After a concerned parent contacted FFRF, Lincoln Elementary School in Pryor, Okla., will no longer allow the evangelical Christian group Gideons International to distribute bibles to grade school students.
According to the complainant, teachers took fifth grade classes to the cafeteria where Gideon representatives sat a table and encouraged students to take copies of the bible. The Gideons reportedly “explained a little bit about the bible” to the students as they approached. Our complainant’s child felt that they “had no choice but to take one.”
FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert sent a letter on March 19 to Superintendent Don Raleigh explaining why this violation is exceptionally egregious:
“Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion and to protect the rights of conscience of young and impressionable students. When a school distributes religious literature to its students, or permits evangelists to distribute religious literature to its students, it entangles itself with that religious message. . .
“In many cases, this divisive message regarding a school’s preference for religion over nonreligion is taken up by students within the school, resulting in the bullying of those students who choose to exercise their conscience by not accepting a bible. Forcing an adult’s religious ideas on children and encouraging those children to do the same to their peers is predatory and impermissible.”
On April 9, the district responded that, “Pryor School District will not distribute nor allow the distribution of any religious or anti-religious materials, including but not limited to, Bibles distributed by The Gideon Society, on elementary school grounds or to any elementary school students.”