TEMECULA (CBSLA.com) — The family of a Temecula Valley first-grader claims their child was prevented from talking about the Bible during a class presentation on Christmas, according to attorneys.
The allegations stem from an incident on Dec. 18 after a teacher asked first grade students at Helen Hunt-Jackson Elementary School in Temecula to find something at home that represents a family Christmas tradition and share it with the class, according to Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a Murrieta-based nonprofit law firm.
In response to the assignment, student Brynn Williams took the "Star of Bethlehem" ornament from the top of her family's Christmas tree "to represent her family's tradition of remembering why Christmas is celebrated," and worked diligently on a one-minute presentation in order to explain to the class that her family's tradition is to remember the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas time, attorneys said.
The following day, attorneys say Brynn began her presentation with the following statement: "Our Christmas tradition is to put a star on top of our tree. The star is named the Star of Bethlehem. The 3 kings followed the star to find baby Jesus, the Savior of the world. John..."
According to attorneys, at that point during the presentation, Brynn's teacher said, "Stop right there! Go take your seat!" and Brynn was not allowed to finish her presentation, which included reciting a Bible verse from the Gospel of John, John 3:16.
Brynn was the only student not allowed to finish her one-minute presentation, attorneys said. After Brynn took her seat, the teacher allegedly explained to Brynn in front of all the other students that she was not allowed to talk about the Bible or share its verses, according to attorneys.
When Brynn's mother, Gina Williams, discussed the situation with school principal Ami Paradise, Williams was told that the Brynn's teacher had to stop the presentation because "we don't want to offend other students," attorneys said.
Attorney Robert Tyler sent a letter (PDF) to the Temecula Valley Unified School District (TVUSD) demanding that a new policy be adopted to prohibit school officials from expressing disapproval or hostility toward religion or toward religious viewpoints expressed by students.
"The disapproval and hostility that Christian students have come to experience in our nation's public schools has become epidemic," Tyler said in a statement. "I hope that TVUSD will take the lead role in adopting a model policy to prohibit this abuse that has become all too common place for religious-minded students."
There was no immediate response to the letter from TVUSD officials.
The reported incident comes on the heels of a case involving a West Covina Unified School District first grader who was told "Jesus is not allowed in school" when he attempted to pass out candy canes to his class ahead of the Christmas holiday break.
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