KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—A 10-year-old student at Karns Elementary School and his parents, represented by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against representatives with the Knox County school system. School and district officials prohibit students from reading and discussing the Bible during recess.
ADF attorneys filed the suit after receiving from the district only an evasive response through the media to their concerns. In press reports, the principal and other officials have contended that recess is not “free time” and that, therefore, the school can prohibit Bible reading during that period.
“The Constitution says ‘yes’ to Bible reading and discussion outside of class time. Recess is non-instructional time regardless of how the school system tries to characterize it after the fact,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Nate Kellum.
Attorneys with ADF represent 10-year-old student Luke Whitson and his parents. Unable to resolve the matter with the principal, Whitson’s parents contacted district officials via legal counsel to express their concern over the principal’s actions and to explain the unconstitutional nature of the school’s practices. The district failed to respond, leaving the Whitsons with no choice but to file suit. A news release from the district did not address the Whitson’s central question regarding the matter.
“Simply, that question is: May a couple of students get together and talk about the Bible on the playground at recess? The district sidesteps this core issue,” Kellum said.
The principal and other school and district officials have stated in media interviews that students may only read and discuss the Bible before or after school.
“This is not a constitutionally sound policy,” Kellum explained. “Recess has long been regarded as non-instructional time, and students may read or discuss a wide range of literature—including the Bible—during such periods.”
Co-counsel in the case is ADF-allied attorney Charles Pope of the Athens legal organization JMF Counsel.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.