No, You Can’t Hand Out Bibles at Public Schools

Let’s play a game: how many *facepalms* can you do while reading this press release from Liberty Counsel?

Right off the bat, the headline is misleading:

Florida School Tries to Ban Bibles on Religious Freedom Day

No public school is banning Bibles. Ever. All students can bring a Bible to school if they want to. There’s gotta be more to this story, right?

Of course.

World Changers of Florida is suing because they wanted to hand out Bibles at a public school. The school said no.

The Collier County School Board’s policy requires nonprofit organizations to obtain approval of the superintendent and a Community Request Committee, whose members are appointed by the superintendent, in order to distribute literature on school campuses.

The policy also states that requests must be “carefully reviewed to ensure that such activities promote student interests, provide educational benefit to the students, and do not exploit the school system, its employees, students or parents,” according to the lawsuit.

In the suit, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, a Christian law firm representing the World Changers of Florida, said other nonprofit groups have been allowed to distribute literature on campuses, including military recruiters, Golden Gate American Little League, and the Humane Society of Naples. The lawsuit claims World Changers was denied its distribution request because the district wants to censor its message.

… the district has denied all religious materials from being distributed at its schools.

Alright, now we have a little more background. The Bible’s not providing educational information; it’s proselytizing. There’s no reason this group — or any other religious one — should be allowed to hand children their holy books.

So back to the press release:

Many of our founding fathers were taught to read using the Bible. If it had no educational value, then many of them would have been illiterate.

How much irrelevance can you jam in a couple sentences? They act as if the founding fathers had such a wide selection at the time… It’s not like they were choosing between The Bible and The Cat in the Hat.

How sad that on the eve of Independence Day, when we celebrate the religious and political freedom our forefathers won for us at the cost of much blood and great sacrifice, we are compelled to sue to protect the right simply to make free Bibles available to students in public schools.

The Bible’s already available to students in public schools. It’s on this thing called the Internet.

If a Muslim group wanted to hand out copies of the Koran, you can bet these Christian Right groups would be first in line suing to stop them.

The school district, like many others, suffers from a misunderstanding of the First Amendment. The Establishment Clause does not prohibit private religious speech or literature; under Supreme Court case law, it prohibits only government religious speech. The distribution of Bibles by World Changers is private speech and, in a forum opened for secular literature, is constitutionally protected.

As soon as they enter a public school (a government institution), they’re crossing the line. how is this so hard to understand?

Also, does this mean I can stand outside their church and hand out copies of God is Not Great? That’s definitely not government speech.

Whoever writes press releases for Liberty Counsel should be fired. This is laughable on so many levels.

  • ckitching

    Whoever writes press releases for Liberty Counsel should be fired. This is laughable on so many levels.

    I disagree. It’s perfectly written for their target audience, and will almost certainly get many devoted Christians riled up. It’s only poorly written if you’re concerned about the facts.

  • Krista

    “Many of our founding fathers were taught to read using the Bible. If it had no educational value, then many of them would have been illiterate. ”

    …I’m sure there are children who were also taught to read using Playboy – does that mean we should allow porn mags to be distributed in our school too? After all, if those kids hadn’t had Playboy, they might still have been illiterate. Yeesh! Some people are just ridiculously stupid.

  • Ruby

    They should come to TN instead, they’d be allowed to do it. I complain about this every year, and every year they say, “Yeah, we get about one parent objecting to the Bibles every year.” You can hear the eye roll through the phone. All 5th-grade students get a new testament at the end of the school year. I just like beating my head against a wall.

  • Bob

    Seems to be the ‘legal standard’ for the evangelical set, the deliberate misinterpretation of the 1st Amendment to excuse their actions. It’s from the same drawer that has the 2nd Amendment dumbed down to ‘we get to carry guns so’s we can overthrow our own government if’n we don’t like it or the black guy in the White House.’

    (Which, IMHO, makes it all the more important to squash such ninny-pated nonsense.)

  • Citizen Z

    Many of our founding fathers were taught to read using the Bible. If it had no educational value, then many of them would have been illiterate.

    Why don’t they hand out lead dentures while they’re at it? Without lead dentures, the Father of our country wouldn’t have been able to eat!

  • Bob

    @Krista:

    Well, the Bible *was* among the books that I read as a child, but one of my other favorites was a book on Greek Mythology by Robert Graves. By 7th Grade, I was into science-fiction and all that other heathen stuff.

  • cypressgreen

    Gee, thanks Hemant for making me start out the day with a headache. All those facepalms, ya’ know.

  • muggle

    How, by any stretch of the imagination, is a government school private speech?

