A Calif. school district has agreed to accept a third grader's donation of the Bible to the school library with the help of a Christian legal group.
Advocates for Faith & Freedom recently announced that it has successfully helped Victoria Nelson, a third grade student of the Temecula Valley Unified School District in California, submit a Bible to her school's library as part of the "Birthday Book Program."
The Christian legal group had previously gained national media attention by helping other students in California, including Brynn Williams and Isaiah Martinez, fight for their religious freedom rights at their public elementary schools.
Victoria's father, Gary Nelson, heard of the Christian legal group representing these other children and decided to contact them regarding his daughter Victoria, who was denied the opportunity to donate the Bible as part of the school's "Birthday Book Program" two years ago. The program involves a student donating a book of their choice to the school's library on their birthday. The student is then commended for their donation at a Friday Flag Salute Assembly, where they have their picture taken with their donated book.
When Victoria attempted to donate a Bible in first grade, she was reportedly denied by the school principal, who reportedly said a Bible could not be in the school library.
Two years after the incident, Gary Nelson contacted the Advocates for Faith & Freedom, who in turn submitted a 9-page letter to Victoria's school district, explaining the girl's right to submit the Bible under the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Recently, the principal apologized for his previous decision and allowed Victoria to submit the Holy Book, and she was celebrated for her donation at the Friday Flag Salute Assembly.
"This case is yet another example of District employees lacking knowledge of First Amendment rights, as well as lack of proper policies and employee training. Victoria had the right to give the school the Bible under the book donation program, the school had the right to receive it, and students now have a right to go to the library and read it," Robert Tyler, general counsel for Alliance Defending Faith & Freedom, said in a statement regarding the issue.
The Christian legal group is also representing an elementary student involved in a similar case. Earlier this year, Advocates for Faith & Freedom sent a letter to the Temecula Valley Unified School District regarding Brynn Williams, a 6-year-old who was reportedly banned by her teacher from telling the biblical Nativity story during a Christmas-themed presentation. The legal group requested that the district change its school policy to secure religious freedom of students, and allow Williams to finish her one-minute speech on Jesus.
In an incident that occurred last Christmas, Isaiah Martinez, a 6-year-old student in West Covina, Calif., was forced to throw away gifts he had prepared for his fellow students after a teacher deemed them too religious. The gifts included a candy cane and an attached piece of paper conveying a religious message and its relation to Christmas. The teacher told Martinez he could not pass out the religious messages because "Jesus is not allowed in school."
Advocates for Faith & Freedom also sent a letter to Martinez's school, requesting that the student receive a written apology and the district change its policy to better protect religious freedom in its classrooms.
The legal group said in its recent statement that in regard to the cases involving Williams and Martinez, they are "in the process of negotiating with each of the school districts. If the districts refuse to respect our demands, we will likely file federal lawsuits to compel each district's compliance."