FFRF ardently protests Gideon bible distribution in Texas school

1gideonbibleThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is strenuously objecting to the access that a Texas school district provided the Gideons for bible distribution.

A concerned parent of a Liberty Independent School District student contacted FFRF to report that on April 13, members of the evangelical group Gideons International were permitted to distribute bibles to students in the Liberty High School cafeteria during the lunch period. The Gideons were reportedly quite aggressive. When one student politely declined the offer of a bible, the Gideons were insistent and pushed it on the student, who then reluctantly accepted. It is FFRF’s understanding that Principal Chad Barrett was aware that this bible distribution was taking place on school grounds.

“Courts have uniformly held that the distribution of bibles to students during the school day is prohibited,” FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover writes to Liberty Independent School District Superintendent Cody Abshier. “There is no excuse or justification for this practice, which sends the message that the district endorses the message contained within the Gideons’ bibles.” 

The bible distribution was plainly illegal. Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion and to protect the rights of conscience of young and impressionable students, FFRF adds. When a school distributes religious literature to its students it entangles itself with that religious message.

Plus, allowing the Gideons into a school has a discriminatory effect. It alienates non-Christian students, teachers, and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school. More specifically, such bible distribution makes the 35 percent of Millennials — those born after 1981, i.e., school students — who are nonreligious feel unwelcome in their own schools. Even if the students had not been forced to accept these bibles, the school sends a clear message to the children in its charge who are nonadherents “that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community and accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community,” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.

In many instances, this divisive message regarding a school’s preference for religion over nonreligion and Christianity over other religions results in the bullying of those students who choose to exercise their conscience by not accepting a bible. Bullying is rampant in schools and on social media; schools should be striving to create an inclusive, secular environment in which to educate students without forcing them to compromise their personal beliefs.

“Public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “If you allow the Gideons to distribute bibles in your school, it sends quite the opposite message to your school kids.”

FFRF requests that all Liberty Independent School District administrators and teachers be informed that their duty to remain neutral toward religion obligates them to prohibit religious literature distributions on school grounds. It wants the district to ensure that this violation does not take place in the future.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 28,000 members across the country, including 1,200-plus in Texas. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional separation between state and church.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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