How Did These Christian Books End Up in a Public Elementary School’s Book Fair?

Reader Jessica went to her daughter’s public elementary school in Wichita, Kansas yesterday for a book fair. What she found was something of a shock to her:

She writes:

They had a whole section of Christian books geared towards children. There were no other books of any other religion at the book fair. It was held in the cafeteria, the money goes to the school, and they were being sold directly to elementary school children.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has already been notified.

Isn’t it amazing how, in an institution where education ought to be celebrated, some companies are pushing their way in, trying to indoctrinate children who may not know how to tell the difference between fact and fiction?

Seriously, just look at this image (PDF) from Heaven, God’s Promise for Me (click to enlarge):

I hope whoever bought the Christian books picked up that Brain Games one, too. They’re going to need some sort of antidote to counteract all the crazy in the other ones.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Msredinnc

    AAGGHHH!!!!  I live in the bible belt and I am always on the lookout for crap like this with my 11 year old daughter!!! It is EVERYWHERE!!!

    • Lyonsgw1

      Cr– and 11 year old Daughter in the same Sentance. I see why Jesus would offend you.

      • Rich Wilson

        Holly Jesus Fucking Christ with a Dildo, you self censor the word ‘crap’?  ‘Cause a synonym for shit/turd/feces/scat is offensive?

        But a guy sending his two teenage girls out to get gang raped- that’s ok?Wow.  Too bad you’re a drive-by troll.

  • Varenneoraven

    But what if all our favorite people are gay? Hmmmmmmmmm…

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to hazard a guess that a church or Christian book store offered these books to the school for free as a way of raising money (and, let’s be honest, spreading the faith). The appropriate response would habe been to thank them but to say that they cannot accept explicitly religious books. If raising money for the public school is a priority, you are welcome to sell these books on your own time and property and then give the money to the school.

    I don’t expect most folks there to understand this. Especially frustrating is that many who would loudly defend this would be outraged if they found this or this, let alone this or this on the same table, especially if they didn’t find their own religion represented. I wonder what it’s going to take for people to finally understand that this is not a popular vote affair, that civil rights don’t work like that.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s likely that the book fair books and sales materials are all provided to the school by an outside company (like Scholastic or something similar).  And that the school itself does not choose the specific books to be offered, but gets some sort of category list, or package deal.  And since that kind of a company likely does fairs for christian schools as well as public schools, they’d have bookfair packages that include this rubbish.  So either they got the wrong package, or some employee accidentially checked “spirituality” under book categories they wanted to include, or (most likely) somebody at the school deliberately asked for the “christian assortment” for their fair.

    • Anonymous

      In the spring, our public charter school has a Scholastic book fair.  They ask what grades and ages we have then they supply cartons of books to meet those parameters.  We can ask for certain things, like young adult books for more experienced readers, but we basically take what we get.  But I don’t remember seeing any overtly religious books like these at ours… and our school is at a church (we rent their classrooms) and the overwhelming percentage of the families are religious, so I’m sure they’d LOVE to see that selection at our book fair.

  • Tamhunter

    The reason why they sell religion to children is simple, if they wait until you reach 18 you would never believe the stories they tell

    • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

      One would think that, but a surprisingly large number of people convert to religions late in life. On college campuses for example one has kids who end up becoming evangelical Christians. Similarly, one has kids of Jewish descent who start off with no strong religious belief and end up pretty religious by the end.  And outside college campuses, one gets similar behavior with people going to AA meetings. The social groups easily override epistemology especially when the people haven’t had to do any critical thinking on these issues before. 

      • Anonymous

        True. My sister, a single teen mother with two kids was easy prey for the JWs who came calling.

  • Tamhunter

    The reason why they sell religion to children is simple, if they wait until you reach 18 you would never believe the stories they tell

  • Dawnie

    I hate to say it, but this is not just a bible belt issue. I had something similar happen to me in Connecticut. When I went to my children’s school for a parent/teacher thing last year, they had ‘babysitting’ in the library so I went to drop the kids off to go play and that’s when I saw Christian books, front and center on prominent display in a section they had created for kids to pick out a free book to take home with them who were attending the conference.  I took a picture but lost my phone and that picture with it before I could ever upload it. *sigh* This crap is everywhere! 

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    At least we now finally know the answer to whether animals go to heaven. It’s in a book and it even has pictures!

    • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Emily Joyce

      AND we get to ride them!  All of them!  Dibs on that rhino!

      • Parse

        You can have the rhino; I’ll be riding the T-Rex!

