FFRF contests Kentucky school bible distribution

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has informed the Laurel County School District in London, Ky., that it's illegal to let Gideons International distribute bibles to fifth-grade students.

FFRF sent a letter Sept. 13 to school officials after receiving a complaint from one of its Kentucky members. According to an Aug. 9 news story in the London Sentinel-Echo, the School Board approved distribution of New Testaments from tables inside county schools.

"Courts have held the distribution of bibles to students at public schools during instructional time is prohibited," FFRF Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert said.

Even when distribution of religious materials in school is done passively — from a table or some of fixed location — such distribution is inappropriate, her letter noted.

Public schools must not place their "stamp of approval" on religious messages that exclude believers in different faiths or nonbelievers, Markert said.

The Foundation asked the district to adopt a policy to limit distribution of any nonschool material to literature that is directly related to educational goals.

FFRF also filed an open records request seeking a copy of the board's policy that lets groups distribute religious materials, copies of board meeting minutes in which the policy was discussed and correspondence between Gideons and any Laurel County school staff.

School board attorney Larry Bryson told media it was OK for Gideons to distribute bibles to fifth graders because they had reached "the age of accountability."

Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said, "What we need is a little accountability from the school district. This is irresponsible advice. Public schools may not serve as conduits and facilitators for the Gideons — an aggressive and predatory Christian male missionary society which openly targets fifth-grade students. Children in our public schools are a captive audience. These adult missionaries need to pick on someone their own size and stay out of our public schools."

FFRF's FAQ on violations by the Gideons is here.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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