MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The Bible controversy goes on in the Broward School District.
The Liberty Institute, on Wednesday, sent a new demand letter to Broward County Public Schools after district officials told the media and Liberty Institute that the district bans the Bible during times allotted for the Accelerated Reader Program.
When Liberty Institute attorneys asserted the right of Giovanni Rubeo to read his Bible during free reading time at Park Lakes Elementary School, school officials claimed it was not free reading time. Instead, school officials argued, Giovanni and his classmates were participating in an Accelerated Reader Program during which religious books – including the Bible – could not be read.
But, after further investigation, Liberty Institute attorneys discovered that the Bible is an approved book within the Program. The Accelerated Reader Program, which is linked to the Broward County Public Schools’ website, offers over a thousand books for fifth graders, including the Bible.
“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,” said Jeremy Dys, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel. “It is unlawful viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment for the school district to selectively censor religious books.”from the arge list of books available to students in the Accelerated Reader® Program.”
“According to their own website, they list 60 of the 66 books of the Bible are part of the accelerated reading program.”
On April 8, 2014, Giovanni Rubeo attempted to read his Bible during a free reading period, but his teacher demanded he put his Bible on her desk. When Giovanni refused, she forced him to call his father from the classroom. As his colleagues watched, his teacher left a voicemail for his father, saying “I noticed that he has a book – a religious book – in the classroom. He’s not permitted to read those books in my classroom.”
The District issued a statement saying students can read their Bible before and after school and during ‘free reading periods.’
The Liberty Institute has given Broward County Public Schools until May 19, 2014, 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.
Paul Rubeo, the father of Giovanni said he is “shocked that the district lied and said the the Bible is not allowed to be read during the accelerated reading program.”
His son said he just wants to be able to read his Bible at the appropriate times.
“I just like the wisdom it gives me. It teaches you life lessons,” said Giovanni.
The Broward School District issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying, ” Today the district received a new legal correspondence from the Liberty Institute which is being reviewed by the General Counsels Office. At all times, Broward County Schools continue to uphold the first amendment rights of students.”
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