A “show-and-tell” assignment about Christmas stirs up controversy in Temecula when a student claims her teacher did not allow her to finish her presentation because of its Biblical references.
This past December at Helen Hunt Jackson Elementary School, first grader Brynn Williams’ presentation of her family’s Star of Bethlehem was shut down because she’s “not allowed to talk about the Bible in school.”
On Wednesday, December 18, 2013, Brynn Williams brought home a “share” bag as part of a school assignment. Brynn’s teacher had given every child in her class a canvas bag with verbal instructions to find something at home that represents a family Christmas tradition, put it in the bag, bring it to school, and be prepared to share the family tradition.
Brynn took the Star of Bethlehem from the top of the family Christmas tree to represent her family’s tradition of remembering why Christmas is celebrated. Brynn 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 at Christmas time.
On the day of presentations, Brynn began: “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…”
At that moment, Brynn’s teacher interrupted her and said, “Stop right there! Go take your seat!” Brynn was not allowed to finish her presentation by reciting the Bible verse, John 3:16. In fact, Brynn was the only student not allowed to finish her one-minute presentation. After Brynn took her seat, the teacher explained to Brynn in front of all the other students that she was not allowed to talk about the Bible or share its verses.
Advocates For Faith & Freedom sent a demand letter to the Temecula Valley Unified School District 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 letter also demands that TVUSD provide a written apology and allow Brynn the opportunity to complete her speech during class.
Attorney Nic Cocis serves as co-counsel in this case. Mr. Cocis experienced religious persecution as an elementary school student in communist Romania before his family immigrated to the United States.
“The censorship of Christianity was something I came to expect in Romanian schools, not here in the United States,” said Mr. Cocis. “I don’t want my kids to experience what I experienced as a Christian in Romania.”
They’ve already received news coverage for this case, and here are a few of the links:
Advocates for Faith & Freedom ask for prayer.
“Please pray with us as we interact with TVUSD on Brynn’s behalf. We don’t want any other children to experience the hostility that Brynn has faced in school because of their faith!”
Below is another report of a first grader rejected for faith in Christ.
Teacher to First Grader: “Jesus is not allowed in school”
Brynn’s incident at Temecula Valley Unified School District comes on the heels of a candy cane case involving West Covina Unified School District first grader Isaiah Martinez who was told, “Jesus is not allowed in school.”
On December 13, 2013, first grader Isaiah Martinez took Christmas gifts intended for his teacher and classmates at Merced Elementary in the West Covina Unified School District. Each gift consisted of a traditional candy cane with a message attached that recited the legend of the candy cane. The legend references a candy maker who created the candy cane to symbolize the life of Jesus Christ. Isaiah’s older sister told him about the legend of the candy cane and Isaiah asked if he could share it with his teacher and his classmates.
Isaiah and his sister purchased candy canes, printed the candy cane message and tied a copy to each of the canes. When Isaiah brought his Christmas gift to school, his teacher took possession of the candy canes. After conferring with the school principal, the teacher told Isaiah that “Jesus is not allowed in school” and, at the apparent direction of her principal, ripped the candy cane message from each candy cane, threw the messages in the trash, and handed the candy canes back to Isaiah for delivery to his classmates. Isaiah then nervously handed the candy canes to his classmates in fear that he was in trouble for trying to bring a little Christmas cheer and “good tidings” to class.
Advocates for Faith & Freedom sent a demand letter to the West Covina Unified School District demanding a written apology and has demanded that a new policy be adopted to prohibit school officials from bullying and intimidating Christian students and religiously affiliated students.
A copy of the demand letter can be found here, which provides more depth to the facts as asserted by the Martinez family along with relevant legal arguments.
Robert Tyler, Advocates’ General Counsel, said,
“Advocates for Faith & Freedom has experienced a surge in phone calls from students and their parents across the country who are victims of religiously motivated bullying; not bullying by other students, but bullying by teachers and school officials.” He continued, “The pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that public schools are becoming a place of hostility toward Christian and other religiously-based worldviews. It’s time to push the pendulum back in the right direction where kids can experience true tolerance without religiously motivated hostility from their teachers and school officials.”