Officials at Broward County Public Schools banned a fifth grader from reading the Bible during “free reading” time, according to lawyers from the Liberty Institute who are threatening to sue the school for violating the First Amendment.
Giovanni Rubeo is a fifth-grade student at the school, who had been given a Bible at church as a Christmas gift. It’s his favorite book, so he decided he’d like to read it during the time in class where students are allowed 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.” Rubeo then contacted the school’s principal, Orinthia Dias, who brought in the school’s legal department. None of them are willing to acknowledge that Giovanni has a constitutional right to read the Bible.
Listen to the voicemail here.
So Rubeo retained Liberty Institute to assert Giovanni’s First Amendment rights. Liberty Institute has now sent a demand letter to Broward County Public Schools and is holding a public event this afternoon at the federal courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
“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,” says 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.”
Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.