A little boy who claims he was told by officials at an after-school program that he couldn’t read his Bible is getting support from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The civil rights group’s Tennessee branch is defending the child, sending a letter to the Cannon County REACH after-school program in an effort to urge officials to better train staff on the proper handling of participants’ religious rights, the Christian Post reported.
Staff at REACH reportedly not only told the boy he couldn’t read the Bible, but they also allegedly tried to take it from him, saying that the program could lose state funding if he continued reading it.
“[The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee] has a long-standing commitment to uphold and defend Tennesseans’ ability to practice religion, or not, as they choose,” Hedy Weinberg, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement. “The goal of our letter is to clarify for the REACH program what seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Constitution protects religious liberty.”
The group said it stands by public school students’ rights to read the Bible — or any other religious text — during free reading periods.
Legal director Thomas H. Castelli said that the First Amendment is intended to defend individual religious freedom and that the boy’s decision to read the Bible should have been protected.
“While this means that schools may not impose or promote religion, it also means that students can engage in religious activities that they initiate, provided they do not cause a disruption or interfere with the education of other students,” Castelli said.
The letter, addressed to the director of REACH, discussed these points in detail, claiming that “Tennessee public school students cannot be denied the right to engage in religious activities during student activity times, recess and other free time,” so long as these activities are not disruptive.
According to the Alabama Baptist, REACH is a primarily government-funded after-school program that operates in Cannon County schools. It’s intent is to assist children in learning and growing from pre-kindergarten through high school by offering tutoring and academic assistance.
Its name stands for “Reach: Enrichment, Afterschool and Community Health.”
(H/T: Christian Post)