updated 6/3/2009 3:39:20 PM ET 2009-06-03T19:39:20

A kindergartner's mother cannot read Scripture during show and tell, even if the Bible is the boy's favorite book, a U.S. appeals court ruled.

"Parents of public school kindergarten students may reasonably expect their children will not become captive audiences to an adult's reading of religious texts," Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica wrote in Monday's split 2-1 opinion, which upheld a lower court's ruling.

In October 2004, the Marple Newtown School District in suburban Philadelphia told plaintiff Donna Kay Busch that she could not read the Bible passages during her son's "All About Me" program. The school did permit the boy to discuss a poster that included references to his church as well as his family, pet and best friend.

Busch argued that the young students heard stories related to Passover, Christmas and other religious holidays, but the court concluded there was a "significant difference" between identifying such holidays and reading from Scripture.

Principal Thomas Cook of Culbertson Elementary School believed such a reading would "proselytize ... a specific religious point of view," the opinion stated.

Busch, an evangelical Christian, is contemplating an appeal, according to lawyer Jason Gosselin. He said he took the case pro bono after a request from The Rutherford Institute, which focuses on First Amendment and religious freedom issues. Busch had contacted the group.

Gosselin argued that the school districts can restrict content but must remain "viewpoint neutral" once they invite parents in to celebrate their child.

The district contended that the case was more about the mother's interests and motives than her son's. A family baby sitter described the children's book "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" as the boy's favorite that year, the school district said.

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