Parents at Brown Elementary School See Red Flags in Classroom Bible Verse Ritual

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Parents of students in the Smithville School District have challenged a video a first-grade teacher shared online showing her class repeating Bible verses and potentially going against a US Supreme Court ruling – United Canceling School Sponsored Bible Readings and Prayer.

The video, which was posted to Facebook on November 1 by Susan Schobel, a teacher at Brown Elementary School, shows her class sitting in a circle repeating Romans 12: 9-10.

“Start your day with a good bible verse and life looks better !! Schobel wrote in the caption of the video. “This is our daily Bible verse. “

The video was removed several days later, but not before a copy was recorded by at least one parent and shared with the Smithville Times.

“It’s not good,” wrote Ashley Nicole, who has a child at Brown Primary, in a letter to the school district. ” I am really shocked. I am concerned about the way this is handled. “

Charlie Lucko, who also has a child who attends Brown Primary, sent a similar note to the district, calling the practice unconstitutional and “religious indoctrination.”

“This was a ‘daily bible verse‘, which leads me to suspect that this was an ongoing thing,” Lucko said. “I highly doubt anyone in the faculty knew about this.”

Smithville Schools Superintendent Cheryl Burns declined to comment on how the school district has responded except to say “we are aware of it and have responded to it.”

Schobel did not respond to a request for comment. In a deleted Facebook post that was also copied by a parent and shared with The Times, Schobel wrote: “I have decided that if I get fired for teaching my children about Jesus, then I get fired for good. raison !!

The law on daily Bible readings in public schools was settled in the landmark 1963 Abington School District Supreme Court case against Schempp, which declared school-sponsored and prayer-sponsored Bible readings unconstitutional. in public schools.

In that case, Edward Schempp filed a lawsuit alleging that his children’s First Amendment rights to religious freedom were violated by a Pennsylvania state law that required public schools to start each day of school. through readings from the Bible. The ruling invalidated this state law and distinguished Bible readings in a classroom that are devotional in nature from Bible lessons that emphasize the historical and literary importance of the Bible.

In the 1963 Supreme Court decision, Associate Justice Tom Clark wrote in his majority opinion: “The Bible can certainly be said to be worth studying for its literary and historical qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such a study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular education program, may not be carried out in accordance with the First Amendment.

The ruling settled decades of disputes in and out of court over public school-sponsored Bible classes across the country.

Sectarian Bible lessons have been a part of public education systems in Texas since the turn of the 20th century, according to religious studies professor Mark Chancey at Southern Methodist University, who has studied Bible lessons in Texas public schools for more than of 10 years. Most notable of these programs was the Dallas High School Bible Study Course, which has been facilitated by the Dallas School District for over 60 years. The course included a curriculum developed by the school district but taught in Sunday schools, awarding students high school credits until it was phased out in 1985.

But even after the 1963 case – and a similar ruling in 1962 that dealt with school-sponsored prayers – many school districts continued the ritual.

“Even after 1963, many school districts continued to read the Bible in the same way – in the morning assembly, in the classroom, over the intercom – until the 1970s, openly violating the Supreme Court ruling. . Knowingly, intentionally violating him, ”Chancey said. “It went on for a long time across the country, and certainly in Texas.”

“Even now, that sort of thing pops up from time to time,” he said.

The Texas Legislature entered the fray in 2007 with the passage of House Bill 1287, which gives school districts the discretion to offer elective Bible courses to high school students on the Old and the New Testament “and their impact on the history and literature of Western civilization.” “

The Smithville School District has not adopted any such program in its curriculum, the superintendent said.

Lucko and other parents remain skeptical that the ritualistic recitations of Bible verses captured in the video were taught with objective educational intentions.

“If this teacher crosses the line here, he puts the district at risk of civil suit,” said Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network. “This puts the district and the district taxpayers at risk because the courts have repeatedly ruled that you cannot turn a public school classroom into a Sunday school class. “

Love from the center of who you are; don’t pretend. Run for the dear life of evil; hold on to the dear life of the good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing the second violin.

Romans 12: 9-10, contemporary translation

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