    Even if it wasn’t a public school, would they be within their rights? I get they’re trying to claim discrimination. But is a private school say obliged to take them if they don’t allow other religious tracts distributed just because they allow things like the Human Society? Would the Catholic School doing the obvious religious speech they would be obligated to let say a Muslim group distribute their pamphlets?

    I would think a private entity is under no obligation to promote anyone’s speech or give it a platform and a governmental one even less so. It seems really off to me that they should be forced to give speech a platform.

    Frankly, however, religious or not, I don’t think any schools should be using the students as junk mail carriers home for even worthy non-profits. WTF is with that? Do a mass mailing and deal. I’ve got a news flash, we throw it out from the kiddies’ backpacks same as we do from the mailbox.

    I’d love to see the day a school just had the balls period to say we don’t accept flyers from outside organizations to be distributed to our students. Period. End of discussion.

    And, yes, this includes the military! Big time. Enough with recruiting high school kids to be killed overseas. If your dorky ads aren’t doing it, too bad.

  • Matto the Hun

    Citizen Z, that was awesome!

    Your post was okay Hemant.
    (just kidding, it is spot on)

  • Bob

    Hmph. Okay, let’s say our founding fathers learned to read using the Bible.

    They STILL came up with concepts like the separation of church & state.

  • http://www.thatpinkmouse.com/bloggy Jenny Bliss

    hehe im suprised they dont do the same tactic as the gideons, much less intrusive lol well.. that is unless you own a hotel haha actualy scratch that they go sued themselves for doing the same thing last year from what i remember (correct me if im wrong there though >.<) however that would suggest a president for doing that at schools would have already been set (as it being a no no)

  • JJR

    The Founding Fathers also read Sir William Blackstone; In fact, Jefferson profoundly disagreed with Blackstone about the role of Mosaic law as a basis for English law (note that the Texas SBOE is really keen on including a study of Blackstone–and yes, he was a very important influence on the FF’s, no doubt, but the SBOE are keen on him *only* because of his assertion about Mosaic law; They’re not so keen on Jefferson’s objection to Blackstone’s assertion). A number of the FFs could read Greek and Latin. They were among the most learned men of their day, true Renaissance men, and they did NOT hold the Bible in very high esteem (note the so-called “Jefferson Bible”, pruned of all supernaturalism and miracles). I wish students could read more of the FF’s juicier derisive commentary about the Bible, and know more about the text of the Treaty of Tripoli.

    Anyway, as to the story, yes, the group were trying to crossing a well-established legal line and the school district made the right call.

    Not only is the bible on the internet, the Skeptic’s Bible is ;-) And the kick-ass atheist contingent on YouTube.

  • aerie66

    I’m ashamed of my inner atheist (outer one still in the closet). I kept my mouth shut last wk when my daughter’s *public HS principal* handed out Gideon bibles, in school colors no less, to each graduating senior along w/ their diplomas. Earlier in the week she had the ‘student office helpers’ stamp her signature & fav scripture in the front of each one.

    Instead, while driving home alone w/ her grad trinkets, I chunked it out the car window into the 6′ditchweed. A petty & passive aggressive act of vengeance yes, but I couldn’t think of a better place to put it. :D

    I should have kept it…I would send it to the FFRF along w/ all pertinent info just for the lulz.

    The buybull belt. The *unConstitutional* presumption of Christianity. It burns.

  • http://www.thatpinkmouse.com/bloggy Jenny Bliss

    @aerie66

    tut tut thats a very shamful waste of.. a good doorstop or paperweight :D and what of the poor ditchweed THINK OF THE DITCHWEED! you might have squished those poor canabis plants you might have! :P

  • http://st-eutychus.com Nathan

    Yes, on no account should children read ideas in the form of books given away freely. We should burn them. The children that is. Then the books… because children shouldn’t be allowed to encounter ideas lest they become indoctrinated.

    Give the kids the Bibles – and if you atheist parents are worth your mettle you’ll be able to annotate them for your kids so they can argue with the other kids and thrash out the ideas for themselves.

    Sure, the media release was heavy handed in its treatment of the situation… but why shouldn’t people be confronted with ideas in the form of books? Give them Qu’rans, give them God is Not Great. This anti-bible movement is pretty much the same kind of anti-freethinking censorship the atheist movement has spent so much effort fighting against.

    What are schools if not a marketplace for ideas? If you’re arguing against a monopoly of ideas that’s fine – but that’s not the tone I get here… you’re arguing against a specific idea being presented on the basis of its role in your national history.

