California high school library balances books

Until receiving a letter from FFRF in July 2010, the Atascadero [Calif.] High School library had contained 10 Christian-themed books, including five or six bibles, which were prominently displayed in the nonfiction section, but lacked other religious or freethought texts. “Public schools must remain neutral with regard to religion,” wrote Rebecca Markert, Foundation staff attorney. “This applies to the types of religious texts supplied by the public school library. . . . The practice of supplying public school students with the bible while not providing access to other religious and nonreligious alternatives violates the spirit of California law,” and leads a reasonable observer to assume “that the school is endorsing Christianity over other faiths and non-faith.” Markert noted that such a practice also conflicts with the American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights,” which states that “[l]ibrarians have an obligation . . . to select and support the acquisition of materials on all subjects that meet, as closely as possible, the needs and interest of all persons in the community which the library serves.”

A district educational committee assessed the library’s collection and determined it would add other religious texts, including the Quran, the Torah the Buddhist Dharma and freethought texts, placing these books on the shelves at the same level as Christian-oriented books. “The committee welcomed the opportunity to meet, review and discuss the balance and resources of the library,” wrote the district. “The members believe that the committee’s recommendations are valid and will ensure our high school students access to balanced information.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation