New information in Bible ban case; school officials lied, says attorney

They should have just let the kid keep reading the Bible.

Attorneys battling a Florida school district over a student’s right to read the Good Book are turning up the heat on Broward County Schools officials – accusing them of misstating the facts surrounding the case, according to WND.com.

bible0518Attorneys from the Liberty Institute, a legal firm that specializes in freedom of religion cases, are representing fifth-grader Giovanni Rubeo and his father, Paul Rubeo. In early April, Giovanni’s teacher ordered the boy to put away the Bible he was reading during class time that was supposed to be devoted the district’s reading enhancement efforts.

The school district’s excuse for the apparent violation of religious freedom was that students might have the right to read the Bible in school when they have free time, but the Bible incident occurred at a time when students should have been working on texts included the Accelerated Reading Program.

The Good Book, the district said, wasn’t on the list.

That was just wrong, attorney Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute, wrote to the school board attorney Marilyn Batista-McNamara.

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“Enclosed, you will find eleven (11) pages of books listed on the Accelerated Reader Program’s website. These represent but a few of the ‘wide range of books’ from which students, like our client, could choose to read. Among the titles, you will note, are the following: Acts, Amos, Chronicles 1, Chronicles 2, Colossians, Corinthians 1, Corinthians 2, Daniel, Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes,” Sasser wrote.

Most lay people, not to mention the Broward County school board, probably recognize at least some of those titles as being from the Bible.

Since the April 8 incident, which included a phone call from Giovanni’s teacher to complain the boy’s behavior, the school district has acknowledged students have a right to read the Bible during “free time,” but insists “free time” doesn’t include Accelerated Reading Program material.

“Broward County Public Schools justified censoring the Bible because they thought it was not part of the Accelerated Reader Program, but, in fact, the Bible and other religious books about the Jewish, Buddhist and other faiths are included,” Jeremiah Dys, Liberty Institute senior counsel, said in a statement on the institute’s website.

The institute has given the school district a May 19 “to lift the ban on the Bible and other religious books and to take steps to train classroom officials that they cannot ban the Bible from the Accelerated Reader Program,” according to the website.

Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at [email protected].

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