A Nevada public charter school is facing the wrath of a local pastor and possibly a lawsuit because a teacher refused to allow his sixth-grade daughter to include her religious beliefs for a project called “All About Me.”
The site of the First Amendment kerfuffle is Somerset Academy in North Las Vegas, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
It started back in February. The student, Mackenzie Fraiser, wanted one of her “All About Me” slides to be John 3:16, the famous Bible verse.
(If you aren’t up to speed on your New Testament Gospels, John 3:16 goes: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”)
Fraiser’s teacher refused to allow her to include the slide containing the Bible verse and showing her strong Christian beliefs.
When her father, Tim Frasier, a pastor at nondenominational Grace Point Church, eventually learned about the incident around the end of April, he was unhappy.
“Can you please explain if this is true?” the mad dad wrote to school officials in an April 29 email obtained by the Review-Journal. “Perhaps, she misunderstood you? Since I am certain you understand that this clearly infringes on my daughters/your students right to freedom of speech, I want to make sure we understand your instructions.”
Assistant principal Jenyan Martinez replied a couple days later, totally confident that the taxpayer-funded school was in the right to prevent the free exercise of religion.
“When Mackenzie created the project with the expectation she would present the Biblical saying to the class, the matter became one of having a captive audience that would be subject to her religious beliefs,” Martinez instructed the pastor. “Had the assignment been designed to simply hand in for a grade, this would not have been an issue. Therefore, considering the circumstances of the assignment, Miss Jardine appropriately followed school law expectations by asking Mackenzie to choose an alternate quote for the presentation.”
The elder Frasier responded to this response by soliciting the help of Liberty Institute.
An attorney for the religious rights law firm, Jeremy Dys, organized a meeting with the Frasier family and, of course, members of the local press in front of a federal courthouse.
Dys is demanding an apology to the family. He also wants to force the school to accept the sixth grader’s “All About Me” assignment with the John 3:16 slide. Otherwise, he said, he will file a First Amendment lawsuit.
A spokesman at the charter school management company which runs Somerset Academy responded by saying the company is now reviewing the way the teacher and assistant principal Martinez handled the incident.
“We consider the civil liberties of our students to be of utmost importance,” Colin Bringhurst of Academica Nevada said in a statement sent to the Las Vegas newspaper. “As such, we strive to comply in every way with the directives set forth by the U.S. Department of Education with regard to religious expression in public schools.”
The public school staff at Somerset Academy is not America’s first to assert that U.S. law and the Constitution ban religious students from expressing their own religious beliefs.
For example, many students who have brought their own Bibles to school have faced the wrath of school officials. (RELATED: This Month In Public School Teachers Confiscating Bibles And Yelling At Students About Bibles)
And back in 2013, an incident freakishly similar to the one at Somerset Academy occurred in Memphis, Tenn. The public school was Lucy Elementary. A teacher told students to write about their idols. Then, the teacher prohibited a 10-year-old girl identified from writing about her idol, God.
“It was so cute and innocent. She talked about how God created the earth and how she’s doing the best she can,” the girl’s mother said at the time. (RELATED: School Teacher Tells 10-Year-Old Girl She Can’t Write About God As Her Idol)