    • Anonymous

      Hell, I’m looking forward to eating everything I’ve ever wanted and not gaining weight… heaven is a woman’s dream!!!

  • Scared of Juice

    Having grown up in Kansas, these types of books can be found in almost any fund-raising drive.  I mostly agree with UbiDubium, but having worked with teachers on book fairs like this, there is no ‘spirituality’ box to tick. Unfortunately, garbage such as this is standard issue. What one has to remember, is many of these Christians fervently believe that their cosmology is the only Truth (insert laughs here) and that not believe is just giving into Satan. The false dichotomy is alive and well.

  • Nankay

    Huh, I guess I don’t see the big deal. I’ve worked at/run many a book fair and the company (Scholastic most likely) shows up with a number of books( adult and kid level) , toys, posters and games. No one is pushing anything. It’s there for a kid or, in our case, a parent  to buy.These displays are usually set up over conference time.  It’s a huge fund raiser for the schools around here.

    • Lady Godfrey

      This.  When I volunteered at my kids’ elementary, one of the things I did was run the book fair.  I always requested no religious books and more subjects that our rural kid would enjoy – outdoors, scientific, etc.  The company (Scholastic) was happy to oblige.   Scholastic also serves private religious schools.   All the proceeds go the the schools.

    • Grisha

      The point is that it is illegal.

      • hellothere

        Not illegal under the freedom of religion act. The school is a public institution where anyone is welcome to be any religion and practice it there. without segregation, discrimination or censorship. As an atheist, it is important to not force this religion on others or prevent other people from reading about their religion! It is so easy to want everyone to believe what we do (or don’t) believe. Teaching on major world religions is actually part of most state standards. Book fairs are allowed to sell any religious books, and children are allowed to hold religious meetings. see this from our department of justice website:

        Religious freedom is one of the United States’ founding
        principles, protected by the First Amendment and other federal laws. The
        right against religious discrimination is likewise one of our basic
        civil rights. When Congress enacted the landmark Civil Rights Act of
        1964 at the height of the civil rights movement, in addition to barring
        discrimination based on race, national origin, and sex in a wide range
        of areas, it also barred discrimination based on religion.

        The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice enforces a wide range of laws protecting religious liberty:

        laws protecting the religious rights of institutionalized persons; and

        criminal statutes such as the Church Arson Prevention Act
        making it a federal crime to attack persons or institutions based on
        their religion, or otherwise interfere with religious exercise.

  • Prosey

    I’ve lived in different states throughout the country, and with my older 2 kids, I’ve observed similar books at elementary & middle school book fairs. I just steer clear. Religious book offerings may be donations by a local christian book store – but to me, they are inappropriate as book fair fodder at a state-funded institution.

  • KEH

    Surprisingly,
    I’m not actually bothered by this. It’s not part of the classroom –
    it’s a book fair. To block the sale of Xtian books would be censorship.
    I would like to see an equal selection of books from other faiths and
    non-faiths to round it out though.

    • Anonymous

      For me, the issue is peddling mythology as fact in an institution of learning and if we peddle one mythology, all of the other mythologies should be represented as well.  I said earlier that at our book fairs for the past 5 years, I don’t remember seeing any Christian books, but they did have Roman and Greek mythology… should one be allowed but not the other?  To me, they are the same.

      Bottom line, for me, is that no religious mythology should be available through a public school, even for fundraising purposes.  Heck, when I was in school, we sold glass candles (those tall, cylindrical ones with pictures on the glass, covered with the tiny clear beads) and many had religious symbols on them.  Never batted an eye about them then, but now, I would not allow it.

      • Nazani14

        You actually need to know both Christian and Greco-Roman mythology in order not to be culturally illiterate.  Of, course, I would rather see them taught in a social studies, history, and literature classes. 

      • Carlos

        Jesus was a man, and he lived in this world. You may think he was just a normal guy with some good teachings, or a spiritual leader, or a deceiver, whatever, but you can’t ignore the fact that he actually walked on this earth, unless, you want to discredit written history altogether. Jesus was not a Myth, he was real. You may call it mythology, but your personal definition of mythology doesn’t make it so.

  • Poolio

    All that, and the text is poorly written too!  The meter is all wrong and the rhymes are hackneyed.  What does this teach our children about _quality_?  That you can just throw any old crap together in the name of the LORD?

    (Yes, that’s sarcasm.  Not the issue here, I know.  I just hate it when any obvious hack can get a children’s book published.  Where have you gone, Theodore Geisel?)

