After complaints, Colorado university will no longer distribute bibles at graduation ceremony

A Colorado university will no longer distribute bibles to nursing school graduates as part of their “pinning” ceremony after the Freedom From Religion Foundation and another group sent letters of complaint to the school.

Tim Foster, president of Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colo., wrote today: “I have sought legal counsel and researched legal precedent. I have listened to the divergent viewpoints of others. Taking all that into consideration, the Bible give-away at the pinning ceremony will be discontinued.”

The Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) sent a letter to Foster on Nov. 9 and FFRF, a state/church watchdog, sent a backup letter to Foster on Nov. 17.

The bibles were being offered by Gideon’s International, a self-described association of Christian business and professional men who are members of Protestant or evangelical churches.

“We’re pleased President Foster has decided to honor the Constitution and the rights of all students over the Gideons, a religious men’s club,” said FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel.

Nursing students had apparently been told the bible distribution was a “non-negotiable” part of the ceremony.

“Thrusting bibles at students—who may be of varying faiths or no faith—at graduation is coercive, embarrassing, and beyond the scope of our public higher education system,” wrote Seidel in his complaint letter to Foster. “This matter is especially troublesome in light of the wide range of cultures and faiths that were represented at graduation.”

FFRF first learned of the bible distribution from several CMU students and community members.

“Change happens when active, local atheists are willing to stand up and challenge religious privilege,” Seidel said. “FFRF just provides the legal support.”

FFRF has more than 23,000 members, including more than 650 members in Colorado.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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