    Seriously… you posted yesterday on the need for religious beliefs to be prepared to stand up to scrutiny – and today on the need to prevent people encountering beliefs you disagree with.

  • aerie66

    @ Jenny Bliss:

    I know, right? My washing machine is short one leg & shakes like a m*therf*cker (pardon) during a spin cycle; that hideous little *orange* tree-waster would have done the trick!

    I’m pretty sure it was a ‘baccker’ field. I’m in good ol’ tobacco country. The *former* pride of NC.

  • Bob

    @Nathan:

    Regarding schools as a ‘marketplace of ideas’ – utter hogwash. School is where we teach children the fundamentals of fact and reason, not a laissze-faire all-things-are-equal mishmash of thought.

  • flatlander100

    Sorry, H. but if the school permits all sorts of other non-school groups to distribute material free to students for them to tote home, the complainants may have a good case that banning their material to distribute — the bible — amounts to content discrimination. I’d need to know more about the specifics to be certain, but based on what you’ve put up, I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss their complaint out of hand.

    You’re right, of course, that the same group would have a ballistic hissy-fit if a Moslem group tried to send kids home with the Koran under the same circumstances. No question about it. So the complainants can be charged with hypocrisy certainly. [What else is new.] And with hysterically overstating their case in their propaganda ["School bans bibles!"]But I’m not sure they haven’t got a point with regard to the school’s policy which permits other groups to distribute, and not them.

    The school’s rules regarding distribution of non-school materials to students seem very vague to me. There are only three standards: (a) must serve students’ interests — whatever that means, but I’m absolutely certain that many students in the school, possibly a substantial majority, think bible distribution would in fact be “serving their interests.” It’s a pretty vague standard subject to much squishy interpretation. (b)It must serve an educational purpose. Again, the bible seems reasonably to fit that broad condition. Whatever amalgam of myth and history you consider it to be [mostly the former, some of the latter], it has undeniably informed much of western literature down through the centuries, and so I think you’d have a hard time arguing that it does not and could not serve an educational purpose to distribute it to students. (c) Finally, the material must not “exploit” the school or its employees or students. Exactly what does “exploit” mean there and who decides? Using the judicial standard of “reasonableness,” could a reasonable person conclude that permitting military recruiters to send home material is “exploiting” the school or students? How about material sent home by the Boy Scouts? The Girl Scouts? Sports camps? This seems so vague a standard, I wouldn’t want to have to defend it if I were the school board’s attorney.

    I’m not at all sure the complainants don’t have a winable case here. Need to know more details about exactly how they want to do the distribution and how that fits with how other non-school materials are permitted to be distributed. But I wouldn’t at this point dismiss their complaint on its face.

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    lol @nathan

    Obvious troll is obvious. The point is not that the school wants to stop people from learning faith; the point is that the school has a Constitutional duty to not favour an establishment of religion.

  • Bob

    @Flatlander100:

    What educational purpose does the Bible serve? It offers no insight nor factual clarity to science; it has no bearing on the result of mathematical equations.

    However, it does offer a moral judgment on homosexuality, as well as a moral code that is freely and widely ignored by elected representatives when they’re not pandering to their Christian base. It offers four differing accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, accounts that don’t even agree on the circumstances and time of his death.

    As for the Bible’s contributions to Western literature and/or culture, that’s a gross exaggeration. Classical literature draws upon far older works and memes than those presented in the Bible; Western culture owes debts to the Arabic people, who preserved knowledge during the Dark Ages; to the Mayans, who gave us the concept of zero; to Asian cultures, who had domesticated fowl; and others throughout history.

  • plutosdad

    IANAL, but it seems to me as long as they also do not allow any other religious or atheist group to distribute pamphlets on why their ideas are correct, then I think they are safe. Indeed I think that’s what even christian parents would want as well. Do they really want people standing around in schools handing out other religious texts, or arguments against their own religion?

    What are schools if not a marketplace for ideas?
    We are not talking about universities, but young people that are both a captive audience and impressionable that other adults want to prey on. Do you really want people from other religions or atheists trying to convert your kids at school away from your religion? Or do you want the school to not allow any of that on its grounds? I don’t want atheists allowed at elementary schools handing out why god does not exist any more than I want christians to hand out tracts.

    Of course, if you really think we should study all religions, then let’s add history and comparitive religion. They will learn actual history and what different religions actually say, and might learn where stories come from and how most religions are not unique, but not learn what particular religious leaders want. And that would be completely neutral torwards all religions and treat them equally. Or do you not want them exposed to ideas you don’t like?

  • VXbinaca

    I was just about to submit this. I live where this is happening. I think the case is DOA for the Christians.

