Isaiah Smith, Gay Teen Who Ripped Out Bible Pages, Suspended By Texas School
The American Humanist Association has formally sent a complaint to Birdville Independent School District in Texas, citing that Isaiah Smith's First Amendment rights have been violated after the teen was suspended for ripping out pages of his Bible as a protest against anti-gay bullying.
Smith, who is gay and Christian, said that he was repeatedly told that "being gay is a sin," and that "gays go to hell," by students at his school.
He brought his personal Bible to his first period class on Monday, October 28, and tore out pages from Leviticus, a portion of the Bible which contains prohibitions against homosexuality, as a way of protesting their statements, and because he doesn't believe the Bible condemns gay people. Smith was subsequently sent to the assistant principal's office, who told him that though he could continue carrying around the ripped Bible, he shouldn't tear out any more pages.
However, on Wednesday the assistant principal reportedly called him into his office again to reprimand him for carrying the torn book and asked, "How would Muslims feel if a student was tearing up the Qur-an?” He was then suspended for three days and had his Bible confiscated, according to the letter.
A photo from April of 2012 shows Smith affirming his belief that Christianity doesn't condemn gays.
The American Humanist Association believes this is a violation of Smith's First Amendments rights, and has called upon the school to either allow all students to carry torn versions of the Bible and any other books if they so choose, or forbid all students from carrying religious texts to school. They also demand that the suspension be expunged from Smith's record, and have raised the possibility of a lawsuit if the school does not comply.
“This is a clear violation of Isaiah’s First Amendment rights,” said Monica Miller, an attorney and legal consultant with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the Amercan Humanist Association. “The only explanation for this kind of punishment is that it was religiously motivated, because he expressed different beliefs on the Bible than those held by school officials. There’s no legal basis for that kind of reaction.”
Tarrant teen who fought bullying suspended from school
Isaiah Smith, center, posed with North Richland Hills police officers who came to his school to watch him receive an award.
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS - Isaiah Smith hasn't handled bullying in school the way other teens do. He's petitioned his mayor and city council, started a gay-straight alliance and contacted media.
This week, he was suspended from school, so he didn't handle that the way most teens do, either. He called Dallas Voice as well as TV news stations.
Smith is attending Birdville High School his senior year. As a member of band and a retired teen court attorney and police explorer, he's never been suspended or in trouble before.
He said he's been bullied in school and told he can't be Christian and gay.
"The Bible is a beautiful thing," Smith said. "It's not a bullying tool."
So he began carrying the Bible to school with him, and this week, when he was taunted for a line in Leviticus, he tore that book out of his Bible.
"The assistant principal called me into the office," he said and told him, "'You can bring it to school but can't rip it.'"
The assistant principal told him he couldn't create a disruption in class. He said the administrator asked him how Muslims would feel if he ripped up the Koran. The difference is Smith is a Christian tearing his own religion's book.
Smith was given a three-day suspension.
Last year, Smith petitioned the Keller City Council to add a nondiscrimination ordinance after collecting about 1,200 signatures of voters and 800 youth signatures.
Although the council didn't act on the petition, the mayor complimented Smith on his passion and allowed him to speak beyond the usually allotted three minutes.
He should be graduating from school this year and plans to go to college - hopefully in someplace like Massachusetts.