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Gay Teen Who Ripped Out Bible Pages Suspended by Texas School

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday Nov 5, 2013

A gay teen who was suspended by the Birdville Independent School District in Texas after ripping out pages of his Bible to protest anti-gay bullying got some help from the American Humanist Association this week. The organization sent the school district a formal compliant, charging them with violating the boy's First Amendment rights.

According to an article on the Huffington Post, Isaiah Smith, a gay Christian teen, said that fellow students repeatedly told him that "being gay is a sin" and "gays go to hell." So during first period class on Oct. 28, he took out his personal Bible and tore out portions of the notoriously anti-gay Leviticus, saying that he did not believe the Bible should condemn gays.

Smith was sent to the assistant principal, who first told the boy he could carry the Bible around, but several days later called Smith to his office and reportedly asked him, "How would Muslims feel if a student was tearing up the Qur-an?" The assistant principal confiscated Smith's Bible and suspended him for three days.

"This is a clear violation of Isaiah's First Amendment rights," said Monica Miller, an attorney and legal consultant with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the American Humanist Association. "The only explanation for this kind of punishment is that it was religiously motivated, because he expressed different beliefs on the Bible than those held by school officials. There's no legal basis for that kind of reaction."

A letter from the American Humanist Association, cited the case Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. District, in which the Supreme Court declared that, "It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom or speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

The organization said that Smith was being reprimanded for carrying around his torn Bible as an expression of tolerance toward gays. The American Humanist Association is calling upon the school to either allow all students to carry torn versions of the Bible and other books, or forbid all students from carrying religious texts to school. They are also demanding that Smith's suspension be expunged from his record, under possible threat of a lawsuit.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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