    Sometimes I feel so embarrassed for where I live. Yet I still would never live in a big city.

    There are no atheists who meet here locally in Naples. I feel so, so alone it’s not even funny. I’m live “out” by the way.

  • Jolly

    It is telling that they don’t just walk through the community and hand out bibles to ADULTS. Why are they always aiming at children? It isn’t like it is hard to find bibles if the parents want to give their children bibles.
    To hell with Moslems handing out the Koran, get a group of satan worshipers to hand out some book. Watch the fun.

  • flatlander100

    Bob:

    You wrote: “What educational purpose does the Bible serve? It offers no insight nor factual clarity to science; it has no bearing on the result of mathematical equations.”

    Sorry, Bob, but I don’t think “offering factual clarity to science” and “bearing on the result of mathematical equations” are the only possible educational purposes materials given to students can [or must] serve. I certainly did not offer up the bible as a reliable science text for students.

    And you wrote: “As for the Bible’s contributions to Western literature and/or culture, that’s a gross exaggeration. Classical literature draws upon far older works and memes than those presented in the Bible; Western culture owes debts to the Arabic people, who preserved knowledge during the Dark Ages; to the Mayans, who gave us the concept of zero; to Asian cultures, who had domesticated fowl; and others throughout history.”

    You are criticizing me there for a claim I didn’t make. I said “the bible informed much of western literature.” I did not say it was the only source or even the major source of western culture or that no other cultures contributed to western civilization over time, or that western civilization does not owe a debt to Greece or Rome or Arab scholars or the Mayans or Asians.

    Want to disagree with me, Bob, that’s fine. Have at it. But don’t ask me to defend claims I didn’t make.

    Finally, I really don’t know how to respond to someone who seriously wants to argue, as it seems you do, that the bible did not “inform much of western literature down through the centuries.” Read much Shakespeare? Or Milton? Donne? William Blake? Carlyle? Or on this side of the pond, Jonathan Edwards? Oliver Wendell Holmes? Longfellow? And particularly, Abraham Lincoln?

    Well, enough. You get the idea.

  • flatlander100

    Pluto’s dad:

    You wrote: “It seems to me as long as they also do not allow any other religious or atheist group to distribute pamphlets on why their ideas are correct, then I think they are safe.

    I’m not sure that’s so. That would involve the school, the argument could be made, in discriminating against religious groups because they are religious groups — denying them distribution rights in the schools that are granted to non-religious groups. A public school, because it is an agent of government, cannot favor religious groups — grant them access or privileges it denies to non-religious groups — but neither can a public school deny religious groups, because they are religious groups, access or privileges it grants to others. The required constitutional standard for governments regarding religion is strict neutrality. I’m not sure this school has met that standard, based on what I know so far [which is only what H. posted].

  • aerie66

    @ muggle:

    Great comments. Gideons love those mass junk handouts. That bible cover in school colors made it ‘cool for the kids’ I guess.

    When our(or any) principal passed out jesus literature to *HS kids* she effectively spit on our Constitution. She should be called before the NCBOE & fear for her job. Our county is so deeply backward, rural, & white, it’s no blip on the radar. Change is a comin’ here though, just in baby steps.

    On the military: my younger bro is an Air Force Lt.Col.,flies an F15 Eagle. Am I crazy proud of his success? Yes. But he’s a war-lover, god & country…I detest that brand of patriotism. Needless to say, I keep mouth closed at family gatherings.

  • Robert

    Like it or not, this country was founded by Christians on Christian principles. If for no other reason, the Bible would serve an educational purpose in regard to the history of our country. that can’t be said for other religious texts or books written by atheists. But as a Christian, I would say pass them out as well. I have no problem with my faith being tested by other ideas.

  • VXbinaca

    @Robert

    Like it or not, this country was founded by Christians on Christian principles.

    No it was not. English Common Law was, which is largely the writing of Sir William Blackstone and St. George Tucker. Amazing what researching the gun cases that made it to SCOTUS will teach you.

    Also, have you read Jefferson’s and Paine’s thoughts of religion? They’re pretty harsh and in context.

  • aerie66

    Oh Robert, I’m afraid you just stepped in it. How does the Bible educate us on the history of our country? It could have just as easily been the Koran. Really. New material, please.

  • flatlander100

    Robert:

    You wrote: “Like it or not, this country was founded by Christians on Christian principles.

    That most of the founders [generally presumed to mean those in Continental Congress who declared independence, and those at the Constitutional Convention who drafted the US Constitution] were Christians of one sort or another is certainly true. But you’re going to have a very hard time establishing that they founded the country on “Christian principles.” Certainly neither the two major founding documents the founders wrote and adopted — the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — reflect much by way of “Christian principles.”

