If a church group donates backpacks full of school supplies to a local district to give to students, the obvious thing to do would be to check what’s inside. Why would anyone trust a religious group to just be generous? How gullible do you have to be to think Christians are trying to help children without also seeking new recruits?
They didn’t do that at Graysville Elementary School in Ringgold, Georgia, and wouldn’t you know it, mixed in with the supplies were bibles. Specifically, a version that the publisher describes as “perfect for evangelism and outreach.” There was also a note from the Catoosa Baptist Association urging kids to join their churches.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is now warning the school to do more due diligence with donated goods before functioning as middlemen for church groups.
“You can imagine the outrage if there were Qurans being given away to every student with an invitation to go to a Muslim church. You can see how the community would probably feel differently than it may about the Bibles.” said Chris Line, a staff attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Line says regardless of the school’s intentions, public educators are responsible for making sure separation of church and state exists for students.
“I mean, if they if there were weapons in the backpacks, and the school wasn’t aware, the school would still be liable for helping distribute those,” said Line.
“You can’t plead ignorance as an excuse when you violate the law, doesn’t matter what law it is, whether it be the Establishment Clause or a criminal statute, you can’t just say, ‘Oh, I wasn’t aware,'” said Line.
Line said that because the school is, in fact, pleading ignorance here, saying they were unaware of the contents inside the bags. But they are also promising to never let such a thing happen again. So at least district officials aren’t defending the Bible giveaway. But it’s hard to believe no one involved in the distribution had any clue what was happening.
If a church offers to give you something for free, the assumption should always be that it’s trying to get something in return. The onus is on them to prove otherwise.
For its part, the Catoosa Baptist Association says it’s being doing these giveaways for a decade, but the district said it was unaware of any Bible distributions until now. It’s possible that’s because no parents complained — or the ones who wanted to didn’t feel safe saying anything. That doesn’t make it acceptable, though.
By the way, the local ABC affiliate which did a segment on the debacle opened with this line: “What started as a good deed ended up creating controversy at a Catoosa County elementary school.”
That’s a lie. This wasn’t a good deed. This was a recruitment effort targeting children disguised as a good deed, but the people at NewsChannel9 fell for the church’s spin.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)