Third Circuit Decision in Beginner's Bible Case

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:


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 declared.

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."



2003 The Federalist Society