School Bans 5th Grader From Reading Bible During Free Time

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May 5, 2014 10:32am PST

A fifth grader was banned from reading the Bible during “free reading” time by officials at his Broward County School in Florida.

The Liberty Institute is now threatening to sue the school on behalf of Giovanni Rubeo, a fifth grade student who received the Bible for Christmas from his church. Being his favorite book, he decided he was going to bring it into school and read it during the period of time where students are allowed to bring whatever they want in and read it.

The infringement on the boy’s constitutional rights started back on April 8 when his teacher at Park Lakes Elementary School, Swornia Thomas, saw him reading it and told him that he wasn’t allowed to read the Bible in her classroom and forced him to put it away.

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Rubeo, been told by his father not to put the Bible away if he was told to, told his teacher to call his father Paul to straighten the matter out. So she did and left him a voicemail stating that Giovanni had a “religious book” and that he wasn’t allowed to have “those books” in her classroom.

This prompted Paul Rubeo to call the school’s principal, Orinthia Dias, who then used the school’s legal department to defend the teacher’s actions.

Nobody at the school is willing to acknowledge that the boy has a constitutional right to read the Bible so Paul retained the Liberty Institute to defend his son’s rights. Since then the Liberty Institute has sent a demand letter to the school threatening a lawsuit and as well is holding a public event outside the federal courthouse in Ft. Lauderdale.

The letter to the school explained that the school is in direct violation of the establishment clause, the free speech clause, and the free exercise clause of the Constitution and that the Liberty Institute will take action against Broward County Schools if they won’t allow students to read the Bible.

“Banning religious books like the Bible violates Giovanni’s civil rights to religious free speech and free exercise,” said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute Director of Litigation. “The school’s actions exemplify the hostility to religion that the U.S. Supreme Court has condemned.”

“We expect Broward County Public School officials to resolve this unfortunate incident quickly and amicably,” says Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Jeremy Dys. “Absent such an apology and assurance that students in Broward County Public Schools may read religious books like the Bible during free reading times, our client is prepared to take legal action.”

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Demand Letter to Broward County Schools 50514.pdf

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