    Remember, many Christian ministers vigorously opposed ratification of the Constitution on grounds that it did not found a Christian republic, that it ignored Jesus in its text, and that a nation and government founded on so un-Christian a document would draw god’s wrath upon it and so be doomed to fail.

    So, a nation founded largely [but not exclusively] by Christians, yes. Founded on Christian principles, no.

  • Steve

    @Robert:
    No matter how many times Christians repeat that lie, it doesn’t become any truer.

    Many of the most influential founding fathers hated either Christianity or organized religion. Many of them were deists. They may have been spiritual or believed in some form of Christianity, but they hated what religion did in Europe over the centuries. And they would hate what America has turned into while Europe shook off the shackles of Christianity.

    The Declaration of Independence only mentions an unspecified “creator”. Not god. That’s pure deism right there.

    The Constitution doesn’t mention Christianity at all, except at the very beginning of the Bill of Rights, where it mandates a strict separation of church and state.

    The Treaty of Tripoli was signed in 1797 by John Adams itself. In article 11 it says:
    “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion”
    Do you want to have anything more authoritative?

    Thomas Jefferson in particular was very clear about what he thought about Christianity:

    “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.”

    “The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.”

    “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.”

    More here:
    http://nobeliefs.com/jefferson.htm
    http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/jefferson.htm

  • VXbinaca

    As much as I dislike it, I think they might have a case. I wonder why the ACLU hasn’t touched this one?

  • plutosdad

    flatlander100, I would agree if we were talking about allowing a group to use school facilities after school. In that case a school that rents or lends out space should do so without regard to who is using it, and I don’t agree when schools tell religious groups they can’t rent space. But I think there is a fundamental difference between using school property when school is not in session, and handing out material to students. The second, to me, is respecting the establishment of religion, but the first is not (assuming we also don’t allow atheists to hand out tracts on atheism). Of course that’s just my gut feelings about what I think is the right thing to do :)

    Robert perhaps you wish to study the history of the colonies before the Constitution and learn why we adopted Rhode Islands’ ideas of freedom FROM religion, which the Baptists were the biggest proponents of. Especially the history, in America, of different christian groups persecuting each other. Here is a good place to start: http://quichemoraine.com/2010/06/the-christian-colonies/

  • Robert

    Aerie66,

    Really, I didn’t know the Pilgrims were Muslim and would have looked to the Koran for their inspiration.

    It is far different to say that the founders of our country were opposed to government imposed religion then to say that they were Christians who founded this country upon Christian principles. They were looking for the freedom to practice their religion free from government interference. That religion happened to be Christianity. That thought process and those believes are woven into the fabric of our founding. When the Declaration of Independence is referring to our creator, it is clearly talking about the Christian God. The very idea that all men are created equal is a Christian principle that our founding fathers were very familiar with. The last I heard there were no Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims in the Continental Congress.

  • Bob

    @Flatlander100:

    Then what purpose DID you have in mind for offering the Bible to students?

    What is taught in schools? Science. Math. History. Writing. Reading. Comprehension. Spelling. Grammar.

    What indispensible (or at least a measure of excellence) does the Bible provide? If I’m shooting down a claim you didn’t make, then perhaps you need to be specific.

    If you want to take culture as being separate from literature, same thing. You argued that the Bible holds a special, unique place, and that’s simply not true.

  • Robert

    As far as Thomas Jefferson is concerned:

    “I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Richard Price, Jan. 8,
    1789

    This quote by Thomas Jefferson was written in response to a letter asking the question “Would not society be better without such religions? Is Atheism less pernicious than Demonism?” Bluntly stating that demonism is more closely related to Christianity than to Atheism could lead one to believe that he was not a Christian at all, however this particular statement is more indicative of his well-documented opposition to the corruption within the Christian church. He believed that the church robbed an individual’s right to think and believe freely. In a letter to Benjamin Rush, in 1800, he referred to the clergy as a “form of tyranny over the mind of man,” thus his comparison of Christians to demonists, but despite his disdain for the religious organizations and powerful clergy, Thomas Jefferson revered the Christian ethic. In another letter to Benjamin Rush, he proclaimed, “I am a real Christian…sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others.” Thus he considered himself a Christian, albeit an unorthodox and nuanced one.

    This is from an article by Clinton McMillen.

