An elementary school in Palmdale, California has sent a deputy sheriff to warn a 7-year-old boy and his parents that he should stop sharing Bible verses at school.
It all started when the student’s tradition of reading Bible verses caught the attention of other students who were asking to hear the Bible verses. The boy’s mother, Christina Zavala, had always shared a tradition with her son. She would write down Bible verses and little notes of encouragement for her son and tuck them into his school lunch. When the boy told the other children what the notes were about, they asked him to read them aloud. The other students who sat at the same lunch table became interested in the notes and verses, even asking him for copies of the notes. Mrs. Zavala indulged them by adding extra copies.
Soon, the verses expanded into Bible stories and the children seemed to enjoy them and be inspired by them. One little girl was so encouraged by them, she told her teacher it was “the most beautiful story” she’d ever seen. The teacher replied that there should be a “separation between church and state,” and prohibited the notes during lunchtime.
The teacher then scolded the boy in front of his entire classroom on two occasions, then called his parents. She told Mrs. Zavala that there is a separation between church and state and that it was improper for him to share the stories with other students at school.
The Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit organization that specializes in protecting religious rights, sent a letter on behalf of the boy to the Palmdale School District to correctly clarify the clause of separation of church and state, explaining that students have the legal right to exercise freedom of speech through printed material. The letter went on to say that it was “improper to ban student religious discussion during lunchtime.” It said the district “cannot suppress and sensor this type of discussion,” nor can they prohibit the one-page notes containing Bible verses and stories placed by the boy’s mother in his lunch for his own personal enrichment.
They reiterated that the boy voluntarily shared the notes by reading them aloud, then honoring their requests for copies. The interested classmates were certainly free to either accept or refuse the notes as they saw fit.
According to Liberty Counsel, says Fox News, the school restricted the boy’s sharing of the verses and stories to being shared only outside the school’s gates and outside of school hours. The boy and his family complied. Shortly thereafter, however, the principal issued orders banning the sharing of Bible verses completely on school grounds.
The boy and his father were told to move to a public sidewalk. Again, the boy and his family complied, only to receive a visit from a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff a few hours later. Apparently the deputy sheriff was sent to warn the boy and his family to stop sharing Bible verses because someone might take offense to them. The family told Liberty Counsel that the deputy was never threatening or belligerent, nor did he serve them with any type of legal documents. It was merely a friendly warning, he had told them.
Horatio Mihet, an attorney for Liberty Counsel, reached out to the LA County Sheriff’s Department and has not received a reply. He contacted Raul Maldonado, the superintendent for the Palmdale School District, who told him that the school is reviewing the issue with their legal counsel. Horatio voiced his displeasure with the way the entire situation has been handled thus far.
“Apparently all the real criminals have been dealt with in Palmdale – and now they’re going after kids who share Bible verses during lunch time.”
He went on to say that the order from the school district was “outrageous” and “should shock the conscious of every freedom-loving American.” A Christianity Daily report reveals that he compared the issue with students passing out birthday cards or Valentines at school, or talking about superheroes at lunch.
“…they cannot be prohibited from sharing Bible verses and securing their faith during their free, non-instructional time.”
Mihet and Liberty Counsel remain in strong disagreement with the school’s position, arguing that student’s don’t check their rights at the door and are free to have discussions about their beliefs with their classmates. Superintendent Raul Maldonado clarifies the district’s position.
“The District remains committed to ensuring an environment where all students, regardless of religious affiliation or belief, are free to learn and reach their full potential.”
Opinions are widely varied, according to social media users, many of whom support the boy’s right to share his faith or whatever opinions he wishes to discuss with his classmates at lunchtime or other free time at school.
A few users have responded in favor of the separation of church and state, however most seem to be of the opinion that sending a deputy sheriff to warn the boy to stop sharing Bible stories was over the top.
Where do you stand on the issue? Sound off in the comments below.
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