Diversity Journal – Case of Zachary Hood

Read The Case of Zachary Hood below. Then, based on previous court rulings provided in the chapter and especially the Lemon Test articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court, determine what you believe the courts should decide in this case. Explain your reasoning.

The Lemon Test asked three questions: Does the statute, policy, or practice have a secular purpose? Does it foster excessive government entanglement with religion? Is the primary purpose of a statute, policy, or practice either to advance nor prohibit religion?

The Zachary Hood story
The setting is a first-grade classroom in a public school. The teacher tells the students that they may read a story of their choice to the entire class as a reward for doing well in reading. Zachary Hood tells the teacher that he wants to read a story from The Beginners Bible where Jacob and his brother Esau are reunited. The story does not mention God.

The teacher is concerned. If she allows Zachary to read this story will she violate court rulings about appropriate or inappropriate inclusion of religion in public schools? Will this make it appear that she is endorsing the Bible, and therefore Christianity, as a religion? The teacher decides not to allow Zachary to read the story to the class, but she asks him to read it to her privately.

Zachary is hurt by the teachers decision and doesnt understand why he couldnt read his story. He goes home and tells his parents, and they call the school and meet with the teacher and the principal several times to discuss the issue, but they can come to no resolution. Zacharys parents file a lawsuit against the school.

Adapted from Charles C. Haynes (2001) in (M. Marty, Ed.) Religion in American Public Life: Living with Our Deepest Differences