November 2007 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Pennsylvania public school officials acted properly when they refused to allow a parent to read Bible verses to a kindergarten class, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has told a federal appeals court.

In October, Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule in favor of the Marple Newtown School District. The school district was sued after officials at Culbertson Elementary School blocked Donna K. Busch from reading the Bible to the class. Busch, whose son was a kindergartener, was represented in her lawsuit by the Rutherford Institute, a Religious Right legal organization.

Busch lost in federal court, but asked the 3rd Circuit to overturn the ruling.

In its Oct. 3 brief in Busch v. Marple Newtown School District, Americans United asserted that public school officials must have the right to determine what goes on inside the classroom.

“[B]y inviting the parents of the class to participate in a kindergarten social studies exercise by reading a story, the School did not remotely convert the kindergarten classroom into a soapbox (or pulpit) from which parents were free to exercise their views, whatever they may be,” AU argued in its brief.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Religious Right legal outfit founded by TV preachers, has also gotten behind Busch’s cause. The ADF filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 3rd Circuit arguing that school officials unconstitutionally silenced religious speech.