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Freethought Today · April 2016

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Good news! Bible distribution ends in 3 districts

FFRF was able to get three school districts around the country to end the illegal practice of allowing bibles to be distributed to students.

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At the Cleveland County School District in Rison, Ark., the district superintendent confirmed to FFRF that the Gideons would no longer distribute bibles to students in classrooms at Rison Elementary School, and that the Gideon representatives would no longer be allowed to speak with students about their mission.

"Courts have uniformly held that the distribution of bibles to students at school is prohibited because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," wrote FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott. "When a school distributes religious literature to its students, or permits evangelists to do so, it entangles itself with a religious message."

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After receiving a complaint from FFRF, the River View Local School District in Warsaw, Ohio, also will no longer permit the Gideons to distribute bibles.

Students were reportedly separated into groups who wanted and did not want to receive bibles. The children who elected not to take one were instructed to wait in a separate line until the Gideons were finished distributing bibles to other students.

"Public schools have a constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion and to protect the rights of conscience of young and impressionable students," wrote Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert in a letter originally sent June 5, 2015.

The district finally informed FFRF on Feb. 8 that it would not permit the distribution of bibles on school property.

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And at West Orange-Stark Elementary School in Orange, Texas, FFRF got involved when it had heard from parents that bibles were being handed out to students.

"There is no excuse or justification for this practice. It is unnecessary, offensive and illegal," FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover wrote in a Jan. 6 letter to West Orange-Cove School District Superintendent Rickie Harris.

In a response dated Feb. 1, lawyers for the school district said that they had counseled the school about the rules governing such issues. "We anticipate no further issues in the future," the legal firm stated.