A few weeks ago, we published a post debunking a story that had been widely promoted by the Religious Right about a young girl who was supposedly told by her teacher that she was not allowed to deliver a presentation on her family’s Christmas tradition because she brought the star that her family places atop its Christmas tree, which represents the Star of Bethlehem.
As we pointed out in the post, this supposed tale of anti-Christian bigotry turned out to be totally false but that wasn’t going to stop Religious Right activists from continuing to repeat it because myths like this never, ever die once they have made their way into the right-wing echo chamber.
And so, once again, this same tale continues to spread, this time courtesy of the Eagle Forum in Phyllis Schlafly’s latest commentary:
A first grader in California has been told she’s not permitted to talk about the Bible at school. A teacher at Temecula Valley School told her first grade class to bring an object to school that represented a family Christmas tradition and then give a one-minute presentation. Brynn Williams brought the star that tops her family’s Christmas tree and shared how her family remembers Jesus’ birth at Christmas. “The star is named the Star of Bethlehem,” Brynn said. “The three kings followed the star to find the baby Jesus, the Savior of the world.” Brynn had planned to end her presentation by reciting the famous Bible verse John 3:16, but her teacher stopped her before she could say more.
Brynn’s teacher told her to “stop right there” and sit back down. The teacher then explained to Brynn – in front of the entire class – that she was not allowed to talk about the bible or quote its verses in school. Brynn’s mother met with the principal about this issue, and the principal backed up the teacher. She said the school’s policy is to protect students from being offended.
This was a clear violation of the student’s rights. Courts have consistently ruled that public school students have the right to speak about their religious beliefs at school, and no court has ever ruled that a schoolchild cannot talk about his religious beliefs. The teacher’s behavior was bullying and humiliating, and a serious breach of what the Constitution guarantees. Brynn’s family’s lawyer has demanded that the school apologize and change its policies, or else the family will file a lawsuit. Any reasonable judge should rule against the district, but it’s ridiculous and troubling that a first grader’s family may have to go to court to force a public school to recognize a student’s basic First Amendment right of free speech.
This story wasn’t true back when it was first reported.
It wasn’t true when it was endlessly repeated.
And it won’t be true when it is cited in the future … but none of that will stop this story from being continuously spread by the Religious Right for years to come.