Out of the Hotels and Into the Classrooms November 20, 2007

Out of the Hotels and Into the Classrooms

Just when you thought Gideon Bibles were going away, they re-emerged in a North Carolina classroom:

Geri Weaver, the mother of a student at E.E. Miller Elementary School in Fayetteville, notified the American Civil Liberties Union after a stack of New Testaments were made available in her son’s classroom on Nov. 9.

The books have the imprint of the Gideons, an international group known for placing Bibles in hotel rooms, but it was unclear whether a school employee or outside organization placed them in the classroom.

Apparently “current law allows the distribution of religious tracts in public schools only to high school students and even that is subject to certain requirements.”

After you read the full story, check out the comments. They’re quite scary.

No need to reprint all the threatening, judgmental, I’d-be-scared-to-live-in-North Carolina postings, but they do give a glimpse as to how reactionary certain people could be.

You know the same people would be in an uproar if it was the Koran that was being distributed…

(Thanks to Kate for the link!)

[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, Bible[/tags]

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  • Why are people so afraid of the Bible?

  • monkeymind

    Why are people so afraid of actually putting the non-establishment clause of the Constitution into practice?

  • Darryl

    You know, if rather than being afraid of it they actually started teaching the Bible in schools here in the U.S. kids would understand right away how nutty the damn thing is and we’d speed up our secularization process. When I was a high schooler you could study the Bible as literature. I don’t recall anybody getting converted by the class. Knowledge of the Bible is deadly to faith.

  • Stephen

    Why are people so afraid of the Bible?

    Nobody’s afraid of it. It’s not appropriate to be handing it out in a school setting. Naturally, like Darryl said, teaching it as literature is fine in school, but that’s not what was happening.

    Hemant brings up a good (if obvious) point; unless these Christians can honestly say they’d be A-OK with Muslims handing out Korans to their children at school, they have no right whatsoever to defend this.

  • there are several terrifying, yet common themes that kept popping up in the comments:
    1) the complete non sequitur argument that Prayer out of public schools = the reason guns and drugs are prevalent. Even if it wasn’t an a priori falsehood, it’s still a Post Hoc, Ergo, Propter Hoc fallacy. “A happened, B followed, therefore A caused B.” Bull.

    2)America is a Christian theocracy and if you don’t like it, leave.

    3)Geri Weaver just wanted to right a wrong and value the establishment clause, and she is VILIFIED.

    4) The context of the peacemakers in the thread is for the most part, misguided. “The non-believers are just as much fundies as the people threatening Weaver” Some of them claim it to be about providing equal information. About Books. Allow the Bible, and other texts as purely historical. Well the Koran, Talmud, and Bhagavad Gita could be considered equally historical. But really, in North Carolina, in THIS community, in this American Context, would we really blindly just assume and trust teachers to provide these materials and NOT be preferential to the Bible? In this context, if the instructors were to be unbiased, wouldn’t many of the parents and commentors on this article be outraged that equivocating the Bible with these and other religious texts constitutes a grave denigration of Christianity?

    I just see the all-inclusive option as a pretext for prosetylization in the worst way. In a way, it can be compared to equal time laws for TV with political candidates. Every candidate gets their fair share of time allotment, however, the MSM can and does construct a media narrative and a conventional wisdom that is preferential and often flies in the face of truth, but the narrative is so permeating and dominant that it sinks into the memory of the collective audience and then cements as believed history.

    Just my thoughts,
    Oh yeah, and Forget ever moving to NC! (and I thought Nebraska was full of ‘necks, pshaw!)


  • after a stack of New Testaments were made available in her son’s classroom on

    Stephen: no where does it say in the above quote that they were being handed out.

    As a Christian I would not be afraid of the Koran being available in my child’s school library. Having Muslim’s handing out the Koran might upset me, but then I wouldn’t want Christians handing out the Bible either.

    The Bible has the power to be a great source of inspiration and comfort, but also has the potential to be misused – as it has on countless occasions – but in the hands of a child it has as much power as that child’s parents are willing to give it.

    A Bible (or a stack of them) or the Koran in our schools is nothing to be scared of.

  • Erik

    Knowledge of the Bible is deadly to faith.

    As a christian who has read the entire Bible, I’ll have to go ahead and disagree with you there. Knowledge of the Bible is crucial to preventing STUPID faith, because if you ask most fundies if they have read the entire Bible they will say no…they’ve read the important parts (ie. what their pastor told them was important) and the rest is just details. So if anything, I think a more thorough understanding of the Bible and it’s times would contribute to less fundies, but not necessarily less Christians.

    As a North Carolinian, I’m not suprised by this article but please don’t assume we’re all like this. There’s a huge disconnect between the urban and rural areas of North Carolina and the Fayetteville area is predominately rural and military. Charlotte and the Raleigh-Durham area especially are well educated (we have the highest number of PhDs per capita than anywhere else in the country). That isn’t to say that we’re not still in the Bible Belt, but there would have been no confusion about if it were legal or not here.

    BTW, if this were a high school then it would be completely legal. Case law says that religious texts may be distributed to high school students only.

  • stogoe

    I wouldn’t want Christians handing out the Bible either.

    But that’s what they were doing in this case. QED. Pwned. Strike three,. you’re out!

  • Reading comments like these makes me wonder if everyone who responds, “You poor lost soul, I’ll pray for you” really make that effort or if they are doing that to sound so sympathetic and pure.

  • Headache

    I live in NC and I enjoy your blog. Not everyone in this state is like that. Like any state, some areas are more liberal than others.

  • Joseph R.