    Assuming he is correct in his thoughts on Thomas Jefferson, it appears that even if Jefferson was at odds with the organized church of his day he was very much in tune with the Christian principles

  • Hannah C

    It’s great to think of a public school handing out books from all kinds of religions with all kinds of different ideas, but the truth is, that would never happen. The kids would most likely only get one view, because the parents would throw a fit if something contradictory to their view was given.
    Like, at my school, passing out Bibles might fly. But pass out a Koran, and the Tea Party Patriots of my town would be on the schools back before you could say Muhammad.

    So, it is better to not pass out any of this kind of stuff. All of it can be found on the internet. If someone wanted to read any holy book, they could quickly access it online. Let’s keep school focused on learning, not silly controversies like this one.

    Besides, if these people are so concerned about our education, why don’t they help pay for supplies for the school, or even supply us with things like our summer reading books? That’d do us a lot more good than a Bible.

  • Bob

    @Robert:

    I don’t know, when I hear the phrase, ‘Nature and of Nature’s God,’ I don’t think of Christ Jesus. I think it is, at best, a theistic catch-all to avoid giving preference to any one sect of Christianity.

    And, really, if ‘all men are created equal’ is such a clear and guiding principle to Christians, could you explain why we had slavery for nearly a century, racial disparity for another century (which also included sixty years of the Chinese Exclusion Act), and why we have states like Arizona trotting out anti-immigrant garbage like SB 1070?

    Sad to say, Christianity is a nice warm blanket to hug when we – as a country – ignore the plight of the hungry and poor, launch wars of aggression, and cherry-pick papal doctrine to support foreign & domestic policy, but that’s about it.

  • TychaBrahe

    I think I would like to start a REAL freedom of religion group and hand out all sorts of things at public schools: Bibles, Korans, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Analects of Confuscius, Why I Am Not a Christian, the Book of Mormon, Philosophy of Wicca, Drawing Down the Moon, The Book of Common Prayer, various collections of cultural myths, the Kebra Nagast, various Apocrypha books, The Principia Discordia, How We Believe, and especially Prometheus Rising.

    Here, kids! Learn something! You don’t have to believe anything, even the stuff they teach you, but you should know what other people believe.

  • Steve

    Jefferson was raised as an Anglican and he even supported individual churches, but he clearly despised all the supernatural and mythical trappings of Christianity (going so far as to write a Bible that removed those parts) and especially any form of influence of religion on politics. He was plainly a deist. More so than pretty much any of the other founding fathers.

    I think he may have believed what even many atheists today can acknowledge: that what Jesus actually taught is nice and a good way to live one’s life. Love everyone. Treat people with respect and how you wanted to be treated. That kind of stuff.

    But damn few Christians are like that. And he probably saw that too. It’s like Ghandi said “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ”

  • Robert

    Bob it is sad to say that for many years this nation did not live up to its creed. Slavery and racial discrimination is an awful blight on our history.

    It is also a Christian principle to help the poor, the widows and the orphans. If all we do is preach the Gospel and don’t serve our fellow man, we are falling way short of our calling. That is what we call becoming the hands and feet of Christ

  • http://deviatehulk.blogspot.com Keith

    Nine. Nine facepalms. I would tend to hesitantly accept the premise that the bible has historical significance and should be taught that way, but, as others have said, in the context of a comparative religion class or a course on different mythologies. Personally, I think it’d be great if the stories of Jesus in the new testament were compared and contrasted with norse mythology and others. There’s a lot of borrowing and recrafting of old myths going on there, and that, I think, is most definitely significant if only in a literary sense. I didn’t get exposed to that kind of stuff ’til college (ironically enough, it was at a Catholic university that I was taught to really question the bible) But, again as others have pointed out, it is very clear that this group is not proceeding on the basis of “Hey kids, here’s an interesting historical text that might give some insight on other literature and history, etc.” but rather with an obvious agenda towards promoting their specific ideology. And that’s not something officials should allow in a public school setting, any more than if I wanted to hand out atheist literature or FSM decals.

  • Bob

    @Robert:

    It’s a past and present blight. As much as I’d love to believe that Christianity has led us to a better, moral place, it hasn’t.

    I am Catholic-school educated, and ‘kids are cruel’ doesn’t cover it. Clearly, if the lessons of Christ are being taught, they’re slow to take.

  • ckitching

    It is telling that they don’t just walk through the community and hand out bibles to ADULTS.

    It’s also quite telling that they don’t just hand out bibles outside the school property, which would also be legal. It seems to me that they want a completely captive audience that cannot avoid their message without outing themselves.

    It’s like the school prayer proposals that state the child can just leave the room during the prayers they disagree with, therefore it’s not hurting anyone to hold sectarian prayer in a public school.

