Todd Starnes Claims Fifth-Grader Isn’t Allowed to Read Bible at School; Once Again, the Facts Say Otherwise

***Update***: It’s not enough that the school district said Giovanni could read his Bible during non-instructional time during the school day. The Liberty Institute is now threatening to sue the district if they don’t let the child read his Bible when he’s supposed to be reading other books for class, too:

But in a letter e-mailed to the school district on Tuesday, Liberty Institute director of litigation Hiram Sasser demanded assurances that Giovanni be allowed to read his Bible during “accelerated reading program” class periods as well.

“If we do not receive a satisfactory response, we will proceed with the appropriate legal steps up to and including litigation,” Sasser wrote.

At what point in the day does Liberty Institute think Giovanni should be doing his classwork instead of reading the Bible? If the answer is “Never,” they should just come right out and say it.

The latest pseudo-example of society persecuting Christians comes to us from Lauderdale Lakes, Florida. And it has the Todd Starnes Stamp of Bullshit, which gives you an indication of how much of the story you’re not hearing…

Here’s the abridged version of the story as Starnes tells it: Park Lakes Elementary School fifth-grader Giovanni Rubeo was reading his Bible at school when a teacher made him stop. The teacher even called his dad and said, “He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.”

Giovanni Rubeo and his father

The district’s legal department later told the dad that his son could read the Bible “before school, after school and during lunch, in accordance to the law.” Which is clearly code for “not during school.”

And that’s where Starnes ends his story. Oh. Wait. I forgot Starnes’ last line: “Had the kid been reading Fifty Shades of Grey, he probably would’ve been given a gold star.”

Yep, because those godless Communist teachers love it when children read a badly-written story of BDSM…

Anyway, what happens when we dig a little deeper into this story?

It turns out when the district officials sent a letter to Mr. Rubeo, they were under the impression that Giovanni was reading the Bible when he was supposed to be reading another book in class.

The Broward School District claimed it was told Giovanni was reading the Bible when he should have been reading an assigned book, not during free-reading time.

In that context, the letter to the father makes sense. It said Giovanni could read the book whenever he wanted — as long as he wasn’t supposed to be doing something else.

When they realized the teacher stopped the boy from reading the Bible during a free-reading time, where the Bible is perfectly fair game, they issued a statement explaining that:

Broward County Public Schools respects and upholds the rights of students to bring personal religious materials to school, including the Bible, and to read these items before school, after school or during any “free reading” time during the school day. This information has been communicated to the parents of the student involved in this situation.

Great! Problem solved.

I can’t defend the teacher because it sounds like she didn’t understand the law — but the point is that this is far from some left-wing, anti-Christian conspiracy. At worst, this was one teacher saying something she shouldn’t have — and the district fixed the problem as soon as they were alerted to it.

Furthermore, I guarantee that every atheist organization in the country would defend the boy’s right to read his Bible during non-instructional time.

I wonder how Liberty Institute, representing the Rubeo family, will take all this additional information:

This is the most shocking piece of evidence I’ve seen in the 12 years of religious liberty work that I’ve been doing,” says Hiram Sasser, the Liberty Institute’s director of litigation.

Let’s all thank Sasser for proving our point: If this is the worst example of Christian persecution he’s ever seen, that’s because actual examples of Christian persecution in America are nowhere to be found.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.


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