A civil rights group has filed a complaint with a Texas public school district after a gay student was disciplined for removing pages from a Bible.
The student, Isaiah Smith, said he’d been bullied by other Birdville High School
Students, who told him that being gay was a sin and that gays would go to hell.
Smith said he tore pages from Leviticus, where many biblical prohibitions against homosexuality are found, from his copy of the Bible as a form of protest.
Smith, who is black, said he was sent to the assistant principal’s office on the grounds that he’d been disruptive in class.
The student said he reported the bullying and was permitted to carry the Bible with him during school as long as he didn’t tear out any more pages, but Smith said he was suspended three days later for simply carrying the damaged 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 American 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, had never been suspended before and didn’t have a record of behavior that should warrant harsh punishment by the school, the legal association said.
The civil rights group said Smith had damaged his own property as an expression of protest, and attorneys argued that the school should have permitted him to carry the torn Bible or barred all students from carrying religious texts in school.
The American Humanist Association complaint asks the school to expunge the suspension from Smith’s record and clarify its policy to either allow Smith to carry his damaged Bible or prohibit other students from carrying theirs.
If the school doesn’t comply, the group has threatened a lawsuit.
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