Bible Distribution Allowed Inside Texas Public School District May 17, 2009

Bible Distribution Allowed Inside Texas Public School District

The Frisco Independent School District in Texas allows Gideon volunteers to distribute Bibles to schoolchildren:

The district permits free Bibles to be put out for students; but there’s a fine line between non-school literature that’s “put out” and “given out.”

Gideon volunteers have visited both her children’s campuses with Bibles in tow. It’s part of the Frisco ISD’s rotating schedule that permits the religious group in some schools for one day.

The Gideons once handed out their Bibles along a public sidewalk in Frisco, but after too many parent complaints to the police department and the school, the district decided to move things inside. School officials said it’s the only way to control the situation.

The district admits that it has had to remind representatives of the Gideons to not approach children; that’s the only way the volunteers are allowed in schools.

They were troublesome outside… so they let them into the schools?! How does that make any sense?

There’s a simple way to combat this, of course. Get volunteers to “put out” copies of atheist literature. Let’s bring the Koran, too, while we’re at it. Hell, get them all there the same day as the Christians and let’s have a free-for-all.

Here’s the other thing I found disturbing. On the WFAA-TV website where this story appeared, it opened with this picture and caption:


Can you identify which mother opposes the Bible distribution and which mother supports it?

I took an educated guess before reading the article. Turns out I was right. I imagine most of you will be, too…

What’s up with that?

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  • Sock

    Isn’t the stereotype that blondes are dumb? Makes sense to me!

  • lamb

    Sock <2

    I was born and raised in Ontario, Canada and this didn’t surprise me at all. The Gideons did something similar in my school about 15 years ago. They sent out little ‘order forms’ with students and for a nominal fee parents could buy tiny red New Testaments for their children. My dad got one for me but never told me to read it, it was just there if I wanted it – and I still have it, almost untouched.

    I don’t agree with them handing these out in schools and would prefer if no religious or anti-religious texts were handed out at all (I can just imagine Scientologists wanting their own turn, ugh).

    That said, I’m really not worried about the kids themselves. As with all books, kids that want to read them will and kids that don’t want to read them won’t. It lacks the excitement of Harry Potter and The Golden Compass so I don’t imagine many will want to tough it out for summer reading.

  • Rob

    She’s got the crazy eyes.

  • I guessed wrong. But then I’m english & perhaps not so finely attuned to american stereotypes. ( I’m not sure “stereotypes’ is quite the right word, but I’m sure you know what i mean)

  • Cypress Green

    Is everyone really sure that’s not actually Ann Coulter?

  • My guess was wrong too (and I too am English). Perhaps I was being too analytical – the pic of Debbie Lutz shows her wearing a necklace or pendant (which I guessed might be a crucifix).

    But on reflection perhaps I should have paid more attention to the editor’s choice of photos of these two women – one is a relatively unflattering picture of someone obviously not happy about something, the other is a well-lit portrait of someone who maybe stern, but is shown in command of herself.

    Hemant, were you raising a question about media bias?

  • I guessed correctly. I based my guess upon the assumption that a person with Christian beliefs is likely to have patriarchal ideas, and that a woman with those beliefs would be more likely to value her physical appearance and so wear make up and style their hair.

    How did you guys get it right?

  • Oh, and I’m Australian.

  • Claudia

    I got it right. I based it on the stereotypes. “All-American” with the blond hair perfectly styled into the leave it to beaver housewife, it had to be the über-Christian. She’s also tight lipped and has a look of barely repressed anger, which I closely associate with religious fundamentalists of all stripes. The other mom with the sunglasses, black t-shirt and vaguely heavy-metal look (in the photo at least) was the “counterculture” stereotype and hence much more likely to be the atheist.

    Though maybe somewhat annoying, it’s understandable that media does this. Media are not so much corrupt as lazy, and using people who are “central casting” in their roles makes the story easier to write and read. Though assumptions are bound to be wrong sooner rather than later, the fact is that most people, including most (American) atheists would guess that way instead of the opposite way. Stereotypes tend to be based on some truth, the danger is relying on them for everything.

  • mkb

    Okay, I’d be willing to travel to the Dallas/Fort Worth area next school year to hand out copies of The God Delusion at schools. The problem might be their policy of not permitting books that attack “religious groups.” Does a book that attacks God attack religious groups? Seriously we ought to write the school system and ask which days will be our assigned days for book distribution in each of the schools that receives a visit from the Gideons. Actually this sounds like a perfect project for a Dallas based SSA — say UNT?

  • Ha, I was right too. I think it’s the expressions on their respective faces. And as someone mentioned, the religious lady’s resemblance to Ann Coulter. As to her argument “it’s not like their teaching it” – how would she have reacted to a religious group handing out the Koran? Would she still be so “open minded”? I doubt it. It’s sad how people can’t see the other side of things.

