Court Rules Against Biblical Show-And-Tell

This post is courtesy of Ron Gold.

A court has ruled that the Bible shouldn’t be read during show-and-tell for kindergartners:

A kindergartner’s mother cannot read Scripture during show and tell, even if the Bible is the boy’s favorite book, a U.S. appeals court ruled.

“Parents of public school kindergarten students may reasonably expect their children will not become captive audiences to an adult’s reading of religious texts,” Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica wrote in Monday’s split 2-1 opinion, which upheld a lower court’s ruling.

In October 2004, the Marple Newtown School District in suburban Philadelphia told plaintiff Donna Kay Busch that she could not read the Bible passages during her son’s “All About Me” program. The school did permit the boy to discuss a poster that included references to his church as well as his family, pet and best friend.

Busch argued that the young students heard stories related to Passover, Christmas and other religious holidays, but the court concluded there was a “significant difference” between identifying such holidays and reading from Scripture.

I have to agree with the ruling.  First of all, reading something as boring as Bible passages will put a class of 5 and 6-year-olds to sleep in no time. Furthermore, they wouldn’t understand them even if they were paying attention. Unless it’s nap time, there isn’t any point in reciting the Bible to kindergartners.

Also, it’s hard to believe that the boy in question was a huge Bible fan. The court thought so too:

The district contended that the case was more about the mother’s interests and motives than her son’s. A family baby sitter described the children’s book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” as the boy’s favorite that year, the school district said.

I find the baby sitter’s claim much more believable than the mother’s.  It makes sense that a little kid would prefer a book with pictures of cuddly bears (“Brown Bear”) to a book where a couple of bears kill forty-two boys (The Old Testament).

  • littlejohn

    Reminds me of the anti-abortion protesters who have their small children carry signs the kids can’t possibly understand.

  • Chad

    Religion in general bugs the hell (no pun intended) out of me, but NOTHING gets me hot like when people bring their kids into it. It is just NOT FAIR! asl;dkfjadfivnd

  • Jeff Satterley

    It makes sense that a little kid would prefer a book with pictures of cuddly bears (”Brown Bear”) to a book where a couple of bears kill forty-two boys (The Old Testament).

    I was getting ready to make this exact comment before I saw that Ron had said it himself. What a ridiculous parent. Although its probably unlikely, I hope that kid turns out to be a skeptic and questions her on this nonsense.

  • Polly

    Given that the mother was clearly abusing/gaming the the whole show-and-tell institution to push her beliefs on her child’s helpless schoolmates, I agree with the court.

    IF the kid, himself, really were that into the Bible and read it himself to the class, I think it would be different. Exposure to the Bible isn’t (too) toxic depending on what section you’re reading. I can stand to have my (imaginary) kids hear passages from the Veda, Koran, Mishna, Talmud, or any other book.

  • Rob J

    Of course it’s ok as long as it’s her bible and not someone else’s. I have a feeling this mother would have something to say if someone else were reading from the Koran to her children. Or the Satanic Verses, or maybe some of Marshall Applewhite’s rantings.

  • Concerned

    Well I’m sure the 6 year olds would be far more entertained with stories of evolution and natural selection, adaptation, Galapagos Islands, transmutation, etc. I’m sure if mother came in reading On The Origins Of Species than that would be completely fine. The inconsistency of the law. We would hate for religion to drown out science for Christ’s sake but keeping science in the forefront while smothering organized religions is acceptable and primarily the goal! Science attempts to support atheism which in itself is a religion and that is ok? Maybe someone can clarify this for me. I’m not here to bash atheists or any other sect, religious group, or group in general. I am upset at the way this is being handled because it seems that in order for people to get what they want, they have fork up the money for a private education while on the other hand the “science people” ride for free on the public education train.

  • Hughes

    Can I suggest linking to the Skeptics Annotated Bible as opposed to any other version? I think it’s more in keeping with the spirit of this site.

  • http://universalheretic.wordpress.com/ Vic

    Religion=using your children as tools to get your way

  • Cypress Green

    “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?”
    “I see 42 evil children mocking an upstanding man of god so I think I’ll go fetch my buddy and crack some heads.”

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?”

    Good one. I read the Brown Bear book to my littlest one just a couple of months ago.

  • Richard Wade

    When I was in the third grade, for show and tell I brought in some 12 million year old fossilized seashells that I had dug up myself. Lucky for me that was in California instead of Bibleria.

  • http://fozziebare.com/ Jason Nelson

    I feel hypersensitive to the idea of religious oppression lately, since I keep hearing about it. Religious organization are claiming that being denied the “right” to deny gays and lesbians rights or the idea of marriage equality is religious oppression, which neither are. In my opinion the above story actually is oppression. Simply reading from the bible during show and tell isn’t an infringement of church and state as each person has a right to their religious beliefs. The school cannot teach any religion but a student can show and tell about it.

  • Eliza

    What if his favorite book, and the book his mom read to the class, had been a kiddie book of Bible stories, complete with bright pictures and infantilization of the text? Would that be OK?

    Would that kind of book be OK if it had actual text from the Bible, maybe a version like “The Message” (user-friendly, so to speak)?

    Read from that version, Genesis 1 has the kind of repetition & cadence one often finds in children’s books:

    First this: God created the Heavens and Earth — all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

    God spoke: “Light!”
    And light appeared.
    God saw that light was good
    and separated light from dark.
    God named the light Day,
    he named the dark Night.
    It was evening, it was morning —
    Day One.

    And, of course, a kid’s book would have a bird hovering over an inky darkness, with some kind of a backglow. Next page, sky & ocean, Day 2. Following page, trees & plants, Day 3. Etc.

    Would that have been OK? Or, how about a book with pictures and severely censored text, but using a standard translation (even KJV)?

    What’s most important: that it actually be the kid’s favorite book (not the mom’s), or that religious books not be read to the kids in school, or that the actual literal Scripture not be read to the kids in school?

  • medussa

    To concerned: go educate yourself.
    Science is not another religion, it is universal, that is why tax money pays for an education that includes science. It is in the country’s interest to promote a good science education if we want to keep up in weapons, medicine, space exploration, life expectancy, etc.
    You want religion that happens to only reflect the particular version you believe in, yes, you will have to pay for the exclusivity.

    To Eliza:
    my personal opinion is that a child’s version of a bible story would believably have been the child’s favorite story and therefore more appropriate.
    I think a good rule in trying to figure out what is acceptable and what is not is to ask yourself (in this case the mother should have asked herself) how she would have felt about another child’s parent reading from the Koran, or the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and not a kid’s version. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT 5 YEAR OLDS HERE!!!
    I’m assuming she would not have been pleased with alternative


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