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?”

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.

You like your judgmental, vengeful, prejudiced God? Awesome. Keep it from my kids and I likewise promise not to tell your kids that no matter what they do, there is a more enlightened, all-loving power that does not seek to inflict guilt and cast them into eternal damnation for having a liberal lifestyle.

Can't we just agree to let kids learn in schools without the disruption of solicitors? Isn't there enough distraction in their lives already? It doesn't matter if it's God, Mohammed or Cap'n Crunch — it's a solicitation and there's no room for it in public school so long as our educational system continues to underperform other industrialized nations. Clearly, there are better things to do during class time.

Gary Huerta


Nondenominational


Glendale


 

Does distributing Bibles in public schools violate someone's rights, and, if so, whose rights?

The first provision in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This provision sets forth both the “Establishment Clause” and the “Free Exercise Clause,” which together provide religious rights and restrictions.

The Establishment Cause was intended to separate churches and government and to prevent the establishment of a national church in the United States. The Free Exercise Clause was intended to allow individuals to choose religious beliefs and to exercise, or practice, those beliefs without government restraint.

In a nation with citizens of many different religious beliefs (or no religious beliefs at all), the right to act upon such beliefs must be qualified by the government's responsibility to further compelling government interests (e.g., health and safety). This inherent conflict between religious rights and the legitimate regulatory responsibilities of government creates the battleground over rights.

Turning to the Gideons' actions in Tennessee, and without getting into the nuances of Constitutional law, I think it was appropriate for them to restrict their activities. Given the law as to it stands today, both school authorities and the Gideons pushed the legal envelope.

Having said that, I believe it is a good thing to encourage school-age children to read the Bible and to get Bibles into their hands. The goal may be appropriate, but the process to achieve that goal was flawed in this case.