Gay Student Suspended for Ripping Leviticus Out of His Bible

A gay high school student in Birdville, Texas has been suspended for ripping pages out of his own Bible, which he brought with him to class. The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Legal Center is getting involved, sending a letter to the school demanding that the suspension be lifted.

The American Humanist Association has formally sent a complaint to Birdville Independent School District in Texas, citing that Isaiah Smith’s First Amendment rights have been violated after the teen was suspended for ripping out pages of his Bible as a protest against anti-gay bullying.

Smith, who is gay and Christian, said that he was repeatedly told that “being gay is a sin,” and that “gays go to hell,” by students at his school.

He brought his personal Bible to his first period class on Monday, October 28, and tore out pages from Leviticus, a portion of the Bible which contains prohibitions against homosexuality, as a way of protesting their statements, and because he doesn’t believe the Bible condemns gay people. Smith was subsequently sent to the assistant principal’s office, who told him that though he could continue carrying around the ripped Bible, he shouldn’t tear out any more pages.

However, on Wednesday the assistant principal reportedly called him into his office again to reprimand him for carrying the torn book and asked, “How would Muslims feel if a student was tearing up the Qur-an?” He was then suspended for three days and had his Bible confiscated, according to the letter.

This action is pretty clearly unconstitutional and I hope the school backs down.

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  • Larry

    School administrators cave to threat of a lawsuit that will have their asses handed to them in 3.. 2.. 1..

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    “How would Muslims feel if a student was tearing up the Qur-an?”

    Why, they’d feel just as stupid as christians do, that’s how they’d feel.

  • John Pieret

    From the Raw Story article:

    Smith, who is black, said he was sent to the assistant principal’s office on the grounds that he’d been disruptive in class.

    Now, depending on just what he did and how, the school might have been able to make a punishishment stick for his being disruptive in class. But to wait three days and then suspend him for just carrying around the Bible? No way!

    “How would Muslims feel if a student was tearing up the Qur-an?”

    For about the billionth time, there is no right to not be offended that trumps freedom of speech.

  • robb

    whew. that was close. glad they saved that poor helpless bible.

  • tsig

    The right to tear whole sections out of the bible is reserved for True Christians.

  • paulg

    One has to ask how it could have been “disruptive”. Did he interrupt his teacher to tear out the page? Or did his peers feel obligatorily martyred by the mere presence of a torn Bible and couldn’t focus on the lesson at hand? Bullshit, fire the officials.

  • eric

    @3 and @6 – I suggest you read the link in the text “…his first period class…” It describes the details.

    No, he did not interrupt the teacher. Irony of ironies, he tore the pages out when other students in his first period class started bullying him. THEY were being disruptive, and he got punished for defending his beliefs in response.* Then he evidently got suspended because the administrator told him he could bring a bible to school, but not a ripped one – which is clearly a content based restriction, not a time/place/manner restriction.

    *It seems pretty obvious that he was expecting it and came prepared. Nevertheless, if his bullies acted first, its them doing the disrupting.

  • paulg

    Ya, I should have read it, but I felt sure he in fact wasn’t being disruptive. There are very few scenarios in which he could have been. It’s pure Christian animosity that shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Period.

  • eric

    Having defended his conduct, I do have to say that ripping pages out of ones’ bible seems to be a really stupid way to defend the position that it doesn’t condemn gay people. If you really think it doesn’t condemn gay people, then why are you ripping bits out of it? The ripping seems to imply that you concede that parts of it condemn gay people.

  • paulg

    Or I should say, very few scenarios in which he could have been, without the headline and point of the story being significantly different.

  • timberwoof

    The suspension wasn’t even for Monday’s disruption of class, it was for him on Wednesday still carrying around his own Bible—with permission.

    The principal stepped on his own dick.

    In the HoffPo article someone mentioned the Jefferson Bible. Might be fun to buy a few and send them as gifts to the school library. Does the Jefferson Bible include all that sex-phobic rot from Leviticus?