    • Lyonsgw1

      Since when Did worsd like Cr– become quality? By the way, The word Hate shows a awful amount of detail into one’s lifestyle and habits.

  • Anonymous

    What makes me sad is that the artist is good.
    Either they believe or need to eat. Still, a waste – kids could learn something real, or be treated to a myth and be let in on the joke. It’s the way these are written, like “it’s all for real, don’t dare think about questioning it.” You’d get better morals and ideas from Aesop’s fables.

    Don’t know if the ‘book fair’ crosses the line. Guess we’ll find out. It does remind us the lengths the believers will go to. I think it means we need more secular books that embrace reality, and can still be fun for kids.

    • Sven

      I have to say, I never believed in heaven. But if I had grown up with this image as something to look forward to, I might have a bad time trying to let go of the concept of heaven.

  • mkb

    I’m actually more bothered by the concept ofany  book fairs in schools.  In our schools, kids go to these things during classtime.  Puting poor kids in the position of shopping alongside their more affluent peers for items they can get for free from the library when everybody should be in class learning something instead is really a bad idea.   

    • Anonymous

      Our charter school handles this nicely… in the spring, they do a “fun run” fundraiser.  The kids get money (set amount, not per mile or lap) from friends, neighbors, family, etc., and they get a “Scholastic buck” for every $10 they raise.  And Scholastic offers 2 for 1 at the book fair, so it makes their bucks go further.  The Parent Committee picks up the wholesale tab for the books purchased with the bucks.  They also time the book fair for the spring music program and have the book fair open before school, after school, and before and after the musical for parents to shop.  The teachers have the option to take their class during the school day if they want so the kids have a chance to spend their bucks.

    • Rich Wilson

      Those Scholastic book club take home order forms were always a bit painful to me.  I used to check off all the ones I wanted, kind of like a kid dreaming big catalog dreams at Christmas. But kids know better than to ask for stuff their parents REALLY can’t afford.  And sure, being really poor was always in my face.  But somehow never more than when it was a direct contrast.  We were all lining up at the same cash register, albeit some of us empty handed.

  • Gus Snarp

    I’d rather not see such blatantly Christian material at a book sale at a public school, but as others have said, it’s a book sale, not required or even suggested reading. On the other hand, if the book sale is taking place during school hours and kids are marched through as part of their school day, which is how I remember it from my childhood, then I’ve got a bigger problem.

    I mentioned an issue at my kid’s school district over on Pharyngula, and even the fire-breathers over there thought maybe I was making too much of it, which surprised me. But what I experienced is worse than this book sale, in my opinion. It was simply a suggested reading list for kindergarteners that included the book  All Things Bright and Beautiful (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1416989390/ref=rdr_ext_tmb), an illustrated version of the Christian hymn. The inside view at Amazon doesn’t show the two page spread of a picture of giant hands and the words “The Lord God made them all,” across both pages.

    This isn’t a book that will be discussed as literature in an open context, this is the school saying that they think you should read this book with your kindergartener, who is just learning to read and only wants simple words and sentences and some pictures, in order to prepare them for school. A book that reads to me like it’s setting up kids to fail to accept evolution some day. Sure, it wasn’t required, but given the incredible array of fantastic children’s books out there, including this one in an official reading list for 5 year olds was highly inappropriate.

  • Beijingrrl

    I’m not really bothered by this.  As an extension of this concern, are you all saying there should be no fiction books mentioning religion for the kids to check out in their school library?  Granted, I would hope that there is a better representation of different ideas than just Christianity.  It looks like a selection of Scholastic books to me.  I’ve noticed that sometimes the flyers have religious books, but they’re not always just Christian.  I’m okay with this being a choice among many.  I’m sure there are plenty of people who’d like to have all of the Santa books removed, too.  I’m never for book censorship.  Perhaps we just need to start writing more humanist or atheist books for kids and requesting them for our school and public libraries.  I like the idea of evangelical kids being able to check out and read books that expose them to different world views without their parents necessarily knowing.  And I’m perfectly fine with my kids picking out and reading Christian-themed books on their own, too.

    • Anonymous

      There’s a difference between a book of fiction that mentions religion but books that specifically discuss heaven as a “real” place is religious brainwashing offered by the school.

      But I get what you’re saying.

  • Rich Wilson

    OTOH Scholastic book club books show up in droves at Goodwill.  At least here.  Soft covers 75 cents each, 1/2 off on holidays.  Good thing, because although now I have the financial means to buy my kid new books, between Goodwill and yard sales, the $ goes a lot farther.  (>350 books farther)

  • Miko

    Simple: a book fair establishes a limited-public forum, so a policy forbidding the sale of religious-themed books would be an Establishment Clause violation and get the school in lots of trouble.

