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In Theory: Should holy books be distributed in schools?

May 25, 2011

Schools in White County, Tenn., have agreed to stop allowing the Gideons to distribute Bibles in classrooms after the ACLU threatened a lawsuit. The Gideons entered a classroom at Doyle Elementary School in Doyle, about 100 miles east of Nashville, and invited students to take a Bible if they wanted one. The ACLU became involved after one girl complained that she felt pressured into taking a Bible.

This isn't the first time Tennessee schools have attracted the attention of the ACLU. Several schools in Sumner County have been slapped with lawsuits for First Amendment infringements, including allowing the student Bible club to pray over loudspeakers during morning announcements, schools' websites linking to Christian prayer groups, and a teacher hanging a cross in her classroom.

Reactions to the lawsuits are split, with comments on the stories ranging from, “I wonder if I can go hand out Bhagavad Gita on school property and tell kids about the wonders of Hinduism?” to “[I]f the kids are not allowed to pray and worship God in the very school buildings that our tax dollars paid for, then their civil liberties are being violated.” The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty said in a blog posting, “Gideons has (sic) been involved in so many of these complaints, why can't they help school district (sic) avoid such blatant violations of church-state law?”

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Is blocking the distribution of Bibles in class protecting or denying students' rights? And if the Bible is allowed to be distributed, does that mean other holy texts, such as the Koran, also should be permitted?

I thought kids were in school to learn a particular educational curriculum. I didn't know part of their day included the disruption of class time by a group claiming their need to spread the word of their religion outweighs the rights of teachers to teach and students to learn.

What is the difference between a religious group soliciting kids in class with Bibles and the makers of Jell-O soliciting kids with coupons? It makes no difference about the content of the solicitation, and I would flatly refuse to admit any particular Bible quote as support of that right into this argument. After all, couldn't the makers of Jell-O claim their product has a right to be solicited because, “There's always room for Jell-O?” Just because a group thinks people should know their religion is superior does not give it the right to inflict it upon others.

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