3rd Circuit: Parent Can’t Read Bible to Son’s Public School Class

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    These are some quotes from the article from The Legal Intelligencer:

    “In the court battles over prayer in school, the cutting-edge cases are increasingly coming from the kindergarten classrooms.”

    “The latest such case, Busch v. Marple Newtown School District, attracted six friend-of-the-court briefs when it went before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and resulted in a 48-page decision with all three judges on the panel weighing in.”

    “Voting 2-1, the court rejected the claims of the mother of a kindergarten student who said public school officials violated her First Amendment rights when they prohibited her from reading verses from the Bible — which she said was her son Wesley’s favorite book — during a program called “All About Me” week.”


    “Donna Busch testified that Wesley asked her to read from the Bible and that she chose to read Psalm 118, which begins: “Give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; because his mercy endures forever,” but that the teacher and principal prohibited her from doing so.”

    It was reported that among the amicus briefs filed in support of the school district (against reading Psalm 118) were several Jewish groups (Anti-Defamation League; the American Jewish Congress; the Jewish Social Policy Action Network).

    Do you agree that Jewish groups should support the government prohibiting Psalm 118 from being read to kindergarten children?

    I don’t.


    The fact is, Jewish groups supported a government ban on reading from the Tanach. I asked for your opinion on what actually happened, not on what did not happen.


    Or the Qur’an, or the Bhagvad Gita, The Book of Mormon, The Satanic Bible or any other religious text. Religion should be left out of public schools altogether.

    The Wolf


    This is tough.

    Technically, the Bible is part of literature (I agree that the Torah is more, but at least from a secular perspective, which is how law is written). There are many types of literature that kids are exposed to in public school that I wouldn’t want my kids to be exposed to (like recently, kids were expelled for missing a month of school where books showing Toeiva was a regular way of life were read) and the New Testament is just another one. But, I think from a law perspective, it should be allowed.


    Even if one agrees that the Bible is literature, that doesn’t make it appropriate for kindergarteners. I read a lot of books in college that wouldn’t be appropraite grade school.


    My point was not about what text was read, but that Jewish groups involved themselves in support of the state against individual religious freedom.

    One day, a Jew will be told to take off his kippa or tuck in his tzitzis, and then what will the Anti-Defamation League; the American Jewish Congress; the Jewish Social Policy Action Network say?

    I would prefer Jewish groups staying out of these fights between Gentiles.


    Chaimsmom – I agree. But many parts of the Bible are perfectly acceptable to teach to kids in kindergarten.

    proud tatty

    The freedom here is the ability to go to a public school without hearing someone talk about their religion. The ACLU realizes that if Tanach is allowed some Evangelical Catholic fresh off of hearing Levin speak to them will decide they should open class with a chapter from the New Testament. They realize it is an all or nothing proposition and nothing trumps all given the options.


    The problem is that would restrict a lot of literature in schools. After all, any book that mentions G-d or any religion should not be allowed in any way shape or form.


    Proud Tatty, you wrote, “The freedom here is the ability to go to a public school without hearing someone talk about their religion.”

    Actually, the incident concerned a “Tell Us About Yourself” event at the school. But I guess it should have been called “Tell Us About Yourself (but leave out anything about your relgious beliefs)”.

    What is the point about “diversity” in schools if the school will edit a student when he mentions his religious beliefs? Is it so dangerous to the other children that they will come away indelibly scarred and damaged because one of their classmate’s favorite book is the Bible and he wanted his mother to read a short excerpt?

    But, my interest in this is the fact that Jewish groups felt compelled to weigh in. I wish they hadn’t.


    SJS – There is a difference between teaching religion to proselytize and teaching it empirically. High school students are capable of making the distinction, so it is permissible to teach the Bible as literature, comparative religion, etc. Kindergartners are less capable of making that distinction.



    Would you like your child to be exposed to J’s witnesses from “show & tell”? Saying J is our savior?

    Why can’t you understand if someone else has the same reaction that you would. Jewish groups don’t want to lose their Public School children to some “majority” religion until they have a chance to (hopefully) become Torah Jews. Why is that difficult?



    Perhaps you never realized that not all frum kids can go to yeshiva. A frum man in our community had to send his kids to the local public school because the kids had learning disabilities that the yeshivas wanted nothing to do with. Speak to anyone who went to public schools in the past and they will tell you what it feels like to be one of a few Jews in a class and the pressure to conform when their holidays came and they recited prayers in class.



    Something like that already happened at a college in Toronto. Can’t remember all the details but there was a group of Muslims that even though they could already get halal meat at the cafeteria, wanted them to stop serving pig meat altogether.


    We want everyone to respect our ways, and let us live according to our halachos, but we want to deny others of that same privilege?!

    Ames, I am with you 100% on this one…


    In Busch v. Marple Newtown School District nobody is being denied the privlidge to live their own lives. The first ammendment guarantees free speech but it does not guarantee a captive audience, which is what the court ruled a class of kindergartners is.

    As to the idea that people should keep their kids out of public schools if they don’t want their kids learning about other religions, 1) their is a difference between learning about a religion and being subjected to proselytizing and 2) the public schools belong to everyone, not just the Christians.



    Well said.