  • Kat

    I’ll be interested in the follow-up to this because I live in Wichita, KS. As a librarian, I’d worry that making a fuss might end up as a form of censorship – but it seems weird that it looks only like Christian books, rather than as assortment of spiritual/religious books.  I agree – the parents are the ones that ultimately buy the books. But it still seems iffy to me…I want more information.

  • SJH

    Are they really trying to push Christian books and indoctrinate or is the company simply following the demographic? If they were selling to a location with a large Muslim population then I am sure they would sell Muslim books. Making it a requirement to sell books representing multiple religions is silly. You are basically telling the book company you are required to purchase and offer books to people even if you know they won’t buy them in a particular area. This would be a ridiculous undue burden on the business.

    The drive to push the idea of “freedom from religion” is basically pushing ones non-religion on others. What if I want to buy a book for my child that has a religious theme. Am I to be excluded from the book fair because of my religion?

    I can understand if you believe that religion is very harmful to a child that those books should be censored in an elementary school setting but are they really that harmful? Especially if you consider the fact that religion has primarily been a force for good in our world, now and throughout history.

    • Anonymous

      Why on earth would you feel excluded if there were no religious books?

      As to your other question, yes, I do think they’re harmful. I would have no problem with a book containing myths from the bible or books about what Christians believe, but I don’t think books that proselytise to kids is appropriate in a school setting.

      Oh, and I think you need to read a history book or two. Maybe you can pick some up at the next book fair you  go to.

  • http://profiles.google.com/pawnshopheart00 Pawnshop Heart00

    I’m not really seeing this as a problem. Its not assigned reading, the teachers aren’t reading it in class, its not a completely christian book sale. Meh. Not a big deal. It would be nice if they included other options from other religions but as long as it isn’t required I don’t see it as an issue.  The kids parents can choose to buy the books for the kids or not. These things exist in the world. You walk into any book store or library in the country, they will have religious books. I wouldn’t have a problem with a school library having religious texts either as long as they aren’t assigned to read them and taught about them in any way other than literature.

  • Nazani14

    I know I would have felt terribly cheated when I asked a nun about the flying sheep in heaven and gotten a blank stare in response.   If you told me right now that I could fly around on a fluffy sheep when I died, I’d be very, very tempted to join your religion.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    Wow, this is pretty shocking. Where I grew up, we had Scholastic book fairs and Scholastic and Troll book order forms, and I never saw anything like this. While of course religion is mentioned in many children’s stories, all the books for sale were from mainstream publishers. We were never exposed to religious material from Christian publishers. The books on this table are not from Scholastic, by the way. I would guess that they were donated by some Christian company and that the people involved are pretty pleased that they’ve been able to worm their way into the public schools.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    In case anyone was wondering, this is not some kind of mistake on the part of a secular company. These titles are absolutely not from mainstream children’s publishers. They are all from explicitly evangelical companies that only release religious material. Heaven: God’s Promise for Me is from Zondervan. The Lord’s Prayer for Little Ones is from Harvest House. My Pretty Pink Bible Purse and Heaven Is For Real are from Thomas Nelson. Clearly, this is not an “oops” scenario. You have to go looking for these kinds of books. No public school would accidentally get a shipment of them for their book fair.

    • Anonymous

      Well… THAT is quite interesting.  Also, a search of Scholastic’s site yields a laminated copy of The Lord’s Prayer but none of the books listed above and nothing much with Christian or Heaven.

      • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

        Yes, I’m quite familiar with Scholastic and they don’t sell religious material. Around the holidays, you might certainly see them offer a book of Christmas carols or Hanukkah activities, but not anything like this. It’s very much a secular company. The books on this table would never be approved by Scholastic.

    • Parse

      What’s also interesting is that there’s a legitimate series, published by Scholastic, of “My Pretty Pink X Purse” books, of the same color and style of “My Pretty Pink Bible Purse”.  According to the Amazon description, it’s even supposed to be an addition to the Pretty Pink Purse series.  I wonder if Scholastic could go after Thomas Nelson, using the same laws that prevent, say, me from publishing “Harry Potter and the Blatant Money Grab”.

    • Jessica Jones

      Thank you for this information. I’m going to actually contact scholastic and confirm that they don’t carry these titles and pass that on to FFRF with the rest of my complaint.  That pisses me off even more that this was in no way an accident.

    • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani Sharmin

      We used to have Scholastic Book Fairs during winter/Christmas time in elementary school, but I don’t recall there being religious books, especially not ones that were meant to proselytize or preach the faith.  We also used to get those Scholastic order forms.

      At first, I was thinking that maybe they had just done a fair from a regular company and it was unintentional, but given the information Anna has offered above (that some of the books are from explicitly Christian publishers) that makes me think it was not a mistake.

      As mentioned above by I_Claudia, how would they feel if others’ religious books were included in the fair but theirs were not?

      I’d be fine with it if they were books teaching about religions (like comparative religion books or something) but this seems like a blatant attempt to preach.

  • Powerpoppat

    I just wanted to point something out….Look CLOSELY at the picture from the book…..isn’t that a LION?  Weren’t lions used to EAT CHRISTIANS?  Just sayin’……

  • http://www.facebook.com/katie.schwede Katie Kulm Schwede

    What do you care?  So you don’t like religion, why can’t other people? Please, I cannot figure out for the life of me why atheists feel they have to “remove” religion from everyone else!!
    While I am commenting as I feel so many are so self absorbed, so wrapped up in themselves, they do not even bother to study faith/Christianity.  I think atheists should start looking at some of the Catholic mystic saints, you know ones that have had the gift of bilocation, had stigmatas, lived eating nothing but the Eurcharist for weeks, years at a time, or some of their incorruptable bodies.  How do you explain all the “miracles” surrounding Marian apparitions (Lourdes- tons of miracles) - I bet most do not have a clue what I am speaking of!!! Oh one more, the Lanciano Eurcharist miracle – scientists cannot explain it!!  Maybe atheists are comfortable where they are and that is that, but if your own soul is a risk, it is at least worth “looking into”.  your friendly Catholic girl. Just try’ in to help ya out. Peace.

    • Anonymous

      Katie, many atheists were once Christians and many others have studied various religions including Christianity.  I was at an event last weekend where everyone else at my table was an ex-Catholic (I’m an ex-Protestant).  I can’t speak for anybody else, but I don’t want to “remove” religion from everyone else.  I want to remove the promoting of it from inappropriate places.  Buy Christian books at bookstores or online and read all of them you want.  Don’t push them in the schools.

  • Waltz707

    while i agree that book censorship is a problem, These books should not be available to young children. Maybe in high school?

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      No one’s talking about censorship here. These books are widely available for purchase at regular bookstores like Barnes and Noble, at Christian bookstores, can be bought online, and are also found in many public libraries.

      But they are certainly inappropriate in a public school setting, due to their evangelistic content. That’s not censorship. That’s the government refraining from promoting a particular religion to an audience of captive children. It’s got nothing to do with age, either. This is an elementary school, but proselytizing material would also be inappropriate in a public high school. 

  • BarryO

    You’re all so open minded.  At least they were indoctrinating with something useful, instead of some tripe book about Heather having 2 daddies, or Daddy’s ‘roomate’.

  • Chris

    Wow, I am amazed how scared everyone is of some child hearing about Christianity. Good thing you were not around between the 1700′s to early 1900′s when schools taught the Bible and the Christian heritage of this country. Heaven forbid, oh wait you don’t believe in that either…

  • TrueBlue

    In Schools, they don’t encourage you to read the Bible. In Prison, they do. Maybe if they allowed Bibles in school, it would keep the youth from going to prison in the first place. If one really educates themselves, they find a great deal of truth in that book. Must be why it is the #1 book sold in America.

  • Freddy

    You’re angry at some religious books? What about all the junk that they sell at the sales teaching people to slack off in school and create horrible futures for themselves and the books that are inappropriately aged for the young impressionable mind of elementary students everywhere? The person in charge of selling the books at the school are allowed to put any books that they oppose back into a box to not be sold. if you disapprove take it up with the head of the school.

  • Carlos

    man, it’s mind-blowing how people in America are starting to reject the very foundations upon which their nation started. Proud America is coming to an end for it has turned its back on the one true God. (Rom. 1:21) …by the way, freedom of religion doesn’t mean no religion, it means freedom to choose to follow your own religious beliefs, and let’s face it, a child can’t help be indoctrinated; indoctrination will happen, whether it be Christianity, or other sort of philosophical framework. There is no such thing as raw facts.

  • michelle

    Thank you for letting me know about these books at the bookfair. I was looking for some Christian books to buy my children but couldn’t seem to find any at our bookfair. I am looking forward to buying these books for my children so that they will grow to know and love God as much as I do.


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