  • Citizen Z

    @flatlander100

    That would involve the school, the argument could be made, in discriminating against religious groups because they are religious groups — denying them distribution rights in the schools that are granted to non-religious groups. A public school, because it is an agent of government, cannot favor religious groups — grant them access or privileges it denies to non-religious groups — but neither can a public school deny religious groups, because they are religious groups, access or privileges it grants to others.

    That is simply incorrect, there is no such thing as “distribution rights”. There’s a ton of case law about this, the rules are clear:

    Schools can grant access to school facilities to outside religious groups after hours. The school has to make it clear that they do not endorse one group over another or discriminate according to viewpoint, if they let Muslims meet there, they have to let Christians meet there too.

    If they allow non-curricular clubs, schools have to allow students from all religions to form their own clubs. They can’t discriminate between non-curricular, non-religious clubs and non-curricular religious clubs. It has to be student initiated to allow the students free exercise of their religion, and to avoid issues of being seen as endorsing a particular religion.

    Schools have a simple purpose, to educate children. They can allow non-religious groups access to their students during school time to further this purpose. This doesn’t somehow give religious groups “rights” to interact with the students to proselytize, which is a violation of the 1st amendment. This is the basic reasoning behind the Lemon test.

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    Are these people really that dumb?

    It’s getting sad really that they play the victim card so much.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.net Yet Another Atheist

    My face is now permanently disfigured from all the facepalms. Thank you, Hemant!

  • Citizen Z

    Like it or not, this country was founded by Christians on Christian principles.

    Both House and Ground were vested in Trustees, expressly for the Use of any Preacher of any religious Persuasion who might desire to say something to the People of Philadelphia, the Design in building not being to accommodate any particular Sect, but the Inhabitants in general, so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a Missionary to preach Mahometanism to us, he would find a Pulpit at his Service. (The Contributions being made by People of different Sects promiscuously, Care was taken in the Nomination of Trustees to avoid giving a Predominancy to any Sect, so that one of each was appointed, viz. one Church of England-man, one Presbyterian, one Baptist, one Moravian, &c.).

    From the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, speaks for itself.

    The last I heard there were no Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims in the Continental Congress.

    Or women or blacks.

  • Alexis

    Of course they could honor the founding fathers by also handing out copies of Paine’s “The Age of Reason”. Who would be face palming then?

  • http://unreasonablydangerousonionrings.blogspot.com Angus

    Every time this kind of thing comes up, we all talk about “if these were Muslims” and “if they handed out Korans,” but is there anything preventing anyone from doing that? There have got to be a few readers of this blog that live in or near Collier County, and I’m sure if they volunteered, we could raise a couple hundred bucks to buy “pocket” Korans and then actually hand them out. Make a freaking point.

  • flatlander100

    VoxB:

    You ask why the ACLU isn’t involved in this matter on behalf of the Christian group. I can think of two possible reasons: (a) they haven’t been asked by the Christian group to intervene (b) there is as yet no case for them to file an amicus brief on if they wanted to.

    The ACLU regularly defends Christians [and Moslems and Mormons and anyone of any religious persuasion when government attempts to limit the "free exercise" of their faith the Bill of Rights guarantees them]. For examples, see here:

    http://www.aclu.org/aclu-defense-religious-practice-and-expression

  • flatlander100

    Bob:

    Once again, you seem not to have read very carefully what I said. You write: “Then what purpose DID you have in mind for offering the Bible to students?”

    I did not recommend, and I do not support “offering the Bible to students” in public schools. I think it’s a bad idea. But it’s not necessarily illegal to do that, provided other groups are offered the opportunity to distribute non-school materials to students. The set of things I think are bad ideas that are not all illegal is very large. I don’t assume that what I don’t like must necessarily be illegal.

    You write: “What indispensible (or at least a measure of excellence) does the Bible provide?”

    I didn’t say the bible was “indispensable” for students, and I certainly did not say it should be taught in the public schools. All I said was it is that a reasonable person could conclude that, if for no other reason than the bible has informed so much literature and thought in Western civilization, its distribution to students to take home with them can — not must, not has to, not inevitably will — serve an educational purpose.

    You wrote: “You argued that the Bible holds a special, unique place.” Sorry, Bob, but nowhere in anything I’ve posted here did I argue that the bible holds or should hold a “special, unique place” such that its distribution to students should be accorded special protection not accorded to other groups’ non-biblical material the school sends home with kids.

  • flatlander100

    Citizen Z:

    You wrote: There is no such thing as “distribution rights”. There’s a ton of case law about this.

