Thursday, December 17, 2009

School Customizes Lesson for Lone Atheist Student

[Massachusetts] Newton South High School officials dropped a requirement to read excerpts from the Bible for one student last month, after he refused to read the Biblical passages as a literature assignment because he is an atheist.

Yet, when parents protest homosexual indoctrination in this state, the court mandates no opt-out nor advance notification.

-- From "Student Refuses To Study Bible As Literature" WCVB ABC TV5 Boston 12/16/09

Officials said the school doesn't read from actual Bibles and instead distributes handouts with the Biblical passages. After [one student] refused to read the passages and failed quizzes on the subject, his mother went to school officials with concerns, the newspaper reported.

The school said it would drop the failing quizzes and allow [the student] to complete a project that doesn't use the Bible.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Newton South officials give in to student's refusal to study Bible as literature" by John Hilliard, The Daily News Tribune 12/16/09

Jack Summers, a 15-year-old sophomore, said he objected to reading the religious text as part of an honors English class that also includes writings by William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, among others.

“This is the word of God. People take this literally ... I don’t want to read about what they believe to be true,” said Summers, who described himself as an atheist.

South Principal Joel Stembridge wouldn’t comment on Summers’ case, but said the school uses the Bible to introduce students to the cultural traditions and allusions found in much of Western literature.

“The greatest difficulty I have with someone is when they say, ‘I don’t even want to read a subject matter,’ [and] lose the opportunity to understand others,” said Stembridge.

All sophomores study parts of the Bible as literature as part of 10th-grade English classes, along with Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” “Antigone” and works by Shakespeare.

South’s freshman curriculum lists the Book of Genesis from the Bible as a required academic subject in ninth-grade English courses, alongside “Lord of the Flies,” “Catcher in the Rye” and “House on Mango Street,” plus passages from “Romeo and Juliet.”

In the 1963 United States Supreme Court case School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, the court ruled that schools can use the Bible and other religious works for studying literature and culture, so long as it’s not used to proselytize.

But Jack’s mother, Marjorie Summers, said her son told his teacher about his concerns about studying the Bible. After her son refused to read Biblical texts, and failed two quizzes on the subject, she went to South officials to discuss her son’s position.

. . . Jack Summers said he would not take a class on world religions in school, either. He said he isn’t opposed to learning about religion, but would rather get his information on religions from media sources such as the BBC and NPR, plus a friend who practices Islam.

He compared reading a religious text in a classroom setting to reading a Bible in a church.

Sarah Wunsch, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said Newton schools haven’t violated Summers’ rights, though their decision to accommodate him was “a good idea.”

“In general, the Bible can be taught as part of a literature class,” said Wunsch, who also noted that “mere exposure of a child to ideas that are offensive is not a constitutional violation.”

She pointed to a January 2008 federal appeals court decision in favor of Lexington public schools for using books in the classroom that included references to homosexuality.

In that case, two families had filed suit against that district because of their opposition to discussion of homosexuality in the classroom. But the court decided that schools didn’t need parental consent before referring to homosexuality in classroom discussions.

“Kids need to learn to grapple with things like that,” said Wunsch.

JC Considine, a spokesman for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the state has a suggested book list that includes religious texts such as the Bible, the Koran and Buddhist scriptures, but local districts decide which books to use in classrooms.

However, religious texts are “not something that we’re mandating” in classrooms, said Considine.

No, only homosexual indoctrination is mandatory, per the highest court in the state.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.