The Boston Globe, July 30, 2002
Leominster school didn’t let girl, 7, share Jesus story
By Thanassis Cambanis, Globe Staff, 7/30/2002
To 7-year-old Laura M. Greska, it made perfect sense to bring a book about Jesus Christ to her second-grade holiday show-and-tell. But her teacher barred her from reading aloud from ”The First Christmas,” saying its religious content made it inappropriate.
Now, Greska’s parents have sued the Leominster school system in a federal lawsuit that cites the religious rights of students. The lawsuit, filed yesterday in US District Court in Worcester, claims that school officials violated Greska’s constitutional right to freedom of speech and religion.
”This is a troubling example of a school district that is clearly exhibiting hostility toward religion,” said Vincent McCarthy, the Greskas’ lawyer and senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a Virginia Beach-based law and education group founded in 1991 by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson.
School officials are often unsure when religious material can enter the classroom, civil libertarians and religious rights groups agree, underscoring the lack of clear guidelines and knowledge of law that hampers some educators.
The US Constitution firmly separates church and state and prohibits school officials from endorsing any particular religion. But the First Amendment also allows students to talk about religion in schools, a position advocated not only by Christian groups such as the ACLJ, but organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union.
According to the lawsuit, Greska’s teacher asked students to bring books to class about their Christmas traditions. After some students shared books about Santa Claus and other holiday customs, the teacher stopped Greska when she pulled out her book about Jesus.