• U.S.

Tennessee: Thou Shalt Not Teach

2 minute read

If parents object on religious grounds to books used in public schools, then their children are not required to read them. That is the implication of last week’s verdict in a Tennessee trial, where Federal District Judge Thomas Hull, who heard the case without a jury, ruled in favor of parents who charged that the local school district forced their children to read textbooks that offended their strict Christian beliefs.

The group of Fundamentalist Christian parents, led by Vicki Frost, a mother of four, attacked the school district’s choice of such books as The Diary of Anne Frank and The Wizard of Oz on the ground that the works contained references that were contrary to what the parents regarded as God’s teaching. The state of Tennessee argued that parents could not pick and choose from the curriculum; if they did, their children could not remain in school. Hull disagreed, ruling that parents could withdraw their children from the reading program but allow them to receive the rest of the school’s instruction. Moreover, Hull declared that the parents were entitled to monetary damages, to be determined by a jury trial. Said William Farmer, Tennessee advocate general and a member of the defense team: “A separate reading class will not shelter these children from all the things which they find objectionable in the public school curriculum.” The defendants said they will appeal.

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