The evangelical group Focus on the Family is yet again proselytizing public school students across the country by organizing Thursday’s “Bring Your Bible to School Day.”
“Bring Your Bible to School Day” claims to be a student-led movement. In reality, students are not calling the “Bring your Bible to School day” — it is being sponsored by a well-heeled fundamentalist ministry. The ministry, Focus on the Family (which had $86 million in revenue in 2015) is to evangelize and to promote socially conservative public policy. While the “Bring Your Bible to School Day” webpage quotes a passage from the New Testament about “love,” Focus on the Family, specializes in the promotion of corporal punishment and in working against LGBTQ and abortion rights.
Focus on the Family is urging students to ostentatiously parade their Christian affiliation at school so they can then proselytize other students, explaining, “This event empowers Christian students of all ages to speak God’s grace and truth into the culture around them, starting with two simple steps — bringing their Bibles to school and sharing what God’s Word means to them.”
The event website gives actual instructions and legal advice for students and parents: “No matter if you attend a school that’s public, private, or at home, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions, short Bible readings, Scripture cards, and more to guide you right up to Bring Your Bible to School Day on Oct. 7.” Falsely advertised as a student-led initiative, the campaign is promulgating the idea that Christianity is under attack. The reality is that while bona fide student clubs are constitutionally permissible under the Equal Access Act, outside adults are not permitted to oversee events.
“This campaign is a sneaky way for this ministry to try to turn students into tools who evangelize peers,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, a former evangelical minister. “Students are of course free to bring bibles to school with them, but this campaign is divisive and intrusive.”
The founder of Focus on the Family, James Dobson has proven himself to be a bigoted bipartisan with comments such as, “shield [children] from gender feminism and from those who would confuse their sexuality," and implying that the Sandy Hook School shooting was linked to gay marriage.
The Framers of America’s secular constitution understood that a government free from religion is the only guarantor of religious freedom for all. FFRF is happy to impart a history lesson to Focus on the Family: Bibles have even led to violence when forced into public schools. In the 1840s, riots broke out in Philadelphia as Protestants and Catholics fought over which version of the bible ought to be taught in public schools. Some 20 citizens were killed, another five dozen injured, hundreds fled their homes, and churches and property were burned down.
FFRF has tussled with an offshoot of Dobson’s ministry, the National Day of Prayer Task Force when it sued President Bush (then Obama) and Shirley Dobson, task force chair, over the congressional statute mandating a National Day of Prayer. FFRF's lawsuit charged that the proclamation and date had been hijacked by the committee for sectarian and exclusionary events at all the State Capitols and at White House prayer services. Many divisive incidents have occurred because of the exclusion of Jews, Muslims or other Christians from these events. FFRF won a landmark district court ruling in its favor in 2010, with U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruling, “The same law that prohibits the government from declaring a National Day of Prayer also prohibits it from declaring a National Day of Blasphemy.” However, then-President Obama appealed the ruling, and the appeals court threw out FFRF’s carefully constructed challenge on standing in 2011.
The national state/church watchdog concludes that there are many reasons to beware of this predatory campaign on students by the extremist ministry.