By Liberty Institute, Special for USDR.
Today, Liberty Institute sent a new demand letter to Broward County Public Schools after district officials told the press and Liberty Institute that the district bans the Bible during times allotted for the Accelerated Reader® Program. (View demand letter here: http://www.libertyinstitute.org/rubeo). When Liberty Institute attorneys asserted the right of Giovanni Rubeo to read his Bible during free reading time at Park Lakes Elementary School, school officials claimed it was not free reading time. Instead, school officials argued, Giovanni and his classmates were participating in an Accelerated Reader® Program during which religious books – including the Bible – could not be read.
But, after further investigation, Liberty Institute attorneys discovered that the Bible is an approved book within the Accelerated Reader® Program. The Accelerated Reader® Program, which is linked to from the Broward County Public Schools’ website, offers over a thousand books for fifth graders, including the Bible.
“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.”
On April 8, 2014, Giovanni Rubeo attempted to read his Bible during a free reading period, but his teacher demanded he put his Bible on her desk. When Giovanni refused, she forced him to call his father from the classroom. As his colleagues watched, his teacher left a voicemail for his father, saying “I noticed that he has a book – a religious book – in the classroom. He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.” Listen to the full voicemail by clicking here:http://www.libertyinstitute.org/rubeo
Broward County Public School officials quickly told the public that students can read their Bible during free reading times, but that the period in question was part of the Accelerated Reader® Program, which did not allow students to read the Bible. A quick search of approved books for the Accelerated Reader® Program, however, revealed the following approved books of the Bible: Acts (Bible-NIV), Amos (Bible-NIV), Chronicles 1 (Bible-NIV), Chronicles 2 (Bible-NIV), Colossians (Bible-NIV), Corinthians 1 (Bible-NIV), Corinthians 2 (Bible-NIV), Daniel (Bible-NIV), Deuteronomy (Bible-NIV), Ecclesiastes (Bible-NIV). In addition, several other “religious books” were approved as well, including William Tyndale: Bible Translator and Martyr, The Torah and Judaism, The Prince Who Ran Away: The Story of Gautama Buddha, and Clouds of Glory: Legends and Stories About Bible Times.
Liberty Institute has given Broward County Public Schools until May 19, 2014, to lift the ban on the Bible and other religious books and to take steps to train classroom officials that they cannot ban the Bible from the Accelerated Reader® Program.
Liberty Institute is a national nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, inside our military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our Founding Fathers. For information, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.