Further information concerning the Third U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals ruling in CH v. Oliva, the case involving young Zachary
Hood and a New Jersey public school's refusal to let him read from
his Beginner's Bible.
If you'd like to read the court's decision, use this link:
THIRD CIRCUIT DECISION IN BEGINNER'S BIBLE CASE
Becket Fund will appeal 6-6 split to Supreme Court
A sharply divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued
a 6-6 split decision today in C.H. v. Oliva, a case involving a
young boy whose first grade public school teacher refused to let
him read a story from his Beginner's Bible. The even split among
the judges of the appeals court, which heard the case while sitting
en banc in February of this year, has the effect of leaving in place
a district court finding that Zachary Hood's constitutional rights
were not violated in the incident.
Becket Fund President and General Counsel Kevin J. Hasson announced
that the case will now be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. "The
district court's dismissal of Zack's First Amendment rights must
not be allowed to stand. The Third Circuit's division on this issue
reflects both the complexity and the importance of issues involving
children's rights of religious expression during the school day,
and it is crucial that the Court now confront this issue head-on,"
Hasson noted that Clinton Administration guidelines for public
schools around the country state specifically that "Students
may express their beliefs about religion in the form of homework,
artwork, and other written and oral assignments free of discrimination
based on the religious content of their submissions." Such
guidance "will be empty indeed if the Medford Township School
System's blatant defiance of the guidelines, and the constitutional
rights they seek to protect, is left untouched by the Federal courts."
The Third Circuit remanded to the district court a portion of the
case involving a Thanksgiving poster that Zachary Hood drew while
in Kindergarten. Students were told to draw a picture of something
they were thankful for. Zack's poster, which indicated he was "thankful
for Jesus," was removed entirely from a hallway exhibit, and
then put up again in a more obscure location. Hasson said that an
amended complaint will be filed with the district court, even as
the Supreme Court appeal is filed. "We will be pressing ahead
on both tracks. The issue of student free speech on religious issues
is extremely important and must be resolved by the federal courts."