A California elementary school has come under fire after dispatching a sheriff's deputy to a 7-year-old boy's home to warn him against distributing Bible verses after school.
According to the Washington Times, the young boy, who attends Desert Rose Elementary, had been handing out Bible verses given to him in the form of short notes from his mother, Christina Zavala, alongside his lunch.
The report notes that the little boy, identified only as "C", was first rebuked by his teacher as he stood on a public sidewalk, handing out Bible verses to his friends
The teacher then called his parents, warning them that such actions go against the separation of church and state.
"However, when one little girl said 'teacher - this is the most beautiful story I've ever seen,' 'separation of church and state' was the response, and the notes were banned from lunchtime distribution," reads a report from the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation organization which specializes in defending religious freedom.
Nevertheless, the little boy continued to distribute Bible verses out at the school gate, prompting the school's principal to call the family and demand the little boy cease from sharing his faith with his friends.
Later that day, a Los Angeles deputy sheriff went to the family's home to inform the parents that Desert Rose Elementary School had filed a report against the child for sharing Bible verses.
"I would expect something like this to happen in Communist Romania, where I went to elementary school, but cops don't bully 7-year-olds who want to talk about Jesus in the Land of the Free," Horatio Mihet, senior litigation counsel with Liberty Counsel, said in a statement.
"This is a clear, gross violation of the rights of a child," the group said. "That the school district enlisted a police officer to intimidate C and his family makes this case even more outrageous."
The Liberty Counsel subsequently sent a letter to the Palmdale School District to inform the administration of the correct interpretation of the clause establishing separation of church and state, arguing that pupils have the right to exercise freedom of speech through printed materials, according to WND.
"Therefore, it was improper to ban student religious discussion during lunchtime. The district cannot suppress and censor this discussion, or the one-page notes consisting of Bible stories and verses placed by C's mother in C 's lunch for his own personal enjoyment and edification; which he voluntarily chose to share with his little friends during non-instructional time; which interested classmates were free to accept or refuse, at their own discretion," the letter stated.
"The additional copies requested by C from his mother, for his friends (who had specifically requested them from him), are likewise protected, and fall into no classification of material that might be lawfully prohibited by the school district," it added.
"The consigning of C's speech to the 'schoolhouse gate,' and then the prohibition of it even there, is unconstitutional, and must fall. Finally, if being censured for religious expression by one's First Grade teacher in front of one's classmates is not intimidating and humiliating enough, the message of hostility to a child's religious expression is underscored by the District calling law enforcement for a 'follow-up visit ' to his house."