  • tgr

    I cannot imagine a child being manupilated from reading the Bible (actually, I cannot imagine a child reading the Bible, unless being beaten with a rod). Have you tried to read the thing? It’s difficultly worded, and (for the most part) incredibly boring. Not something you’d need to defend your children from.

    On the other hand, saying that the Bible “doesn’t attack ethnic, religious, or racial groups” is somewhat deluded. Half the Old Testament is about God ordering non-Jews to be slaughtered.

  • In England my children were all given Gideon bibles during school assembly. I didn’t even know about it till weeks later. It turns out that they just threw them in the bin after school. They have no interest in such nonsense and neither do most of their friends. I do wish they wouldn’t have their educational time wasted by Christians though.

  • Cafeeine

    If they are getting bibles into schools like this, can’t we counter it with offering annotated versions of bibles and Korans with all the really interesting stuff pointed out, possibly illustrated? Its not like they can object to that.

  • I propose we fund distribution of alternative books… say Smith’s Atheism: The Case Against God or something by Dawkins.

    I wonder what the fervor would be like.

  • Cindy

    Frisco is only about 20 miles away from me. Maybe I should take some flyers for the atheist summer camp over?
    I guessed the pictures right as well….Claudia voiced my reasoning in her post. Living in Texas, I see the bleached blonde “perfect” woman everywhere. Doesn’t she look she has a stick up her….?

  • Skeptimal

    I have to disagree on a couple of points. I don’t think it’s up to reporters to fix hair and makeup for subjects of a story. The only control they may have had was that they interviewed one person outside and the other inside. I don’t think this was done on purpose.

    I also don’t think the distribution of Bibles is a bad thing. If more people read the Bible, fewer would believe it is an inerrant document. The problem with the Gideon Bibles is that, as I recall, they only include Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament, leaving out the Old Testament, which many believers find uncomfortable to read.

    I agree that the presence of the Gideons is preferential treatment to one group, but the Bible itself is a fascinating historic document that, taken by itself, would not encourage anyone to join any of the Abrahamic faiths.

  • Tyson

    I guessed wrong… how did you come to your conclusion and guess correctly? I reasoned that the woman on the left had a gold chain around her neck, and that because there was a gold chain, there existed the possibility that on the gold chain was a cross.

  • Will

    This story just makes me upset and in my own backyard.

  • Even if the person against the bible in school is wearing a necklace with a cross…so what? Let’s HOPE she’s a christian who realizes that the bible doesn’t belong in the school. If she’s an atheist, people are going to go to the “well she just hates religion and it wouldn’t matter WHERE the bible was being handed out”. If she’s a believer and is STILL against this….she holds more credibility to the other christians. Especially here. I’m 15 miles from Frisco, getting ready to teach in this state, and crap like this scares me.

    /waves Hi!! to Cindy

  • In my life experience, I have not seen a strong correlation between “the cover” and “the contents” whether applied to books or people.

  • Ron in Houston

    Hey, can some of you folks move here so we can take back this state from the rednecks?

    I spend most days shaking my head at the general level of ignorance in my state.

  • Sandra

    How about some of you who are close to the school taking some ‘Good Books’ from the church of the FSM… surely they would be more fun for the kids to read. 😀
    Also, IF the school refuses you have a news worthy story about bias.

  • I don’t see how anyone can conclude which woman is which based on appearance. Are we actually buying into the blonde=stupid stereotype now? I thought atheists were supposed to be too “rational” for that kind of thinking.

  • Milena, it’s not that. It’s just that the pro-bible lady has a nice picture and looks cool and composed. While the anti- lady looks ragged, tired and a little pissed off.

  • Will

    Did they say which day they were handing out bibles? I would love to dress like a pirate or would that look creepy to a bunch of middle school high school kids?

    I like Cindy’s idea of Atheist summer camp flyers. If it can be thursday I might be able to do it.

  • Wendy,

    I dunno, she looks fine to me.

  • Wow, I was right about which was the witch! For me it was the “I haven’t smiled in 20 years” look on blondies face. She looks like she’s in dire need of a good bowel movement.

  • rbray18

    thinking bout it,the blond does kinda look like a terminator from the movie/t.v. series franchise.

  • Brian C Posey

    The WFAA article states:

    District policy says non-school literature is allowed as long as it doesn’t “attack ethnic, religious, or racial groups.”

    They obviously haven’t read the bible.

  • I was right too! But my guess was because one of them looked like Ann Coulter.

    If someone were to hand mi kid a bible, I’d say, sure, take it, bring it home and we’ll save some wood for the chimney.

