Photo: Facebook/Isaiah Smith Campaign)
A Texas student is threatening to sue his school district for suspending him after he tore up a bible on campus last week. The student is claiming he ripped up the bible as a form of protest because he was being "bullied" for being gay.
Isaiah Smith, an 18-year-old senior at Birdville High School in North Richland Hills, Texas, was expelled for three days last week after he brought his bible to school and began tearing up pages from the Book of Leviticus in front of students who he says had been taunting him about being gay, telling him he was going to hell for his sexual orientation.
"At my high school, some kids like to say that being gay is a sin and that you can't be gay and Christian," Smith said. "I wanted to bring my Bible to school and interpret the books of Leviticus and Romans, because they are often used to bully gay people," Smith told the Fort-Worth Star Telegram.
The teen reportedly entered his first-period Spanish class last Monday, and students reportedly began telling him the Bible's stance on homosexuality. He then got out a bible and began ripping out pages of Leviticus in front of the class. The teen was reportedly called to the assistant principal's office after the incident, and although he was told he could not rip out pages from the bible, he was reportedly allowed to carry around the Holy Book for the rest of the day. The teen then carried the ripped bible around for the rest of the day, and was ultimately called into the principal's office again on Wednesday regarding the incident, and given a three day suspension.
Smith has provided a copy of his suspension slip to local media outlets like the Fort-Worth Star Telegram, and the slip describes the reason for Smith's suspension as "distraction and disruption in class by tearing up Bible in class." The American Humanist Association then sent a letter to the Birdville Independent School District last week threatening legal action against the district if it does not remove the disciplinary mark from Smith's record regarding the suspension. The association argues that the school violated Smith's free speech rights, and the alleged bullies, not Smith, should be punished for their actions.
The letter asks that the school lift Smith's disciplinary mark from his record and also change its policy to either allow all students to carry around ripped texts of any book, including the bible, or forbid all students from carrying around religious texts at school.
Mark Thomas, a spokesman for the school district, said in an emailed statement to the Dallas Observer that the incident had nothing to do with the bible, writing "this is not related to the Bible."
"Any recurring incident that disrupts the learning process is dealt with according to policy and appropriate disciplinary action is taken according to that policy," the spokesman wrote. "I question the paper's reason for wanting to run a story on any general student discipline."
Monica Miller, an attorney and legal consultant with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the Amercan Humanist Association, argued that the school violated Smith's First Amendment rights and that its decision to suspend him was "religiously motivated."
"The only explanation for this kind of punishment is that it was religiously motivated, because he expressed different beliefs on the Bible than those held by school officials. There's no legal basis for that kind of reaction," Miller said.
Smith has told local media outlets that he identifies as a Christian but does not believe the bible condemns homosexuality. He has previously appeared before City Council regarding anti-discrimination laws and has protested saying the Pledge of Allegiance at his school because he believes it is a violation of the separation of Church and State.