FFRF objects to Gideon bible distribution in Texas school


Photo of illegal bible distribution provided to media by Brenda Lucas, assistant to the superintendent for the Tenaha ISD.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is strongly protesting that a Texas school district permitted the Gideons to hand out bibles to elementary school kids.

The Gideons were allowed into a Tenaha Independent School District school to distribute bibles to fifth graders during the school day on Wednesday, May 17. The administrative assistant to the school superintendent, Brenda Lucas, actually provided promotional photos of the event to a local website (Shelby County Today), which carried a report on the whole affair.

“It is unconstitutional for public school districts to permit the Gideon Society to distribute bibles as part of the public school day,” FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover writes to Tenaha Independent School District Superintendent Scott Tyner. “Courts have uniformly held that the distribution of bibles to students at public schools during instructional time is prohibited.” 

The Gideons International is self-described as an interdenominational association of Christian business and professional men who are members of Protestant/evangelical churches. The official website states that the organization is “dedicated to telling people about Jesus through sharing personally and by providing bibles and New Testaments” and openly refers to schools as prime targets.

In allowing the Gideons to distribute bibles to elementary school children, the school district is impermissibly endorsing religion by placing its stamp of approval on the religious messages contained in the bible. And this endorsement is made even worse when an employee of the school district provides pictures of the unlawful distribution to local media, since this is done with the desire to broadcast the unconstitutional endorsement of religion to the community.

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 and publicized by the school. More specifically, such bible distribution makes the 43 percent of Millennials — those born after 1981, i.e., school students — who are non-Christian (including the 35 percent who are nonreligious) feel unwelcome in their own schools.

Parents carefully instruct children not to accept gifts from strangers. The Gideons’ bible distribution is a usurpation of parental authority over, in this case, pre-teen kids.

“Public schools should not be encouraging and publicizing bible distribution,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “What happened in the Tenaha Independent School District is illegal and coercive and sends a completely wrong message to everyone.”

FFRF requests that the Tenaha Independent School District immediately take steps to remedy this serious constitutional violation.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 nonreligious 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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