  • There’s a simple way to combat this, of course. Get volunteers to “put out” copies of atheist literature. Let’s bring the Koran, too, while we’re at it. Hell, get them all there the same day as the Christians and let’s have a free-for-all.

    That’s the solution I’ve suggested more than once. Christians always want to be able to shove their stuff on children, but they soil themselves at the thought that someone else might give out anything–be it a book or a mere flyer. They want utter control and singular freedom in the situation. So to shut down garbage like this take full advantage of the law by distributing just the sorts of things that would drive them nuts. Since the law can’t say only Christian literature can be distributed they’ll have only two choices–deal with it or make everybody stop.

  • I emailed the author of the story to see if she knew if Frisco ISD would allow other groups.

    Her reply:

    “The district says it will consider any group that is NON PROFIT to come in schools as long as it abides by the rest of the policies as well….(like doesn’t promote hate, isn’t racial, etc…)”

    how about some nice friendly FSM literature? I could hang outside a school.

  • Div

    There was simply something fanatical about her eyes. Like she was so sure and covinced, I’ve seen that look before, a look that says “I know I’m right”. Not in a good way though, it screams of a crazy person who knows she’s right (when she’s really not).

    So yeah, called it.

  • Cypress Green

    Skeptimal says:
    I also don’t think the distribution of Bibles is a bad thing. If more people read the Bible, fewer would believe it is an inerrant document.

    I understand your point, but the problem is that it’s very presence adds to the ‘christian cultural saturation’ that surrounds us daily. I don’t want my son getting it and assuming it’s an endorsement. Especially since no one else passes stuff out. To a child that says it’s important to the adults in their authority.

  • llewelly

    (actually, I cannot imagine a child reading the Bible, unless being beaten with a rod)

    I finished the bible for the first time when I was 10.

  • llewelly

    Stereotypes tend to be based on some truth …

    There is no evidence that ‘stereotypes tend to be based on some truth’ .

  • TXatheist

    I couldn’t guess to which was the atheist and which was in support of public school bible distribution. I do LOVE the idea that some of my fellow Texans are willing and wanting to distribute atheist material. FFRF has some wonderful tracts.

  • Ngeil

    I guessed wrong. The person on the right seemed to be exposed to unfavorable lighting, while the other one is under positively associated blue sky.

  • TXatheist

    “THE good book”…so much for objective journalism in Texas.

  • TXatheist

    I’ve emailed sslater to see whom the spokesperson is for frisco ISD that says it’s ok to distribute bibles. I’d like to see how one goes about distributing FFRF tracts and if they’d allow that

  • The woman on the right looked like an angry Mom. The woman on the left looked like a deer-in-the-headlights fundie, to me. So, I don’t think it was obvious unless you have a bias that fundies always have to look angry and have pursed lips. Hell, that’s the way I look half the time! 😉 I actually had no desire to prejudge either based on a photo, but I enjoy a challenge, and I lost. Maybe I should move to England?

  • Siamang

    I got it right too.

    For me it had to do with the woman on the right looking angry in that way of “I’m right, no other opinions need apply” attitude that frightens me.

    Seriously, I made my guess based on who looked more angry and hostile.

  • it was the eyes for me.

  • Claudia

    There is no evidence that ’stereotypes tend to be based on some truth’ .

    Stereotypes tend to be based on a gross exaggeration of a given group, a caricature. Though not always always the case and almost inavariably a bad way of judging people, they prosper precisely because people see a kernel of truth in them.
    Men are stereotypically obsessed with sex. Of course not all men are obsessed with sex, but it seems pretty obvious that males are more likely than females to express avid interest in the subject. On the flip side, women are stereotypically chattermouths. Not all women are, naturally enough, but as a general rule, women do enjoy talking more (and yes, this has been demonstrated). Of course stereotypes are often a severe twisting of the core causes of certain characteristics. I could easily imagine the “blacks are lazy” stereotype arising from high black unemployment due precisely to racism preventing their hiring.
    Stereotypes are usually born from a very simplified model of a person, race, religion, culture etc., however unfair or self-serving. Hell, even cats and dogs have stereotypes attached. That they are a bad way to judge people does not mean that they are, as a rule, entirely made up and not based in any reality.

  • TXatheist

    Got an answer from S Slater…Shauna Mckay-Wortham is the school district spokeswoman

  • TXatheist

    It appears we have a chance for our distribution of materials…

    If you would like to send me a copy of the tract, I would be glad to review it and then discuss distributing it by providing copies for display/pick-up.

    Thank you.

    Shana Wortham

    FISD Communications

    Subject: FW: bible distribution

    Ms. Wortham,
    As a concerned parent I would like to know how we go about getting equal time for distribution of materials related to our religious views. I am a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and think the following tract is objective to religion and to our legal system. Can you direct me on how we get equal time to distribute this pamphlet?

    Thank you,

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