Sunday, February 8, 2004

Religious jellybeans lead to lawsuit


Teacher halted giveaway in kindergarten class

The Associated Press

DAYTON, Ohio - Parents have sued a suburban school district because a kindergarten teacher stopped their daughter from distributing bags of jellybeans with an attached prayer to her classmates.

Allen and Sheila Wuebben of Kettering say the school's policy of prohibiting students from distributing religious literature in the classroom violates their daughter Madison's rights to freedom of speech and religion.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, the Wuebbens asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Rose to allow their daughter to distribute the candy and religious message, plus "nominal damages in the amount of $1."

The lawsuit lists the school district of 7,200 students, its board of education and Superintendent Robert Mengerink as defendants

Mengerink defended the school's action.

"We think young, impressionable children are not capable of distinguishing between the independent actions of their peers and those of the school district," he said. "My concern is, 'Can a kindergarten child discern the difference between a friend's opinion about religion and that it wasn't coming from the school or the teacher?"'

He said school officials would allow Madison to hand out the jellybean prayer on the playground, on buses and after classes.

According to the lawsuit, Madison was denied permission from her teacher to distribute "The Jelly Bean Prayer" to her Orchard Park Elementary School classmates before last Easter.

The prayer's first two lines are: "Red is for the blood He gave, Green is for the grass He made."

The family's attorney, Thomas W. Condit of Milford, describes himself in the lawsuit as participating for the Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, Va.




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