FFRF stops professor from handing out bibles (May 17, 2013)

A Erie Community College professor from Orchard Park, New York, will no longer be allowed to hand out bibles in class.

A student from a minority religion was taking his class final May 8, 2012 when his professor placed a folded manila envelope on his desk. He was asked to open the package alone. It contained a bible with a personalized message and highlighted passages. The student contacted FFRF and complained that the gesture made him feel uncomfortable and that the letter was “bizarre” and “unsettling.” This student added that the professor had included in her syllabus that she forbids “taking the lord’s name in vain” and provided FFRF with a copy.

Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Market stated in her initial complaint letter on July 24, 2012, “This ‘gift’ from Professor ____ constitutes an official endorsement and advancement of religion over non-religion, and specifically Christianity over all other faiths, within a public classroom.”

On May 17, FFRF received a letter from the school’s Executive Vice President for Legal Affairs, Kristin Klein Wheaton, affirming that the college took action to inform the professor that she crossed the line. The teacher was informed that any further activity of this nature will result in disciplinary consequences up to and including termination

Wheaton formally wrote to the professor: “…Erie Community College is directing you to refrain from proselytizing about religion to your students and/or giving bibles or religious articles to students in the future. The College is also directing you to remove the prohibition to “using the Lord’s name in vain” from your list of classroom expectations. Furthermore, except for wearing religious jewelry, you are directed to refrain from communication with students that would conflict with your duty to show complete neutrality toward religion or would otherwise promote religion.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation