Religious Persecution Rears its Ugly Head in Ft. Lauderdale
If you believe in the right of every American to practice the religion of their choice, you should already know about the Liberty Institute. Founded in 1972, the organization fights against the encroachment of religious persecution wherever it may be found. Unfortunately for kids like Floridian Giovanni Rubeo, that somewhere is increasingly the American public school system.
Rubeo, a 5th grader at Park Lakes Elementary in Ft. Lauderdale, had received a Bible as a Christmas gift in December. As his class allowed students to bring reading material of their own choosing, he opted to bring his treasured Bible. Sadly mistaken about the rules governing the separation of church and state, his teacher Swornia Thomas told him on April 8th that he was to put the Bible away. Telling Rubeo that religious books like the Bible were not allowed in her classroom, she instructed him not to bring the book to school in the future. To his credit, Giovanni did not take this infringement on his rights lying down.
Asked by her student to contact his father, Thomas left a voicemail for Paul Rubeo detailing her reasons for denying Giovanni access to his Bible. Not willing to settle for this answer, the senior Rubeo went to the school’s principal. He succeeded in getting the school’s legal team involved, but was unable to get the ruling overturned. Not about to give up without a fight, he went to the Liberty Institute. Now it’s likely spiraled beyond what Swornia Thomas and the Broward County School District really intended, but that’s exactly what happens when you step carelessly on the very rights that this country was founded upon.
It’s important to understand what this is not. It is not about forced prayer in schools. It’s not about compelling others to read the Bible in a public school classroom. It’s not even about “In God We Trust.” In all the above situations, atheists and their cohorts have their legs to stand on. Are those legs compatible with what the founding fathers wanted for America? Maybe, maybe not. But this case isn’t about any of those things. The case of Giovanni Rubeo is about the right of an American school student to spend his free time reading a religious book. That’s all it’s about. The argument against this is…what, exactly?
In a letter dated from 1792, George Washington wrote, “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated.” We see the truth of these words time and again on both sides of the aisle. They are no less relevant today than they were 200 years ago. When the government – in any of its branches, from the greatest to the least – enforces preferences of one religion over another (or no religion over some), it perverts the very spirit with which this country was created. Regardless of your personal religious views, you will probably agree that the practice of that religion should not be limited by overzealous teachers.
It remains to be seen whether Rubeo and the Liberty Institute will get satisfaction from the Broward County School Board without a legal battle, but Lean Right America stands with them in their pursuit of justice.