An Atheist Faces Backlash After Trying to Prevent Public School from Passing Out Bibles to Children

The Chilliwack school board (in British Columbia, Canada) has a policy that explicitly allows for the Gideons to pass out Bibles to children with parental permission:

The actual permission form used in Chilliwack

Recently, one parent tried to do something about it:

Richard Ajabu complained to the board last week after his daughter, who attends Sardis elementary, brought home a permission form to receive a free Bible at school from Gideons International, an evangelical Protestant association that has handed out free Bibles to Canadian Grade 5 public school students since 1946.

Ajabu was surprised to find out there was a local regulation in place that endorses the Gideons’ activity in the Chilliwack district.

“The Board approves the distribution of Gideon Youth Testaments to Grade 5 pupils with parental consent,” states administrative regulation 518.

At Ajabu’s urging, the school board revisited the policy earlier this week in a closed-door meeting… but they decided to keep it in place.

It was a foolish decision on their part. Even the local paper explained the problem with promoting Christian mythology over that of other belief systems:

But the school district should not allow religions to use school time and property to promote their beliefs.

The alternative is chaos and conflict. A school district that allows the distribution of Bibles must allow other religions to hand out their own holy books.

That’s fine in theory. Let Muslims hand out the Koran. Let Hindus give out the Vedas. Let Sikhs distribute the Guru Granth Sahib.

But where do you draw the line? Do you allow Scientologists to hand out the writings of L. Ron Hubbard? What about Christian groups that favour different forms of the Bible?

The answer is simple: leave the distribution of religious materials to other institutions.

The BC Humanists also issued a press release condemning the school board’s decision:

“It’s astonishing that the Chilliwack Board would make this decision behind closed doors in light of the recent controversies in Ontario,” said British Columbia Humanist Association Executive Director Ian Bushfield in reference to recent protests over Gideon Bible distributions in the Niagara, Bluewater, and Grand Eerie School Districts.

Bushfield calls the decision “discriminatory,” stating “It suggests that the only view welcome in Chilliwack public schools is Protestant Christianity.”

The BC Humanists are calling for the Chilliwack School Board to immediately reverse their policy and to follow the Public Schools Act of British Columbia, which states that schools should be operated “on strictly secular and non-sectarian principles.”

That’s all well and good but the story doesn’t end there.

Because Ajabu’s last name is ethnic-sounding, he’s been getting a lot of awful comments thrown his way in the local paper. Like this one:

I am sorry these people don’t like this program of free Bibles. Mr. Ajabu is so worried with what the Muslims, Sikhs and other religions will say about this, I guess this is what is meant by “politically correct.”

Well, they chose to come to this country. I don’t remember inviting them, but that is not what we’re talking about. When you come to another country you live by their standards, and if by chance you don’t happen to agree or like what is happening, well you have to live with that or go back to your own country.

And this one:

Why is this irritating Mr Ajabu’s mind? I must say, that Hindu, Muslim, etc. rituals are irritating Christian minds as well.

Christians developed this country, not Hindus, Muslims, etc.

Mr. Ajabu has only one honest solution: Go back to his home country, practice his religion over there.

There’s a lot of letters like that — maybe they’re not as openly racist, but they’re almost all anti-Ajabu.

Ian Bushfield would love to send Richard a collection of positive messages to let him know he has support from our community. So if you’d like to write him a note, just leave it at Ian’s site, email him directly, or write to the Chilliwack Times.

(via British Columbia Humanist Association)

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.


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