California school district relents, will allow boy, 7, to share Bible verses with classmates
PALMDALE, CA - Just in time for back to school, the Palmdale School District has backed away from censoring a first-grader's constitutional rights to share Bible verses with his classmates at Desert Rose Elementary School.
The situation started with an encouraging note and Bible verse from mom Christina Zavala, tucked into a packed lunch for her son ("C"), age 7. He read the note and verse and showed them to his friends during lunchtime at school. Soon the other children excitedly begged "C" for copies of the notes along with short Bible stories that provided context for the verses.
However, when one little girl said, "Teacher, this is the most beautiful story I've ever seen," school officials banned the notes from lunchtime distribution citing "separation of church and state." "C" was told that the school gate was the only location where he could distribute the Bible verses to his friends and only after the bell rang.
Even though the Zavalas and "C" complied with the school gate directive, Principal Melanie Pagliaro approached Mr. Zavala and demanded that "C "only hand out the notes on a public sidewalk, far from the exit, off school property. The family immediately complied. However, a Los Angeles deputy sheriff came to the Zavalas' home and said that "C" must stop sharing because "someone might be offended."
The Zavalas, represented by Liberty Counsel, fought for their son's constitutional rights to share the Bible verses. As a result, in a recent letter, the cistrict's legal counsel concluded that:
1. "C" may freely discuss his religious beliefs on the Desert Rose campus during non-instructional time;
2. The Zavalas may distribute written material to anyone on any designated public forum, including the sidewalk a few feet away from the Desert Rose School gate.
3. Mr. and Mrs. Zavala may continue to send a daily note to "C" in his lunchbox.
4. "C" may freely read and discuss his daily note with his peers during non-instructional time.
5. "C' may even verbally invite any of his peers to join him on the sidewalk after school for further discussion on the contents of the notes.
"We celebrate this victory that acknowledges that students have constitutional rights to free speech to distribute literature during non-instructional times," said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. "Now this young boy is free to share his Bible verses and stories with his classmates this year without hassle."
In a press release,Liberty Counsel describes itself is an international nonprofit, started in 1989, that provides provides pro bono legal assistance on issues of "religious freedom, the sanctity of life and the family."
Posted 8/15/16; Opinion: General)
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