First-grader Isaiah Martinez brought candy canes to school so that he could pass them out to all of his classmates as a Christmas gift, but a religious message that was included with the sweet treats has stirred up a lot of controversy in the California school.
According to reports, the candy canes Martinez brought to school each contained the message, “I pray that this symbol will again be used to witness to the Wonder of Jesus and His Great Love that came down at Christmas and remains the ultimate and dominant force in the universe today.”
When the teacher saw the message that accompanied the candies, the student was allegedly told, “Jesus is not allowed in school.” The teacher reportedly took the candy canes away, ripped the messages off of them, and gave them back to the student to hand out to his classmates.
Now, attorney Robert Tyler says that the boy’s rights to freedom of speech and religion have been infringed and that the family will pursue legal action if the school doesn’t issue a written apology along with a policy change that will, “prohibit school officials from bullying and intimidating Christian students and religiously affiliated students.”
“The pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that public schools are becoming a place of hostility toward Christian and other religiously-based worldviews,” said Tyler, who works for Advocated for Faith & Freedom, a religious rights organization. “It’s time to push the pendulum back in the right direction where kids can experience true tolerance without religiously motivated hostility from their teachers and school officials.”
District Superintendent Debra Kaplan defends the policy to remain neutral in matters of religion, but says that they will “investigate and respond to them in a manner consistent with our policies and the rights of all students of the district.”
“The District’s overriding concern was and is to honor and respect the beliefs of all students in matters of religion. To that end, the District strives to maintain neutrality in matters of religion, and to observe students’ rights of expression, in a manner that does not conflict with the rights of other students,” Kaplan said. “During the holiday season, and particularly when young elementary students are involved, this can require difficult balancing.”
Tyler says that he hopes this case will bring to light what he claims is a widespread issue of “religiously motivated bullying” by schools.