Several national media outlets have picked up this story after it was originally reported by The Blaze: a first grade student in Temecula, California on December 18th was allegedly censored by her school teacher when she tried to explain her family’s Christmas traditions by quoting verses from the Bible. Attorneys call the action a violation of the First Amendment, the second such incident in a Southern California public school during the month of December.
The allegations stem from an incident on Dec. 18 after a teacher asked first grade students at Helen Hunt-Jackson Elementary School in Temecula to find something at home that represents a family Christmas tradition and share it with the class, according to Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a Murrieta-based nonprofit law firm.
In response to the assignment, student Brynn Williams took the Star of Bethlehem ornament from the top of her family’s Christmas tree “to represent her family’s tradition of remembering why Christmas is celebrated, and worked diligently on a one-minute presentation in order to explain to the class that her family’s tradition is to remember the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas time, attorneys said.
Williams was the last student in the first-grade class to give her one-minute presentation. Here is the part she managed to get out:
Our Christmas tradition is to put a star on top of our tree. The star is named the Star of Bethlehem. The three kings followed the star to find baby Jesus, the Savior of the world.
At that point, the girl’s unidentified teacher at the public, taxpayer-funded school interrupted her, according to the attorneys working on her behalf.
“Stop right there! Go take your seat!” the teacher allegedly said. The teacher then explained to the entire class of first-grade students her judgment as a constitutional scholar that students are flatly prohibited from mentioning any part of the Bible in class.
Had Williams been allowed to finish, she would have quoted John 3:16.
When Brynn’s mother, Gina Williams, discussed the situation with school principal Ami Paradise, Williams was told that the Brynn’s teacher had to stop the presentation because “we don’t want to offend other students,” attorneys said.
Attorney Robert Tyler sent a letter (PDF) to the Temecula Valley Unified School District (TVUSD) demanding that a new policy be adopted to prohibit school officials from expressing disapproval or hostility toward religion or toward religious viewpoints expressed by students.
“The disapproval and hostility that Christian students have come to experience in our nation’s public schools has become epidemic,” Tyler said in a statement. “I hope that TVUSD will take the lead role in adopting a model policy to prohibit this abuse that has become all too common place for religious-minded students.”
There was no immediate response to the letter from TVUSD officials.