Gideon Bible Gauntlet Run on College Campuses

Reader questions are edited to eliminate references to specific people and places, unless there’s a need to call out the cavalry. If you see something here that almost resembles your question, but your main concern isn’t addressed, go ahead and ask again in the comments. I’ll do my best to respond.

 

Reader Question:

At my state-funded college, we grudgingly welcome the Gideon Bible Gauntlet Run a couple of times a year, which I find beyond annoying. I mean to ask these guys next time if they’ve heard of the Establishment Clause/First Amendment/Whole Constitution thingy … and take pictures, too!

Professor Plum

 

Answer:

Some people love a captive audience. It’s the only way they get attention.

Did you know that the Gideons pass out their New Testaments in different colors depending on the audience? Colleges get green bindings. I had no idea until today that the Gideon Bible covers were the hanky code of evangelical Christians.

The Gideons and other religious groups may not pass out their literature and Bibles on public school campuses attended by minors. They get around this by standing just off campus, or by lobbing Bibles through the open windows of school buses. I kid you not. But college campuses are different.

Here’s what FFRF says about the Gideons on college campuses:

Generally, so long as the Gideons are on sidewalks and public walkways, they may hand out bibles on public college campuses. So if this happens on your campus, check with your Dean of Students’ office or the the college website on policies regulating nonstudent activity on campus. If such activity violates campus regulations or permits are required, report the incident promptly to the appropriate authorities.

I don’t see anything wrong with complaining about harassment from them, or complaining about them blocking a sidewalk, or complaining about feeling intimidated by them.

A creative, activist sort of thing to do when the Gideons visit is to get lots of copies of their Bibles. They’re handing them out for free, so greedily accept them. Go a step further: enthusiastically ask the Gideons if you can help. Then put warning stickers on every Bible you touch, and redistribute them to your classmates. Zazzle sells several of these stickers, and it’s always possible to print your own what with a pack of labels and the miracles of modern science and all. If the Gideons get wise to you, just stop the recipients of their largess after they’ve accepted their individual Bibles, and ask to see what they got. When the unsuspecting person hands you their new Gideon Bible, slap a sticker on it and hand it back.

 

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Got a legal question? Email me at anne@aramink.com. I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. You can see my regular blog at www.aramink.com, where I write book reviews, ruminate on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and occasionally – frequently – rant about Stuff.

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About Anne

Civil rights activist Anne Orsi is one of the spokespeople for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and is the primary organizer of Reason in the Rock, a conference on science, secularism and skepticism. Got a question? Email her at anne@aramink.com. She's a lawyer but may not be licensed in your state. Sending her an email or reading her blog posts does not create an attorney-client relationship. Find Anne on Twitter as @aramink, and read her regular blog at www.aramink.com.


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