AHA News |  

Texas Student Suspended for Tearing Bible Pages At School

American Humanist Association’s Legal Center Cites Student's First Amendment Rights in Complaint to Birdville School District

For Immediate Release

Contact: Monica Miller, mmiller@americanhumanist.org202-238-9088 x 102
Maggie Ardiente, mardiente@americanhumanist.org, 202-238-9088 x116

(Washington, DC, Nov. 1, 2013) — The American Humanist Association sent a complaint letter to the Birdville Independent School District in Texas, claiming that Birdville High School administrators violated the First Amendment rights of student Isaiah Smith, who was suspended for tearing Bible pages in school. 

Smith, an African-American gay student at Birdville High School, states he was bullied by other students who repeatedly told Smith that "being gay is a sin" and "gays go to hell." In protest, Smith tore pages of Leviticus from his copy of the Bible and was sent to the assistant principal’s office on the grounds that he was being disruptive in class. Smith reported the bullying and was allowed to continue to carry the Bible with him during school hours, as long as he didn't further tear the pages. However, three days later, Smith was suspended for simply continuing to carry the ripped Bible. 

“This is a clear violation of Isaiah’s First Amendment rights,” said Monica Miller, an attorney and legal consultant with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the Amercan Humanist Association. “The only explanation for this kind of punishment is that it was religiously motivated, because he expressed different beliefs on the Bible than those held by school officials. There’s no legal basis for that kind of reaction.”

Smith, a senior, has never before been suspended, and he has no known record of behavior which might warrant a harsh punishment from school officials. According to the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the Bible he tore was his personal property and had torn it as an expression of protest, which was fully in accordance with his constitutional rights to free speech.

The letter calls for all records of the suspension to be expunged, for Smith’s torn Bible to be returned to him, and for the school to either allow Smith to carry his torn bible or to prohibit all students from carrying religious texts in school. If the school doesn’t comply, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center will file a lawsuit on behalf of the student. 

The letter to the school district can be found here.

###

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates equality for humanists, atheists and other non-theists, and advances humanism---the idea that you can be good without a belief in a god. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington D.C., the American Humanist Association has over 23,000 members and supporters, and more than 175 local chapters and affiliates across the United States. Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

American Humanist Association

Washington Post illustration by Herblock from 1963. Still an unsettled issue......

8 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Our lawsuit challenging 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance is trending on F...

9 hours ago

American Humanist Association

A major newspaper in New Jersey. The Star-Ledger, published an editorial in supp...

12 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Did you catch Roy Speckhardt's interview on Fox and Friends this morning? Watch...

13 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss it! AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt will be on Fox and Friends...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Pledge of Allegiance without the use of "Under God" did not cause harm to t...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Great News! Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island just issued a proclamation r...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

A great video for Earth Day! Isaac Asimov discusses saving the planet for future...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Responding to reporters this morning as the AHA's latest case gets national atte...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Lots of press coverage this morning on our New Jersey lawsuit challenging 'under...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Earth Day Everyone! Be kind to your Earth. It's where you live!

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Congratulations to Ventura County, California for now officially recognizing May...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Taken from a 1940's Justice Society Of America comic before "Under God" was adde...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association has filed lawsuit against “Under God” in the P...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The 2014 American Atheists Conference was awesome! Check out pictures of the Ame...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone!

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Humanist Poll! http://thehumanist.com/arts_entertainment/culture/your-humanist-...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Announcing our 2014 AHA Annual Conference Keynote Speaker, Professor Max Tegmark...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Have you had this problem? The Ethical Dilemma: My Son Sends Me E-Mails Signed...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Hurry! Going to the AHA annual conference in Philly? May 5th is the last day to...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Rules Are for Schmucks: Darwin Award Nominee by Luis Granados. http://thehumani...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Cartoon History of Humanism Episode Three: The Archpoet, 12th-Century Gang...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Throwback Thursday! The January/February, 1989 issue of the Humanist magazine...

6 days ago