FFRF objects to Gideons at N.C. elementary school

1gideons-internationalThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is strongly protesting the Gideons recently being allowed to distribute bibles at a North Carolina elementary school.

Last month, Gideons International was permitted to hand out New Testament bibles at Charles E. Boger Elementary School in Kannapolis, N.C., a school parent informed FFRF. The Gideons set up a table during lunchtime to give away bibles in the fourth and fifth grade hallway and manned it throughout. Every child from one classroom took a bible. Moreover, the teacher of the complainant’s child had advertised the bibles to students.

“It is unconstitutional for public school districts to allow the Gideons to distribute bibles as part of the public school day,” FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott writes to Cabarrus County Schools Superintendent Chris Lowder. “Courts have held that 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 and professional men who are members of Protestant or evangelical churches. (It bars women from being full members.) The group’s website states that it is “dedicated to telling people about Jesus through sharing personally and by providing bibles and New Testaments.” The website openly refers to schools as prime targets.

Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion and to protect the rights of conscience of young and impressionable students, FFRF reminds the school district. When a school permits evangelists to distribute religious literature to its students, it gets entangled with that message.

FFRF finds it puzzling that the bible distribution was allowed, since the school district has a policy that limits the dissemination of non-school material on school property. The Standard of Approval of Materials section states: “The board prohibits the distribution or display of any material that…  is inappropriate due to the maturity level of the students.” And courts have ruled that even passive bible distribution is prohibited in elementary schools.

It is unfortunate that some adults view public schools as ripe territory for religious recruitment. Parents understandably become nervous when adults take an overenthusiastic interest in providing materials to their children without parental knowledge. As the courts have held, religious instruction is for parents to determine, not public school educators.

“It’s unbelievable that Cabarrus County Schools officials allowed strangers to come in and propagate their fundamentalist perspective to such young school kids,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Gideons should be told to cease and desist from targeting school children.”

FFRF is asking that the school district take firm action to ensure that Gideon trespassers stay off school property.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization dedicated to the separation of state and church, with more than 27,000 nonreligious members and chapters across the country, including 600-plus and a chapter (the Triangle Freethought Society) in North Carolina.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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