In September of 2012, representatives from Gideons International came to White Elementary School in Georgia during the school day and distributed bibles to students who wanted them. The principal even announced the distribution to students.
All of this is illegal and the Freedom From Religion Foundation said as much to Superintendent John F. Harper of the Bartow County School System, and he assured them it would never happen again. More importantly, he said:
… “any future practice will be reviewed carefully” and that “No principal, teacher or any other school official will encourage a student in Bartow County School System to accept a Gideon Bible in the future.”
You know why I’m bringing this up.
It turns out the Gideons were back inside the school district last week:
It is our information and understanding that on Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 1:00 pm, Gideons International representatives distributed bibles to students at Cloverleaf Elementary during the school day. We understand that teachers announced the bible distribution and sorted their students into those wanting bibles and others. In our complainants class, only one child (not our complainant’s) refused to take a bible. She, as one of the “others,” was teased and ostracized and forced to defend herself by saying the she “believed in God, but it is in a different way.” The teacher then walked the students to the library, and, leading by example, took a bible from the adult male that set up shop in the public elementary school library.
In another letter to Dr. Harper, FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel explained how the Gideons work:
The Gideons operate by deliberately avoiding superintendents and school boards. They advise their members to seek permission at the lowest level of authority. Usually, they target teachers and principals. The Gideons interal policies state that under no circumstances are the local Gideon groups permitted to ask for a legal opinion from the state or school district — and with good reason, because the law clearly prohibits bible distributions in public schools.
The Gideons can’t play by the rules, so they circumvent the law by going to people who don’t know any better. That way, they can put on a surprised face when confronted by people who do. On top of that, keep in mind they’re targeting children who, due to peer pressure, will almost always take a Bible just to fit in.
By the way, when Jessica Greene, the mother who brought all of this to FFRF’s attention, raised her concerns on the school’s Facebook page, the responses were just absurd:
“Some of the last comments I got before it was taken down from the page were “You’re out numbered here,” she said.
As if that’s a reason to allow religion to run rampant.
It’s despicable. And it’s just the sort of thing you expect Christian groups like the Gideons to do.
The question now is whether any local Christian leaders will have the guts to admit the Gideons are wrong.
If not, I’m guessing The Satanic Temple has a coloring book those children might want to get their hands on…
(Image via Shutterstock)