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

Here is a cool new Kickstarter campaign to create a children's book for non-bel...

12 hours ago

American Humanist Association

AHA board member Howard Katz is at Skepticon representing! Make sure to stop by...

13 hours ago

American Humanist Association

December 2nd is Giving Tuesday. This holiday season, while you are buying gifts...

15 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Hey, It's our favorite science guy! Clay Farris Naff talks with past AHA humanis...

17 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Who is ready for Skepticon 2014?! If you are attending the event, make sure to s...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Today is National Transgender Day of Remembrance. Today we remember transgenders...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Many people don't believe that a person can be good without a god. What are thos...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Yesterday, AHA's David Niose presented his argument that the phrase "under God"...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

A Congressional hearing on religious accommodations in the armed services is hap...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Today a judge will hear the arguments of Dave Niose, representing the AHA, in a...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Last week Indra Zuno delivered her secular invocation at the LA County Board mee...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The United Coalition of Reason is crushing the billboard game with billboards up...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham was so entertaining and informative, who...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Following on from last week's spectacular launch of 2 CoRs in the beautiful stat...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Will Kirk Cameron save Christmas and Christianity from the evil, putrid creature...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

The secular community seems torn in their opinion of Dan Brown. Although you may...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

What would give Margaret Atwood faith to keep going during a zombie apocalypse?...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

If you have seen Interstellar you will know what Neil is talking about.

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Release date for Fighting Back the Right, from the AHA's David Niose, is just a...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Our Pledge Boycott page has a form for sharing stories with us of your experienc...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Our friends at the Institute for Humanist Studies, a humanist think tank, are ho...

7 days ago