Preposterous Universe

Tuesday, May 24, 2005
The Bible in schools: not always illegal

Atrios is right (again, but in a different context): it is not necessarily illegal to read the Bible out loud in a public school.
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania school district violated the free-speech rights of a parent who was prevented from reading the Bible to her son's kindergarten class, an attorney for the woman said on Monday.

The parent, Donna Busch, has filed a lawsuit against the Marple Newtown School District near Philadelphia, claiming her constitutional rights were breached when a school principal stopped her reading from the Bible in a class last October.

Busch, of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, attended her son Wesley's class as part of "Me Week," which gave parents an opportunity to read aloud from their child's favorite book.

Busch planned to read Psalm No. 118 but was told by the principal the reading would violate the separation of church and state, according to the suit filed earlier this month.
This is a case where church and state are simply supposed to be separate, not actively hostile. If the principal, or one of the teachers, were to read the Bible as a part of a regular school event (and not just a course that studied the Bible as literature and mythology), that would be completely inappropriate. But an individual parent has the right to come in and read what they like, even if they are clearly just trying to cause a stir. There really should be some straightforward set of guidelines that is handed out to all school officials who are faced with these issues -- we shouldn't have to go to the Supreme Court every time.

Of course, it would be just as okay for a parent to read from Why I Am Not a Christian, or any similar text. And I presume Ms. Busch would agree.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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