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Sixth Circuit Mulls Recess in Bible Study Lawsuit

By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 02, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Litigants submitted briefs to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals this week in a civil rights lawsuit claiming that a principal violated a fourth grader's rights by banning a recess Bible study, reports the Christian Post.

Samuel and Tina Whitson, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), are asking the Cincinati-based court to overturn a 2009 jury decision in favor of Knox County Schools.

The case started when a parent complained that Luke Whitson and other fourth graders would meet on the Karns Elementary School playground during recess for Bible study. After hearing the complaint, Karns Principal Cathy Summa denied a request from three other students to have an adult-let Bible study, reports The Associated Press.

In 2005, the Whitsons filed their bible study lawsuit against the school district, claiming that the school violated Luke’s First Amendment right to read his Bible during recess. The jury ruled for the school district, so the Whitsons and ADF appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Luke Whitson testified at trial that no one teacher or administrator ever told him not to bring a Bible to school to read and talk about at recess. Instead, a teacher allegedly told his friend that Bible study was banned during school hours, according the AP.

ADF Attorney Nathan Kellum argued in the Whitsons’ appellate brief, “It is common for students at (Karns Elementary) to gather and discuss written materials, such as school assignments, American Girl doll magazines, elementary-age books (such as Harry Potter), and other materials not banned by the school,” and suggested that the Bible should be no different from other reading material.

Gary Prince, the Knox County school district’s attorney, maintains that the bible study lawsuit was based on a misunderstanding, and that school policy only prohibited Bible studies led by adults during school hours, reports the AP.

In June 2006, the Knox County School board adopted a policy in response to the lawsuit that specifically allows students to read religious texts at school during “discretionary time.”

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