FFRF protests proposed bible distribution to Ga. students

The Freedom From Religion Foundation forcefully objected to a plan by the Gideons International, an evangelical Christian men’s organization, to distribute New Testaments students in Georgia’s Dougherty County School System.

Glenn Phelps, a Gideons representative, addressed the Dougherty County Board of Education at its Jan. 28 meeting, presenting them with a map which he claimed shows many other Georgia county school districts allow bible distributions.

The Gideons notoriously seek to distribute New Testaments to a captive audience of 10- and 11-year old fifth graders through the public schools, which, notes FFRF, is inappropriate as well as unconstitutional under court precedent.

According to WALB News 10, board members welcomed the proposal. “I think that everyone is for that idea. And man, would it just build character just to have our children to have that opportunity. In fact, it ought to be taught,” said board member James Bush, a Baptist pastor.

But school board attorney Tommy Coleman cautioned the board that bible distributions “have almost unanimously been ruled to be unconstitutional, because it has the effect of the government sponsoring this distribution.”

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote the board a letter reiterating the unconstitutionality of the proposal. “When a school distributes religious literature to its students, or permits evangelists to distribute religious literature to its students, it entangles itself with that religious message,” he wrote.

Seidel warned that if the board was considering allowing the bible distribution by opening a public forum for the distribution of materials by any group, FFRF would seek to distribute atheist and freethought literature. “We will also invite other groups, such as the Satanic Temple, to distribute their literature,” he said.

FFRF sued a Florida school district that prohibited FFRF’s literature after allowing a group to give out bibles, Seidel noted.

FFRF has requested a copy of the map Phelps provided, now a public record, from the board, and is investigating school districts which Phelps helpfully revealed are teaming with the Gideons to violate the Constitution.

FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with more than 21,500 members, including over 400 in Georgia.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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