    I live in NC(originally from TX) and this state definitely has its fair share of backwoods country bumpkins. That being said, I graduated from a university here and there are very many intelligent, rational people here as well. (My comment sounds as though I am defending NC, I am not. I have been here for 10 years and eagerly anticipate the day that my wife and I are able to leave.) Back to the original point, I hope that the separation of church and state becomes more clear in the future as our commander-in-chief leaves office in ’08. I have voted in the past and will continue to do so in the future in the hopes of placing less insane people in office(locally and nationally).

  • terri

    Chicken, I think the tv news story that followed this said the teacher reminded the students to take one on the way out; that’s awfully close to “handing out”.

    I grew up near Raleigh, NC and still live here; please DO NOT paint this state with the fundie brush! If you read all the posts (or just scan them, they’re pushing 800 at the moment), you’ll see a fairly regular counter-argument from several different people. Some are believers who understand the separation, and many are agnostics/atheists who are fighting the good fight. AT least a couple are very well read and argue beautifully. While I agree that religion is a big part of the culture here (and no, even I wouldn’t live in most small towns), the largest cities – Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Charlotte and a few others – have a rich, growing culture and population that is decidedly secular.

  • But that’s what they were doing in this case. QED. Pwned. Strike three,. you’re out!

    Stogoe; you’re starting to sound like a fundy Christian….

  • Dan Isaacs

    What Terri said.

    Please, read all the comments. Not just the moonbats. There are plenty of practicing Atheists here in NC. As with any state, the wingnuts get more vocal the farther out from the city you move, but the proportions are not substantially different from anywhere else I’ve lived.

    We’re among the leading areas for scientific research and engineering, and it’s not because we’re a bunch of bible thumpers. Vishnu may have some influence, however. 🙂

  • monkeymind

    SIRUMRN, there might be a small cross-section of fundies that are likely to use Latin, gaming slang, and a sports metaphor in the same sentence, but my guess is it’s pretty small.
    Though I think the unacknowledged belief that there is someone/something out there keeping score and that we are all going to get our final report cards someday is harder to shake than belief in God…

  • Steven Carr

    In Britain, religious education is compulsory for children.

    I was given a Bible, as all children were.

    I was very proud of it, as it was the first real book I owned.

  • Bad

    Knowledge of the Bible is crucial to preventing STUPID faith

    To be honest, I find people who have read the whole Bible and are still really psyched about the whole thing to be a lot scarier than folks who simply believe that its all hunky dory based on a brief scan and whatever they want to believe.

    And hey: didn’t the Gideons sort of cool off their hotel room campaigns? OR at least, hotels have sort of increasingly killed it off for them, is what I read.

  • Kate

    Hahaha – chill guys, I was the one who submitted the story. 🙂 Didn’t mean to paint NC as a hick-state…I lived in Raleigh for four years as an NCSU student, and now I’m in Durham at Duke…but just because I thought it was blog-relevant. I love it down here, and the more city-areas (especially the Triangle) aren’t as backwoods as some places. Just like ALL states.

  • Joseph R.

    Just to clarify, I know that there are many smart and reasonable people in NC. I live in a very small town in Eastern NC and am surrounded by fundamentalism, so if my view of NC seems a little skewed that is because it probably is.

  • Karen

    Knowledge of the Bible is crucial to preventing STUPID faith, because if you ask most fundies if they have read the entire Bible they will say no…they’ve read the important parts (ie. what their pastor told them was important) and the rest is just details.

    Not at all, at least not in my 30 years of experience in conservative evangelical and fundamentalist churches. The bible is worshipped in these places. It is read and studied and preached on and quoted constantly. Every churchgoer is strongly encouraged to have a daily “quiet time” where they read the bible and pray.

    The “one year bible” is a very popular book – it’s divided up into 365 passages so one can read the entire bible in a year. That’s an extremely popular idea and many, many people do read through the bible on an annual basis.

    You can say lots of things about them, but I would never say that fundies don’t know what’s in the bible. I have found it much more likely that moderate or liberal Christians are unfamiliar with the bible than are fundamentalist/evangelicals.

    The key to “stupid” faith is the fundamentalist interpretation of various bible verses and the insistance that the bible is inerrant and to be read literally.

  • terri

    I’m afraid I agree with the poster elcid89:
    “I think at this point in my life I’ve decided that it’s pretty much an all or nothing battle in which we can defend what we believe or we can lose it. As such, I’ve lost patience with trying to find a middle ground that I no longer believe exists where religion is concerned.”

    I don’t trust anyone to teach anything on religion in a public school, because so many have agendas and slants that they really believe in and can find “evidence” to support. Yet, if someone does try to teach religion objectively, they get harassed everywhere they go; it affects your entire life as the offended feel they should take every opportunity to spit in your face and make you miserable. I took a class on the first works of literature which included Genesis, strictly from a sociological/historical point of view, at a black college. About a quarter of the class walked out and dropped the class when they realized what this meant, and several others stuck with it but fully hated every minute. Everyone who values their religion or lack of it should be fighting hard, now, to keep religion and government separate – and not just in cyberspace. Financial support for those who bring legal cases, discussing the cases with friends and family, adding your voice of support to the defendants to balance the flood of hate mail, and getting involved with politics from the local level on up (both in letting candidates and elected officials know you opinions and in voting – keep the pressure on all year!) is the activism necessary to help us all stay free.

  • JeffN

    Stephen said,

    Hemant brings up a good (if obvious) point; unless these Christians can honestly say they’d be A-OK with Muslims handing out Korans to their children at school, they have no right whatsoever to defend this.

    I’m ok with healthy competition and would consider it a persons right to practice and share there religious beliefs with others or not to believe anything at all and share or not share there beliefs in nothing at all or pure science or whatever; which weather religious or not are a persons beliefs. That’s one thing i love about this country (America) is we have the right to believe anything we want or to believe in absolutely nothing at all. That free speech thing is pretty cool to. 🙂

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