Earlier this week, the Kentucky Department of Education did something every state’s education department should do: They sent an email to every public school district superintendent in the state (173 of them in all) reminding them what the law says about church/state separation:
School staff may not participate in the dissemination of Bibles or other religious items, but students may do so as long as such activities take place between classes, at recess or other free time, and “so long as the students aren’t simply acting as agents for adults in doing so,” the KDE email said.
“While the distribution of Gideon Bibles in classrooms by either Gideon members or school officials was once commonplace in schools throughout the country, the practice has been ruled unconstitutional by multiple federal courts and is generally accepted to be an unconstitutional practice,” the agency said. “If a district wants to consider allowing the distribution of religious material by outside groups to students while at school, this should be done in consultation with board counsel upon thorough research of the federal law on this issue and with the understanding that the policy will result in the mandated allowance of the distribution of all religious groups’ material to students and no discretion or denial of a request to distribute can occur.“The KDE therefore strongly recommends and advises school districts to adhere to the complete prohibition on the distribution of religious material to students at public schools (or during ingress or egress from school) to ensure adherence to the federal law’s requirements and to reduce the likelihood of costly litigation,” the email said.
The email also addressed prayers on school board meetings (don’t do it) and privately-sponsored baccalaureate ceremonies (perfectly fine).
Considering this is a state where administrators have allowed majority-Christian students to vote on whether or not they wanted prayer at their graduation ceremony and principals have endorsed the teaching of Creationism in science class — and it’s the state that’s home to the Creation Museum — it couldn’t have come at a better time.
(Image via Shutterstock — Thanks to Brian for the link)