The mother of a seventh-grader at Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School has filed a lawsuit against administrators at the South Laurel school, claiming her daughter was barred from reading the Bible during lunch period and threatened with punishment if she did it again.
In her complaint, filed Sept. 29, Maryann Mangum of Laurel, the grandmother and adoptive mother of 13-year-old Amber Mangum, claimed the administrators’ actions were a violation of Amber’s First Amendment rights and of the school system’s own policy.
"Contrary to the fundamental liberties enshrined in the United States and Maryland Constitutions, Amber Mangum was ordered, under threat of disciplinary action, to cease reading her personal Bible during her lunch period," the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, states.
"Despite requests that the order be withdrawn, the Defendants have refused to renounce the warning that Amber will be disciplined if she reads her Bible at school."
The incident that sparked the lawsuit occurred Sept. 14, when Amber Mangum was reading her Bible during lunch period. According to the lawsuit, students at Eisenhower often read books during lunch period, and Amber "is a Christian and takes great comfort in reading the Bible."
But when Assistant Principal Jeanette Rainey saw what Amber was doing, the lawsuit states, she informed the student that reading the Bible violated school policy and that if she did it again, she would be disciplined.
Maybe we need a new line of Bible covers. Kind of like hiding comic books within the cover of a magazine. In this case the perfect fake cover would be a Koran cover. You just know students wouldn’t be bothered if it looked like they were reading a Koran. Same goes for people with Bibles out in the open at work that get harassed about it.
Baker sent a letter to school administrators complaining about their actions, and attaching a copy of the Prince George’s County school system’s administrative procedures, which state: "Students may read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, and pray before tests to the same extent they may engage in comparable, non-disruptive activities."
When administrators did not respond to the letter, the lawsuit states, Maryann Mangum, at the suggestion of a friend from church, contacted the Rutherford Institute, a Charlottesville, Va.-based, civil liberties organization that handles cases involving religious liberties.
Rutherford President John Whitehead said he also sent a letter to school administrators, telling them their policy was a violation of civil rights and asking them to allow Amber to read her Bible.
When administrators did not respond, he said, attorneys filed the lawsuit.