    True. No outside group or person has an enforceable legal right have a public school send home its literature with students… unless the school administration or board creates such a right by establishing as policy that private groups may send home with students, through the school, their materials [announcements of Bible Study summer camps or Boy or Girl Scout recruitment literature, or pitches for sports camps, or pleas for student help in charitable projects or what have you.]

    And I think the case law on that is clear. No inherent right, unless the school creates one, and if it does, that right in that school cannot exclude religious groups because they are religious groups.

    There was in interesting case within the last two years [I don't have the reference handy; perhaps someone reading will have it and post]. It involved a public school, in the South I think, that was regularly sending home with students at the end of each week various announcements from non-school groups [Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, sports camps, etc.] including pitches from local churches for their bible study groups and summer bible camps. A parent objected to her child coming home each week with Christian lit. A law suit was threatened.

    The school’s attorney rightly informed the school board that if it wished to continue to allow such material to be sent home with students, it would have to formulate and adopt a clear policy covering the practice, and it would have to be content-neutral. Outraged Christian parents insisted the school board establish such a policy so the Christian brochures could again be sent home with the kids and the school board did.

    Quiet prevailed until a few weeks later when parents opened the end of week packet sent home with kids to find an invitation to students to attend a free-thinkers summer camp — think Camp Quest on steroids. All hell broke loose [pun intended] as Christian parents demanded that the distribution of atheist summer camp lit to their kids stop immediately. The board’s attorney pointed out that the only way to do that in a way that would stand court scrutiny was to eliminate all sending home of non-school lit with kids. So under pressure from the Christian parents the board changed policy to prevent any non-school group from having its lit sent home by the school. [Making it clear, by the way, that what the Christian parents really wanted was special privileges granted them that would not be granted to others. So what else is new?]

    But in that case, the school board created a right to distribute by its first policy, and so the atheist summer camp lit could not be excluded. It extinguished that right when it changed policy to eliminate the right to distribute for all.

  • jcm

    Remember Christians think that they’re exempted from the ninth commandment.

  • Citizen Z

    True. No outside group or person has an enforceable legal right have a public school send home its literature with students… unless the school administration or board creates such a right

    But they’re not creating rights. Look, I’m sure we agree on the substance of the law, and I’m sorry if I sound like a pedant, but I think words are important when it comes to the law. The school isn’t “creating rights”. The school’s either respecting religious rights or it isn’t.

    What the school is creating is a public forum. I’m not only agreeing with you in substance, but I’ll go a step further and say that (inane press release aside) they might actually have a good case. For example: Child Evangelism Fellowship of Md., Inc. v. Montgomery County Pub. Sch. and Hills v. Scottsdale Unified School Dist.

  • flatlander100

    Citizen Z:

    OK. Understood. And agreed.

  • Dylan

    This recently happened at my highschool. A bunch of Mormon kids were going around handing out ‘revised’ kid bibles. Yes, because I am so stupid that I cannot read the real deal. Plus, who knows what they distorted and took out. I openly rebuked the poor kid on the spot, mainly because I don’t like ‘kid friendly’ bibles being passed out. They need to know about the genocide just as much as the adults do.

  • toffa813

    Some group hands out bibles at my public high school (just graduated) once a year.

    And here’s the best part:
    They do it on the National Day of Silence

    I could not believe the audacity of these people, especially on that day.

    It’s a waste of time too: anybody who wants a bible has one, and everybody else tosses them on the ground or in the garbage. I’d be shocked if there was one person out of the 3,000 people at my high school that converts or takes a greater interest in god/christianity after that.

  • Peter B

    Perhaps they are just looking to be Christian victims of a secular society.

    If they wanted to do was to hand out bibles they would not have a problem. All they have to do is to hand them out on public sidewalks at the end of the school day. One religious group I know of provided free “tickets” to a kid’s program as many walked home for lunch. “Be sure to ask your mom if you can come.”

    That group politely told the school staff of their intentions. And the fact that they would not be on school property and would not block or harass anyone.

    That lunchtime approach worked in the early 60’s. Today handing out tickets, tracts or almost anything on the sidewalk is okay. Just don’t expect to use school property.

  • tiffany faith

    “No public school is banning Bibles. Ever. All students can bring a Bible to school if they want to.”
    Actually, I’m sorry to say, that’s not correct. my friend brought his Bible to a public Middle school and he got it taken away, not once, not twice, but three times. he wasn’t reading when he wasn’t saposed to, he was meerly just walking around with it. his parents had no affect on it, even when they tried, so they just pulled him out of school. and you better believe that every Christian in the school knows of that


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