FFRF calls out Texas school district for bible distribution

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling out Victoria Independent School District after bibles were distributed at the end of a local high school’s graduation practice.

A concerned employee informed the state/church watchdog that staff distributed bibles following Victoria West High School’s May 24 graduation practice. Two individuals set up a table near the graduation venue’s sole exit, with bibles for students. The graduation speaker informed students: “Don’t forget to grab a bible.” Students were handed a bible by one of these two individuals as they left.

“By allowing religious representatives the opportunity to hand out bibles to students — with promotion by district staff — the school gives unique access to one faith that others do not have,” FFRF Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow Hirsh M. Joshi writes to Superintendent Randy Meyer.

It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for a public school district to offer religious representatives unique access to students in order to distribute religious literature in the hopes of indoctrinating them, FFRF emphasizes. Public school students have a constitutional right to be free from religious indoctrination in their public schools. It is well settled that public schools may not show favoritism toward, or coerce belief or participation in, religion.

After the district attempted to coerce students into taking a bible at its graduation practice, nonreligious students faced a dilemma, FFRF points out: Either they had to take a bible — offending their conscience — or refuse, jeopardizing their standing with their peers and outside adults. That ultimatum is precisely what the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause guards against.

Additionally, allowing religious representatives to distribute bibles directly to students further violates the Constitution. An “opt out” does not excuse such constitutional violations. A full 37 percent of the American population is non-Christian, including the almost 30 percent that is nonreligious. At least one-third of Generation Z (those born after 1996) have no religion, with a recent survey revealing that almost half of Gen Z qualify as “Nones.”

“Victoria ISD tells its students to grab a bible, while having them as a captive audience. That is both promotion of Christianity, and coercion,” adds Joshi.

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor concurs.

“This example of religious coercion shows that no matter the event, Christian apologists will attempt to spread their doctrine onto students in any way they can,” she says. “Under the Constitution, every student has a right to an education free from religious indoctrination — right up to and including graduation.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,700 members and a chapter in Texas. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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