Federal suit claims school denied right to practice faith

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A federal magistrate has heard arguments in the runup to a March trial over claims that a fourth-grade student was barred from studying the Bible during recess.

The issue arose in 2004 when 10-year-old Luke Whitson and his parents, Samuel and Tina Whitson, claim Karns Elementary School Principal Cathy Summa told the boy he could no longer hold Bible study with his friends on the playground.

Summa denies she did anything to infringe on the boy's religious rights. But his defenders, including an Arizona-based Christian legal group called the Alliance Defense Fund, insist she did.

In 2006, the Knox County School board adopted a policy that specifically allows students to read religious texts at school during "discretionary time." But that didn't resolve the federal lawsuit brought by the Whitsons, who are seeking monetary damages.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)