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ACLU Defends Tennessee Boy’s Right to Read Bible at School

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WOODBURY, Tenn. (WTVF) – The American Civil Liberties Union has offered its support to a 9-year-old Cannon County student who was allegedly told he couldn’t read his Bible during an after school program.

Austin Grayson attends the Cannon County REACH after school program in Woodbury. Last month, his mother, Lisa Koepfgen, said he was told he couldn’t read his Bible during quiet time.

“He had pulled his bible out and he was told to put it away,” she said. “When he was told to put it away, he recited the First Amendment.”

His response generated quite a bit of controversy.

“Free country, free religion,” said Austin.

Koepfgen said the staff at the REACH program told her because the program is funded by public money, Austin wasn’t allowed to read religious materials.

That’s when she went to the ACLU of Tennessee, who sent a letter to the cannon county reach program last week saying:

“Tennessee public school students cannot be denied the right to engage in religious activities during student activity times, recess and other free time.”

Officials with the ACLU said the letter was circulated among all staff members at Cannon County REACH.

“I am so thankful that the law has been clarified not only for reach but for everyone that this story has touched,” she said.

Representatives for the Cannon County Reach program did not respond to NewsChannel 5’s calls and emails for comment.


  • Michael

    For all the criticism it gets around here, the ACLU can do a lot of good. They work so much better when they are restoring someone’s rights and not busy taking them away.

  • lotus10

    This has nothing to do with religion! Although, I’m not a Christian, I’ve read my bible cover to cover many times. And no one has the right to tell me I can’t! He wasn’t running around trying to make everyone “convert.” He was just reading his bible, that’s all.

  • Lavinia King

    They should be ashamed of themselves, The student was reading, staying out trouble and not brothering anyone. They should be Proud that he is reading regardless. I am a Christian and I am proud that he stood his ground!

  • Samantha Fanning

    I think that it is a crying shame that the staff of a school would stop a child from reading his Bible. They should be glad to see a child doing something good, instead of making trouble. It amazes me that Bibles are present in almost every jail or prison, but it is wrong for a child to sit quietly and read his Bible in a school. If there were more Bibles in the schools, then maybe our jails and prisons would not be so full.

  • robbie thomas

    This is a shame. So glade the ACLU is helping this boy. Nothing wrong with reading a bible in your spare time.

  • Sue

    They have NO RIGHT to tell him not to read his Bible during free time!!!They are way…way…out of line!!!

  • Tammy Cayson

    Amen! Austin you are a remarkable young man! God stands by us and you stood up for him! So proud of you :-) Your story filled my heart with joy and my eyes with tears! You are AMAZING! Thank You and GOD BLESS ACLU

  • Skillpot

    A handle on some Bible Doctrine is in order! This is probably a ‘show’ to get attention? A 9-year old reading his Bible at school, come on!

    Now, on-the-other-hand, and you have to watch the ‘other hand,’ the denial of one to read his/her Bible is out of order, and the school staff must be reprimanded!

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