  • paulg

    @9 I’m reminded of Ian McKellen, who takes delight in ripping that verse out of every Bible he comes across. My opinion is the same as yours though. If there was a Christian sect which rewrote their holy book without that filth, or even had an official church doctrine that rendered it null and void, I’d respect it. Until that happens, I may respect Christians who choose to ignore it themselves, but I’ll never respect organized religion.

  • erichoug

    My dad worked at Alief Hastings high school here in Houston and I know that he was always on the lookout for potential disruptions. The point of school is to learn and the administrators have a responsibility to be on the lookout for anything that disrupts class time and the learning process.

    That said, if the American Humanists story is correct, the Principal is definitely the one in the wrong. First when he didn’t discipline the student’s bullying this kid and second when he took Mr. Smith’s Bible (theft) and suspended him.

    Here’s hoping that this guys boss is smarter than him.

  • eric

    Does the Jefferson Bible include all that sex-phobic rot from Leviticus?

    AIUI, Jefferson only concerned himself with the New Testament and removing what he thought were the lies associated with Jesus. I think this means that it is sold without any OT at all, though I could be wrong about that and maybe its sold with the standard OT.

  • Johnny Vector

    I’d like to see what they do when River Tam rips some pages out of a bible, in a misplaced effort to fix it. Way I see it, they have two options. One, hire Ron Glass to calm her down, or Two: http://xkcd.com/311/

    Which has nothing to do with anything, but it’s what jumped into my head on reading this story.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    That’s pretty hypocritical, given that most of that kid’s community have probably already ripped all of Leviticus EXCEPT the gay-bashing out of their Bibles. This kid just got a little ahead of his class, is all.

  • raven

    Fundie xians metaphorically rip most of the benign uplifting things out ot their bibles anyway. (Not that there are very many of those but there are a few.)

    Keeping all the senseless, malevolent parts.

  • Doug Little

    Not to mention that pretty much every single Christian metaphorically rips a lot of sections of the bible out when they pick and choose what parts they believe and follow.

  • Doug Little

    Beaten to the punch by raven @17.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    A gay high school student in Birdville, Texas…

    Of all the states, I’d expect Texas to be one of the last to have gay high schools.

  • jnorris

    Why would a school administrator examine a student’s personal book? Does he really have the time to inspect every book students bring to school for ripped pages?

  • Abby Normal

    Re: Eric @9 and paulg @12

    Many Christians believe they are no longer subject to Old Testament law, that Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law. Tearing out those old laws to punch home the idea that they no longer apply makes perfect sense to me.

  • eric

    @22 – no, it does not make sense if you are claiming the Bible – the book itself – doesn’t condemn gay people. The redemption argument is yet another example of an own goal in this case – you cannot argue ‘Jesus doesn’t want you to follow the nasty anti-gay stuff in Leviticus’ without first admitting that Leviticus has nasty anti-gay stuff.

    In fact the redemption argument is just like the page-ripping in this respect – Smith (and others like him) wouldn’t need either argument if they were right about the bible. Such arguments only make sense if you start out assuming there is in fact anti-gay material in the bible that needs to be ripped out or anti-gay laws that need to be not-followed.

  • steffp

    A few questions from far outside the US:

    (1) Is it mandatory for US high school students to have a privately owned bible with them? If so, what kind of bible, regarding the textual differences of the diverse denominations? Do Lutheran omissions of certain traditional NT texts count as “damage”?

    (2) Are bibles regarded as protected kinds of books, with a special safeguard against alterations of the text? If so, why and how? And if so, who is to judge? Would not a law and a kind of due process be required?

    Lastly-

    Leviticus 18:22 is one of 613 Mitzvot . most of which, in the Pauline tradition, are regarded as not binding gentiles. Quite a few of them are pretty humane, like leaving part of the crop, fruits, and grapes unharvested so that the poor can have them (Lev. 19,9f), or the duty to assist on’s neighbor (Deut.24:4). Strange they never get mentioned… same with NT Matth. 25:31-46.

  • steve84

    The Koran is different. Muslims actually view the book literally as a holy object. That’s why they freak out about it. For Christians, the Bible has value for what’s written in it. But the physical book is just a book.

