Public school officials in Southern California called the local sheriff to stop a seven-year-old student from handing out Bible verses to his friends, who eagerly asked for them.
Alleging that the first grader’s constitutional rights were grossly violated, Liberty Counsel is demanding that Desert Rose Elementary School rectify the situation so that he could exercise his freedom of speech and religious expression — as guaranteed by the United States Constitution.
The Christian legal group maintains that the young boy was fully within his constitutional rights and didn’t force his religious views on anyone.
“The situation started with an encouraging note and Bible verse from mom Christina Zavala, tucked into a packed lunch for her little boy (‘C’),” Liberty Counsel reported. “The seven-year-old boy read the note and verse, and showed them to his friends during lunch time at school.”
Only faculty and school officials have a problem
It turned out that school faculty — and officials — were the only ones who took offense to the Bible messages.
“Mrs. Zavala’s daily note for her son soon turned into an expectation by the other children during lunch, who excitedly begged C for copies of the notes, which grew to include short stories from the Bible to provide context for the verses,” the nonprofit organization explained. “However, when one little girl said ‘teacher — this is the most beautiful story I’ve ever seen,’ ‘separation of church and state’ was the response, and the notes were banned from lunchtime distribution.”
Compounding the problem, school officials insisted that Scripture is not invited — or tolerated — at school. They used the teacher’s problematic argument of the so-called “separation of church and state,” but C’s parents did not fall victim to the intimidation and misinformation.
“C was told that the school gate was the only location at which he could give the Bible verses to his friends, and only after the bell rang,” Liberty Counsel recounted. “On April 19, 2016, Mrs. Zavala wrote the school to correct its misinformation, but the only response was that C was reprimanded again, in front of the whole class, and again told to stop talking about religion or sharing his mother’s notes.”
The school’s combative attitude toward Christianity deeply upset the first grader, who returned home in tears. And even though its measures to silence God on campus intensified, so did students’ desire to His Word.
“The Zavalas and C complied with the school gate directive, and soon, as many as 15 fellow students looked forward to the after-school Bible notes,” the pro-family group continued. “However, on May 9, 2016, Principal Melanie Pagliaro approached Mr. Zavala at that location, and demanded that C only hand out the notes on a public sidewalk, far from the exit, off school property. The family immediately complied.”
Calling the cops
When a Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff showed up at the seven-year-old’s home the same day, the family was ordered that his note sharing at school must end immediately because “someone might be offended.” It was then that the boy’s family sought legal assistance from Liberty Counsel to protect his constitutional rights at school.
The course of action taken by the school and local law enforcement to silence the young child was considered both inappropriate and inexcusable.
“This is a clear, gross violation of the rights of a child,” Liberty Counsel attorneys expressed. “That the school district enlisted a police officer to intimidate C and his family makes this case even more outrageous.”
Liberty Counsel Vice President of Legal Affairs Horatio Mihet, Esq. cannot believe that schools in America are denying students their religious freedom.
“I would expect something like this to happen in Communist Romania, where I went to elementary school, but cops don’t bully 7-year-olds who want to talk about Jesus in the ‘Land of the Free,’” commented Mihet, who also serves as Liberty Counsel’s chief litigation counsel.