PHILADELPHIA — A school district sued by a parent who was barred from reading a Bible selection in her son’s kindergarten class said it was protecting the rights of all pupils and their families.
The action “upheld the law and did not discriminate against anyone or any religion,” superintendent Robert A. Mesaros said in a letter sent home to parents this week and posted on the Web site of the Marple Newtown School District of Delaware County.
Donna Busch was invited to the Culbertson Elementary School on Oct. 18 as part of a “Me Week” activity in which the class learns more about a particular pupil, including having the pupil’s parent read from a favorite book in class. She said her son, Wesley, was agitated that the principal did not allow her to read from the Bible.
“Because a public school teacher cannot read aloud from a religious text in a classroom setting, a parent can’t do it in that setting either,” the school district’s letter said. “We have an obligation to protect the rights of all our students and their families.”
Busch, aided by the Rutherford Institute, a Christian-oriented civil liberties group based in Charlottesville, Va., filed a federal lawsuit on May 3 accusing the district of infringing on her right to express her religious beliefs and discriminating against Christianity.
Mesaros called the suit “baseless” and “nothing more than an attempt to make headlines,” and vowed that the district would “vigorously defend” itself.
School board president Ed Partridge told The Philadelphia Inquirer that allowing the reading would be “opening up a First Amendment forum” in the kindergarten classroom.
“If someone wanted to come in and read about Satanism,” the school would have to allow it, he said.