A California public school called a Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff in Palmdale to reprimand a 7-year-old student for handing out Bible verses, warning that such actions are “offensive.”
Santa Monica Observer reported that the student, who attends Desert Rose Elementary, had been handing out Bible verses given to him in the form of short notes from his mother, Christina Zavala, alongside his lunch.
The young boy distributed the Bible verses while standing on a public sidewalks outside the school.
He also shared other verses and short Bible stories among his friends, until a first-grade teacher saw one of those notes. The teacher reportedly publicly rebuked the boy, and then called his parents, warning them that such actions go against the separation of church and state.
The boy, however, allegedly continued to distribute Bible verses out at the school gate, and subsequently he and his parents were told by the school’s principal that what they were doing is not permitted.
Later that day, a Los Angeles deputy sheriff went to the family’s home to inform the parents that Desert Rose Elementary School had filed a report against the child for sharing Bible verses.
The Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation organization which specializes in defending religious freedom, has since sent a letter to the Palmdale School District to inform the administration of the correct interpretation of the clause establishing separation of church and state, arguing that pupils have the right to exercise freedom of speech through printed materials.
“Therefore, it was improper to ban student religious discussion during lunchtime. The district cannot suppress and censor this discussion, or the one-page notes consisting of Bible stories and verses placed by C’s mother in C ‘s lunch for his own personal enjoyment and edification; which he voluntarily chose to share with his little friends during non-instructional time; which interested classmates were free to accept or refuse, at their own discretion,” the letter stated.
“The additional copies requested by C from his mother, for his friends (who had specifically requested them from him), are likewise protected, and fall into no classification of material that might be lawfully prohibited by the school district,” it added.
“The consigning of C’s speech to the ‘schoolhouse gate,’ and then the prohibition of it even there, is unconstitutional, and must fall. Finally, if being censured for religious expression by one’s First Grade teacher in front of one’s classmates is not intimidating and humiliating enough, the message of hostility to a child’s religious expression is underscored by the District calling law enforcement for a ‘follow-up visit ‘ to his house.”
Public schools in America often face questions regarding the separation of church and state when it comes to Bible verses used on school campus.
Some compromises include allowing the distribution of biblical material have allowed other groups to hand out their religious, or anti-religious material, such as atheist handbooks, and satanist pamphlets.