It feels so good to win, particularly if you’re fighting for a first-grader’s right to share his faith.
It seems an over-zealous California school district actually dispatched a uniformed officer to a young student’s home — to stop him from sharing Bible verses with classmates. Now officials have been forced to do an abrupt about-face. The six-year-old is free to proclaim his love of Jesus.
The Palmdale, California, School District has begrudgingly affirmed in writing that the student, only identified by the initial “C,” now may “freely discuss his religious beliefs on the Desert Rose campus during non-instructional time,” may distribute written material to anyone on any sidewalk near the school gate, his parents may continue sending him daily notes and verses, he may read and discuss his notes with his peers “during non-instructional time” and he may invite peers to join him on the sidewalk after school to talk about the notes.
The Internet news site WND reported some months ago that the school had sent a sheriff’s deputy to the student’s home warning him to cease and desist — since the school was afraid someone might be offended.
Well, the first grader was offended. So were his parents.
According to Liberty Counsel, which offered to represent the boy and his family for free, his mother enjoyed tucking little notes in his lunch sack. He started showing the notes to his friends in the lunchroom and before long, kids were asking for copies of the notes, which included short stories from the Bible.
However, one little girl told her teacher “This is the most beautiful story I’ve ever seen.” The instructor alerted the principal. The first grader found himself in big trouble for having violated “separation of church and state.”
A similar story is the focus of the popular film God’s Not Dead 2, which enjoyed a run in theaters last spring and now has been released on DVD and is available on pay-per-view. In the film, it’s a teacher who shares her faith and finds herself in court, defending her right to free speech and religious expression. In Palmdale, it was a little boy.
His mom’s notes were banned from lunchtime distribution. He was chastised in front of his class, told that he could only give the Bible verses to his friends off campus after the school day ended. Furthermore, he was told to stop talking about religion — a serious violation of his constitutional rights. Although schools cannot mandate state-written prayers be recited in class as they were in years past, officials still cannot squelch student-initiated speech.
The little boy didn’t quit sharing. As the crowd of students asking for the after-school Bible notes grew, on May 9, Principal Melanie Pagliaro demanded that the notes only be handed out somewhere beyond school property. Then, according to Liberty Counsel, “a Los Angeles deputy sheriff knocked at the door of C’s home, demanding that C’s note-sharing cease altogether because ‘someone might be offended.’”
But now, it’s all been settled out of court. “We celebrate this victory that acknowledges that students have constitutional rights to free speech to distribute literature during non-instructional times,” said Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. “Now this young boy is free to share his Bible verses and stories with his classmates this year without hassle.”
School officials initially declined to respond to a WND request for comment, but Superintendent Raul Maldonado now has issued this statement: “We were worried ourselves and wanted to get to the bottom of this, and I think it’s been resolved very effectively.” Also, the school says the uniformed lawman sent to the family’s home was actually the school’s “resource officer.” Did the school apologize. No. But a little boy is free to talk about Jesus.
See, the good guys do win sometimes. And so do great family films — God’s Not Dead 2 is now available on Blu-ray™ combo pack and DVD as well as on cable pay-per-view channels and in video stores — and even at Walmart.