    Thanks! But I did notice a typo. It should be “there is a difference” not “their is a difference.” My bad.


    it is permissible to teach the Bible as literature, comparative religion, etc.


    That is nothing but secular proselytizing and a total disrespect for the beliefs of many students in public and private schools and universities. I know because it was part of required coursework when I went to college and it was taught with the aim of “proving” that the Torah is chas vesholom not of divine authorship or even authority.

    Fortunately, in my particular class, the instructor had no real interest in the subject matter. He just regurgitated material he had probably read the day before, and I was able to argue (mostly against a Jewish self-professed atheist in the class) for Torah meSinai during the one or two sessions that we covered “the Bible as a founding document of Western civilization” or however it was presented.

    As for the original (non) issue, it is one more example of the hypocrisy of the multicultural liberal crowd. Had she read from some African or Asian avoida zara text, I am sure she would not have had a single problem because then she is sharing her culture with the class (ditto for a poem by Amiri Baraka or some other such black radical). But chas vesholom to mention G-d..that is not acceptable because multiculturals have multi-getschkes that are more important than G-d who is seen by these misguided fools as white, male and imperialistic!


    It seems the slippery slope is the argument most of you are making, i.e. if you allow this, it won’t be long before they want to read from the Koran.

    But, I find this a specious argument.

    The role of the courts is to balance conflicting rights under our Constitution, balancing the indiviual’s right to freedom of religious expression against the Constitutional prohibition of the state from establishing a specific religion.

    This text, Psalm 118, does not offend Jews, Christians or even Muslims – only atheists might be offended. They would be offended by a text making any reference to G-d. There is nothing in the Constitution which endorses the idea of the majority being ruled by a small minority because that minority might be offended by something the majortiy believes.

    The Constitution does not insist that to avoid the establishment of a State Religion the United States must be 100% secular. As long as the action by an arm of government does not endorse a specific religion, then there is no crossing the chruch/state Chinese wall.

    I hope this case is appealed and the Supreme Court weighs in, since I find that increasingly so, this country is displaying less and less tolerance for the expression of religious belief.

    And I find it very troubling that Jewish groups are coming down on the side against individual religious freedom.



    I believe that 1) we have no way of knowing what Mrs. Busch’s motivations are and 2) kindergartner’s are a young and impressionable audience, therefore we should err on the side caution. Further, I believe, and the court seems to agree, that first ammendment rights do not apply to parents in a child’s classroom. Teachers and principals have the right and obligation to control what goes on in the school and that extends to regulating outside speakers.



    Not to sterilize, but to attempt to avoid any religious influences that would prevent/disuade someone from becoming a Torah Jew.

    Three points:

    1: If there were no Jews in the Public school system, the no-one would care.

    2: Its easier to get someone back after Z’nus vs. someone who is convinced Avodah Zara is correct. The first just needs to be brought back, and the rest will follow. The second needs to be convinced that what they are doing is wrong.

    3: We should also fight teaching of “overt” topics in public school as well.


    This should be an easy issue for Yids: no religion in public schools. It’s a fundamental requirement of the US constitution. It was put there by Unitarians and other congregationalist Protestants so that they would not have to pay a tax to the Anglican Church or otherwise have their tax dollars used to support religions they did not subscribe to. As Yidden, we ought to know that if public money is spent to promote religion, it won’t be our religion. Admittedly, this results in a severe deficiency in public education, but if the teaching of religion is allowed in public schools, the promoters of particular religions will be lined up looking to convert everyone – especially assimilated Yids – to their religions, and that is not a good thing.


    If you want to remove religion in schools completely, then you have to remove ALL traces. That would mean NO Christmas celebrations or decorations or even mention of it. That would mean removing most of the literature taught (we read the Scarlett Letter in Yeshiva – but public schools wouldn’t be allowed to).

    This case seems to be a child sharing what he loved. Does that mean a Jewish kid couldn’t bring in a tallis for show and tell? [not arguing the appropriateness…just the action]



    I could hear the difference between an object of cultural & religious significance vs. reading the Bible itself. If the child just brought it in and didn’t read, I imagine the case would have been different.

    Also X-mas in public school has no religous meaning; at this point it’s the same as halloween (also a catholic holiday). That’s the only reason why its allowed.

    anon for this

    GAW, minor nitpick: Halloween is a pagan holiday (and is much closer to these roots than other pagan holidays that have been co-opted by Christianity). In fact many fundamentalist Christians do not celebrate it for this reason.


    “This should be an easy issue for Yids: no religion in public schools. It’s a fundamental requirement of the US constitution.”

    It is not accurate to say that the Constitution mandates “no religion in public schools”. What the First Amendment says is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. This Amendment was written when at least two states had official religions, meaning that in 1787 states were free to have their own religions, but the federal government could not force one religion for all states, or all people. Nowhere did the Constitution contemplate the “no religion” allowed concept being perpetrated under the rubric of federal law.

    According to a plain reading of the Constitution, what all American citizens enjoy is the freedom to practice any religion without interference by the state. The Constitution also prohibits Congress from establishing an official national religion.

    What we have instead is the ACLU suing any public institution for the any expression of religion. And we have Jewish groups joining the ACLU in suppressing the public expression of religion.

    In France they passed a law prohibiting the wearing of kippot because France is officially, legally and officially a Secular country. The United States is not, at least not yet.

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