6th-Grader Told Not to Include John 3:16 Bible Verse In School Assignment

Mackenzie Fraiser, a sixth-grader at Somerset Academy, her father, Tim Fraiser, left, and Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for religious rights law firm Liberty Institute, speak with reporters at a news conference on the sidewalk in front of the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Mckenzie was not allowed to use a Bible verse for a homework assignment. (Donavon Lockett/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mackenzie Fraiser, a sixth-grader at Somerset Academy, her father, Tim Fraiser, left, and Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for religious rights law firm Liberty Institute, speak with reporters at a news conference on the sidewalk in front of the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Mckenzie was not allowed to use a Bible verse for a homework assignment. (Donavon Lockett/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

When Mackenzie Fraiser’s technology teacher assigned the class a PowerPoint project called “All About Me” in February, the Somerset Academy sixth-grader wanted to include a slide with one of her favorite Bible verses, John 3:16.

The teacher at the public charter school in North Las Vegas said no.

Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for the Texas-based Liberty Institute, a religious rights law firm, joined the Fraiser family Wednesday afternoon to tell the story in front of the federal courthouse.

The North Las Vegas family is demanding an apology from the school and said they will seek legal relief if they don’t get it.

Mackenzie is proud of her Christian faith, and her father, Tim Fraiser, 37, is a pastor at Grace Point Church, a nondenominational Christian church. It made sense to her to include a quote about God’s love for the world in a presentation about herself.

But the technology teacher at Somerset disagreed. When the teacher saw Mackenzie had included the verse, she told the girl to take it out.

Mackenzie said Wednesday that she felt as if she wasn’t supposed to talk about her religion at school. She didn’t make a fuss about it and took the slide out of her presentation.

Her father didn’t hear about the incident at the school, on Centennial Parkway near Commerce Street, until the end of April.

Mackenzie was discussing a leadership class assignment about self-esteem with her parents, who suggested Mackenzie say her self-esteem comes from knowing she was made in God’s image.

Fraiser said he was shocked when his daughter told him she shouldn’t because she’s not allowed to talk about God at school. He emailed the school to find out why his daughter was instructed she wasn’t allowed to use “Biblical sayings” in assignments.

“Can you please explain if this is true? Perhaps, she misunderstood you? Since I am certain you understand that this clearly infringes on my daughters/your students right to freedom of speech, I want to make sure we understand your instructions,” he wrote on April 29.

Two days later he received a response from Assistant Principal Jenyan Martinez.

“When Mackenzie created the project with the expectation she would present the Biblical saying to the class, the matter became one of having a captive audience that would be subject to her religious beliefs. Had the assignment been designed to simply hand in for a grade, this would not have been an issue. Therefore, considering the circumstances of the assignment, Miss Jardine appropriately followed school law expectations by asking Mackenzie to choose an alternate quote for the presentation,” Martinez wrote.

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SOURCE: Las Vegas Review Journal
Wesley Juhl

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