  • Ichthyic

    no, it does not make sense if you are claiming the Bible – the book itself – doesn’t condemn gay people. The redemption argument is yet another example of an own goal in this case – you cannot argue ‘Jesus doesn’t want you to follow the nasty anti-gay stuff in Leviticus’ without first admitting that Leviticus has nasty anti-gay stuff.

    eric… It doesn’t matter.

    the kid ripped the pages out as a protest.

    just shaking the book around wouldn’t have had the same impact. Do you really think the people bashing him would have gone for nuanced argument?

    your objection is entirely misplaced.

  • Ichthyic

    For Christians, the Bible has value for what’s written in it. But the physical book is just a book.

    fact on the ground say otherwise.

    this case on point.

  • Ichthyic

    Is it mandatory for US high school students to have a privately owned bible with them?

    no.

    Are bibles regarded as protected kinds of books, with a special safeguard against alterations of the text?

    not LEGALLY, no.

    a lot of misthinking christians take it that way personally though. Likely the same ones that would beat you if you burned an American flag in front of them.

  • Ichthyic

    Would not a law and a kind of due process be required?

    indeed it would, and any such law would be in direct contradiction of the 1st amendment of the US constitution.

    ..not saying that people haven’t tried to circumvent the 1st amendment with things like Flag Laws, as mentioned, but a correct reading of the constitution clearly SHOULD bar such laws from being enacted.

    ah, but were things that simple.

    if wishes were fishes.

  • Ichthyic

    “How would Muslims feel if a student was tearing up the Qur-an?”

    ah the preliminary to xian fatwa envy.

  • Trickster Goddess

    You would think that the religious right types would be absolutely outraged that a school official confiscated a Christian student’s bible.

  • dogmeat

    Eric @23:

    He stated that he was trying to interpret what the Bible had to say:

    ds like to say that being gay is a sin and that you can’t be gay and Christian,” Smith said. “I wanted to bring my Bible to school and interpret the books of Leviticus and Romans, because they are often used to bully gay people.”

    Given the circumstances, with personal experience and more than a decade of working with teenagers, I can tell you his protest actions make perfect sense to me. In fact I commend him on the effort. He was trying to argue a point in opposition to bullying. Damn brave of him and not an easy thing to do. According to the article the bullies were regularly citing Leviticus in their harassment of him. An argument that Leviticus is superceded by the New Testament could legitimately lead to one ripping that part out. In addition, I don’t see that he argued that the Bible does or doesn’t condemn homosexuality, he argued his interpretation. His argument included the idea that the Bible is a tool to help guide; which doesn’t establish that the Bible is infallible or a “must follow” rulebook, so again, ripping out the part that the bullies kept citing still fits within the protest.

    Regarding the actions of the administration. The confiscation isn’t “theft;” nothing says that he could never have the Bible back, etc., confiscating an item that is the source of a conflict in school is quite normal. Cell phones, cigarettes, weapons, drugs, exchanging inappropriate clothing for “loaner” clothes when a student is in violation of dress code, are all rather normal events. In most cases all but illegal items are returned to the student or their parents when the matter is settled. Regarding the incident, it sounds like it is possible the administration didn’t know the full details of what happened in class. This could be them covering their butts, it could also be a substitute, unable to control a class, sending the focus of the disruption (note, not the cause) out of the room and an administrator going down the wrong path. With the wrong information, the administrator’s admonishment not to rip up the book could be seen as an attempt to avoid “further disruption,” followed by the false belief that the student continued with the disruption the next day and then suspending the “disruptive student” for failing to mend his ways. “He said, she said” with a student is often an interesting proposition.

    Having said that, given the circumstances and location, I am also willing to accept the idea that the administrator knew the details and suspended the kid because he is a homophobic Christ-o-Fascist and is now being called on it. I’m just advising caution because this could be a case where the administrator didn’t have all of the information, made an honest wrong call based on incomplete understanding of what was going on, that Isaiah, knowing the story but unable to articulate it, understandably took it as a further assault on his rights, but it wasn’t intended as such.