Bible violates Giovanni's civil rights to religious free speech and free exercise," said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute Director of Litigation. "The school's actions exemplify the hostility to religion that the U.S. Supreme Court has condemned."
"We expect Broward County Public School officials to resolve this unfortunate incident quickly and amicably," added Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys. "Absent such an apology and assurance that students in Broward County Public Schools may read religious books like the Bible during free reading times, our client is prepared to take legal action."
The school has since responded:
Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the rights of students to bring personal religious materials to school, including the Bible, and to read these items before school, after school or during any "free reading" time during the school day.
But apparently not in Thomas' classroom (but is it really her classroom, or does it belong to the taxpayers of the school district?).
In explaining why the case matters, the Liberty Institute said, "Broward County school officials violated federal and state law that guarantees the rights of public school students to engage in private religious expression and other private religious activity in schools--including reading religious books like the Bible in free time."