A Pennsylvania couple is suing a school district for banning their first grader’s Christian-themed Valentines.
Donald and Ellen Abramo claim their son’s constitutional rights were violated when Shafer Elementary School officials forbid him from handing out Valentine’s Day cards with a message about God and John 3:16, reports WFMZ-TV.
The message read: “Happy Valentine’s Day! St. Valentine was imprisoned and martyred for presiding over marriages and for spreading the news of God’s love. In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that God loves you!!!”
The boy had already removed candy from the cards, after the school sent home a note banning edibles. It was the resulting empty slot that inspired him to add the message. Each of the cards was personalized specifically for his classmates to be distributed on “Friendship Day.”
But his teacher saw the Bible verse and brought it to the principal, and ultimately the message was removed from the cards.
Matt Sharp, the family’s attorney, said the ban was confounding given some of the other Valentine’s distributed. One of them had a laughing skull and another one had troopers with guns, he told WFMZ-TV. “It’s just troubling when all of that other stuff is allowed and then here’s a message about Valentine’s and quoting a Bible verse and it’s the one that’s targeted out and censored.”
The principal explained to the parents that district policy bans the distribution of religious materials, on the grounds that the Constitution offers protection from religion. After unsuccessfully countering that the Constitution does not prevent citizens from sharing their faith with one another, the parents decided to file a lawsuit.
According to the suit, the boy was humiliated by the experience and no longer prays in school, because he is afraid of getting in trouble. It seeks to stop the district’s crackdown on the distribution of religious materials.
Sharp is an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit law firm working to promote religious freedom.