What happens when a high school student rips out pages of the Bible to protest school bullying? Apparently, he gets expelled. This is precisely what happened to 18 year-old Isaiah Smith of Birdville High School, in the Fort Worth, Texas, suburb of North Richland Hills. Even though Smith was trying to draw classroom attention to a serious, school-related issue, the school took greater umbrage over his desecration of a religious text, a decision which deserves our scrutiny as Universal Life Church ministers.

Fighting Back with the Good Book

Smith, an openly gay Christian, resorted to the Bible-tearing demonstration after enduring unabated harassment by other students over his sexual orientation. According to Smith, he had been repeatedly told by students that “being gay is a sin” and that “gays go to hell”. The tipping point came one day in Spanish class when classmates were engaging in the usual mockery. Smith had come prepared—he pulled out his personal copy of the Bible and began tearing out pages from Leviticus, a book often quoted to condemn homosexuality, in objection to their argument.

Initially Smith was sent to the office of the assistant principal, who told him he could continue to carry his Bible around at school, but could not tear out any more pages. However, two days later the assistant principal told him he could no longer carry the book around, allegedly asking him, “How would Muslims feel if a student was tearing up the Quran?” But the American Humanist Association has argued that the school’s decision “was religiously motivated, because [Smith] expressed different beliefs on the Bible than those held by school officials. There’s no legal basis for that kind of reaction”.

Punishing the Victim

What is curious about Smith’s case is the way in which school authorities propped up a double standard by penalizing Smith and privileging his bullies. The school’s initial reasoning for Smith’s expulsion was that he was disrupting class, but could it not just as easily be argued Smith’s bullies were disrupting class and creating a hostile learning environment for LGBT students like him? After all, the actions of the bullies were both unprovoked and unpunished while Smith was attempting to stand up for himself in response. Why should tearing up a Bible be deemed more disruptive than using it to marginalize students? Perhaps religious sentiments are preferred over the comfort and safety of sexual minorities.

One comment

  1. Kevin DeFranco says:

    It is, what it is. There are those who are comfortable with homosexuality and those who are not. Bullying should not be tolerated anywhere for ANY reason. Proselytizing flourishes on both sides of the issue, so claims of denial of “civil rights” when one comes from a faith perspective, and views it as a moral issue: and the other sees it as a social issue and normal behavior is tenable. Not to diminish each sides right to believe what they believe however. What’s questionable is the fact that this young man brought a Bible to school openly carrying it around, then selectively desecrating it in class, or where ever he was. LGBT has fought vehemently to keep God, and religion out of public school citing separation of church and state (public school system). I understand that he was being bullied, I understand the effects of being bullied, and the anxiety, fear, and reluctance to seek help. I also know about reaching a certain point. being angry, and no longer submitting to bullys. He did not realize he would start a fire by doing this or would offend people who believe in the bible. He wanted relief and understandably so. If he is allowed however to carry a Bible and destroy it in front of Christians, they should be allowed to express themselves accordingly. Its probably best if they both checked both their religious beliefs, and social biases, at the door. Try learning ,reading, writing, and arithmetic at school instead of being a conduit for religion or social engineering of secular beliefs. Where are the parents in all of this? Some guidance for all of their children wouldn’t hurt either side. Don’t bully in the name of religion, and don’t wear your sexual proclivity on your shirt sleeve, both should remain private. I am a Christian, I don’t personally believe in homosexuality but I didn’t discuss it at my place of work, because it was not germane to me being there. whatever is personal. and private should remain that way but that’s only my opinion, relative to me. Yet I do acknowledge that being gay is not easily concealed for anyone, and may elicit various reactions either positive or negative. Its a tough subject to deal with, that’s for sure.

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