The Freedom From Religion Foundation is alarmed at the illegal access that a Texas school district provided to the Gideons for distributing bibles to elementary school kids.
A concerned community member from Wichita Falls, Texas, contacted FFRF to report that on Feb. 24, several classes of students were taken out of their classrooms at West Foundation Elementary School during instructional time and escorted by teachers to the edge of school property, where representatives from the evangelical group Gideons International distributed bibles to the students.
"Public school districts have a constitutional obligation to ensure that teachers do not use their positions as educators to promote their personal religious beliefs," FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover writes to Wichita Falls Independent School District Superintendent Michael Kuhrt. "The teachers of West Foundation Elementary have no authority to take students out of the classroom for an event coordinated with a religious organization. Gideons International is a self-described 'association of Christian business and professional men and their wives dedicated to telling people about Jesus through associating together for service, sharing personal testimony, and by providing Bibles and New Testaments.'"
Parents, not the school district, are responsible for determining the religious or nonreligious upbringing of their children, FFRF emphasizes. Courts have ruled that public schools may not allow religious organizations such as the Gideons to prey on a captive audience of children and distribute bibles on school property. FFRF adds that the proselytization in this instance is particularly egregious, since the students the Gideons targeted were especially young and impressionable.
"We're talking about 5-to-12-year-olds here," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "It's outrageous that the school district gave the Gideons access to such little children."
FFRF requests that the Wichita Falls Independent School District investigate this situation and make it clear to its employees that it is illegal to facilitate the distribution of religious materials to students in the future.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has more than 27,000 nonreligious members all over the country, including 1,200-plus in Texas.