10-Year-Old Banned From Writing About God By Memphis Teacher, Told to Remove Paper From School Property

A Memphis-area mother is angry with her daughter's elementary school after a teacher told her 10-year-old she could not have God as the subject of her class assignment to write about her idol.

10-year-old Erin Shead of Memphis, Tenn. was told by her teacher at Lucy Elementary that she could not write about God for a class project.
10-year-old Erin Shead of Memphis, Tenn. was told by her teacher at Lucy Elementary that she could not write about God for a class project. | (Photo: Screenshot/WREG-TV)

Erin Shead, a student at Lucy Elementary in Millington, Tenn., was told by her teacher to write about an idol she looked up to as part of a class assignment. The young student decided to write about God. She drew a diagram explaining why she "looked up to God," one of the reasons being, "He is the reason I am on this earth."

"I love [God] and Jesus, and Jesus is His earthly son. I also love Jesus," the 10-year-old continued.

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"God is my idol, I will never hate him. He will always be the number one person I look up to," the young girl added.

When Erin's teacher received her written assignment, she told the young girl that she was prohibited from picking God as her idol, and demanded that she start the class assignment all over again and choose a new idol. She was also told that her assignment with God as her idol must be taken home and was not allowed to remain on school property.

After having her first assignment rejected, Erin picked Michael Jackson as her idol, which was reportedly acceptable to the teacher.

However, after hearing what happened, Erin's mother, Erica Shead has been left outraged. She has made the story public and expressed how upset she is with the elementary school for discriminating against her daughter due to her religious beliefs. Shead told the local WREG-TV that her daughter's first assignment was simply "cute and innocent," and that the school did not have the power to tell her daughter she was not allowed to write about God and Jesus.

"How can you tell this baby, that's a Christian, what she can say and what she can't say?" Erica Shead said in an interview with WREG-TV. The girl's mother reportedly visited the elementary school Wednesday morning to ask the principle to show her the school "policy where this child cannot talk about God on paper."

Erica Shead has reportedly not heard back from the school on the matter, but a spokesperson for the Shelby County School District in effect confirmed to WREG-TV that the school teacher had been wrong to prohibit the girl from writing about God. The spokesperson explained that although teachers were not allowed to promote religion in class, there was no rule against students writing about religion for a class assignment.

In a similar incident in February 2013, a three-judge panel in New York ruled that an 8th-grade student could not include a religious blessing at the end of her graduation speech. In California in 2012, Kenneth Dominguez, 16, filed a lawsuit against his San Diego-area school district for forbidding him from bringing his bible on campus.

The Alliance Defending Freedom Christian legal group said in reference to the New York student's graduation speech that students in public school should feel free to express their religious beliefs.

"Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas. The personal well-wishes of a student are no different just because they mention God," Senior Counsel David Cortman said in a statement back in February, as previously reported by The Christian Post. "Public school officials have no legitimate basis to shut down personal speech just because it has a religious reference."

Alliance Defending Freedom has previously defended a number of cases relating to religious liberty, including defending a second grade student in New Jersey who was told she couldn't sing "Awesome God" in an after-school talent show, and a Christian student in Missouri, who was threatened with having her degree withheld because she refused to support same-sex adoption in a letter to her state legislature.

"As a parent, you may believe that in public education the 'separation of church and state' prohibits your child from freely living out the Christian values you've worked so hard to instill. But students have more freedom to express their faith on campus than you, or they, realize," Alliance Defending Freedom states on its website.

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