FFRF’s constitutional chiding gets Ga. media attention

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has given a Georgia school district a legal lesson on why it can no longer send children home with backpacks containing bibles and other religious materials.

Graysville Elementary School (based in Ringgold, Ga.) in Catoosa County Public Schools gave students backpacks containing bibles and other religious materials apparently donated by the Catoosa Baptist Association. Children came home from school with a bible, a list of local Baptist churches, and a note asking them to “visit them and become part of the Catoosa Baptist Association family.” The list also included a religious message:

A- ADMIT THAT YOU HAVE SINNED - ROMANS 3:23
B- BELIEVE THAT JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN TO FORGIVE YOUR
SINS - ROMANS 5:8
C - CONFESS YOUR SIN TO JESUS AND ACCEPT THE GIFT OF
SALVATION - ROMANS 10:9-10

Courts have held that the distribution of bibles to students at public schools is prohibited, FFRF reminded the school district.

“Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion and to protect the rights of conscience of young and impressionable students,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line has written to Superintendent Denia Reese. “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.”

The controversy caught the eye of a local TV station, which interviewed Line on the matter.

“You can’t plead ignorance as an excuse when you violate the law, doesn’t matter what law it is, whether it be the Establishment Clause or a criminal statute, you can’t just say, ‘Oh, I wasn't aware,’” Line told Channel 9.

Line added that he also had concerns about the age of the students receiving the bibles: “Public schools have a constitutional obligation not to promote religion, and to protect the rights of conscience of young and impressionable students.

For the rest of Line’s comments to the media outlet, click here.

FFRF hopes that the media spotlight will ensure that the constitutional rights of families will be protected in Catoosa County Public Schools from now on.

“Permitting church recruitment drives and the imposition of the bibles on a captive audience of young schoolchildren crosses the line,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The school district must make certain that it is no longer complicit.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 500 members and a local chapter in Georgia. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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