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Austin Cline

Weekly Poll: Should Christians Distribute Free Bibles in Public Schools?

By June 20, 2013

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Some Christian groups would like to use public schools to distribute their religious material. The Gideons are the best known example of this and they have been distributing Bibles in public schools for decades, though more and more schools are ending this unique relationship. Sometimes this change is due to a recognition of the untenable legal position and sometimes it's only after people complain -- even Christians, in some cases. Should schools allow this sort of relationship exist with religious groups or should it be prohibited?

Many Christians seem to think that the absence of overt force means that some behavior is constitutional, and therefore it's constitutional for religious groups to come in and offer their religious material to students. This is not correct; schools may not be threatening to punish students who don't take Bibles and they may not be offering any positive inducements as rewards, but they are giving the impression of supporting the Gideons by giving them a place of privilege unavailable to anyone else The state has no legitimate authority to communicate in any way that the Gideons or the Bibles are favored, supported, or encouraged.

Once a school admits that they are promoting particular religions, religious beliefs, or religious scriptures, they are admitting that their behavior is illegal. Still, some Christians object that they are suddenly expected to handle evangelization without support from the state. Why would anyone protest the fact that they and their religious organizations must shoulder the full burden of proselytization... unless they fear that without state support, they won't get very far? This is the fear that one's beliefs can't stand on their own in equal competition against alternatives. People who want the state to tip the scales in their favor are admitting their own doubts and insecurities.

Can you imagine the outcry if a freethought group even requested permission to distribute Freethought literature in public schools, much less were allowed to? What if communists asked to distribute the Communist Manifesto? What if Muslims asked to distribute copies of the Qur'an or a biography of Muhammad? Yet so many see absolutely no problem with Gideons distributing Bibles in the same manner. In fact, this points to a great tactic to use against such misuse of government power: insist on being allowed to distribute freethought, atheist, or communist material on the same basis as Christian material is distributed. It's cheaper than a lawsuit and will probably end the unconstitutional policy much faster.

Comments
June 20, 2006 at 11:18 am
(1) Konchog Norbu says:

Buddhist!

June 20, 2006 at 11:49 am
(2) Konchog Norbu says:

Buddhism generally doesn’t practice missionary work which is an insult to other people’s beliefs and minding of other people’s business. And generally missionary efforts are not altruistic but require an exchange of belief for food, sometimes in the East known as becoming a “rice christian”.

Buddhism is a rational practice and not a faith. We strive to generate love (wishing happiness for ALL beings), compassion (wishing freedom from suffering and sorrow for ALL beings, wisdom (seeing things as they really are), equanimity (believing in the equality of all that live), interdependence of everything, believing in impermanence, and don’t believe in the theory of a creator god.

We practice non-harming.

Now that there is an attempt by god-believers to influence our children and our country, it may be time for us to distribute books dealing with the teachings of the Compassionate One, Buddha. We could have access to millions of copies which are printed for free in China.

If you seek to know more about Buddhism, I sugest that you choose a Buddhist author. Often, there are those who distort the teachings of the Buddha because they have an agenda or because they are unable to understand the use of metaphores and the kind of disciple required to come to self-understanding.

But wouldn’t it be better for all of us to be more secure in our beliefs and practices so that we wouldn’t feel the need to FORCE conformity?

February 12, 2009 at 8:48 am
(3) keoni says:

Austin,
For the choice of “No” in your survey, you left out the word “not.” That is, “No, schools should NOT be getting invoved with . . .”

February 12, 2009 at 9:07 am
(4) Austin Cline says:

Thanks for pointing that out, keoni.

February 12, 2009 at 10:05 am
(5) DotDot says:

Communist Manifesto schools do distribute this stuff.most of the schools do push socialist agendas to children. public schools are indoctrination centers. they have been doing this for many many years. They don’t give A child A chance to choose for them self if they want to believe in evolution or creationism. it’s required that they have to sit in A class room and listen to this stuff. But they are not given A choice to go to A creationist class. There is no choice. Just like A socialist you believe in what I tell you or you wont graduate. it’s not fair school are just big socialist camp grounds. No choice for you, we chose what you will believe in. its sickening!!

February 12, 2009 at 10:53 am
(6) Austin Cline says:

Communist Manifesto schools do distribute this stuff.

Oh? Please cite examples, please.

most of the schools do push socialist agendas to children.

Examples?

They donít give A child A chance to choose for them self if they want to believe in evolution or creationism.

Rather like they don’t give a child a chance to choose between astronomy and astrology?

itís required that they have to sit in A class room and listen to this stuff.

You mean, facts?

But they are not given A choice to go to A creationist class.

Rather like they aren’t given a chance to go to astrology classes.

Just like A socialist you believe in what I tell you or you wont graduate.

So when churches teach “believe in what we tell you or you won’t go to heaven,” they are being good socialists?

February 12, 2009 at 12:41 pm
(7) blackmetalworkshop says:

where exactly is this happening??? My wife taught in what i believed to be the most christian town in florida and while there were a couple of instances of outragous disregaurd of the law, they certainly didn’t allow somthing like this that would give people physical proof to take to court. You say “Some Christian groups would like to use public schools to distribute their religious material.” yes thats true, in fact i can’t think of one who would not, but i have to ask where you are getting this information that this is actualy happening?

February 12, 2009 at 1:07 pm
(8) CrypticLife says:

BMW,

It happens regularly; the Gideons and school districts are sued frequently for this kind of behavior. Last year I believe it occurred in Louisiana and Colorado.

February 12, 2009 at 1:19 pm
(9) Austin Cline says:

where exactly is this happening???

Just do a search here on this site or on Google for “Gideons” and “schools”.

February 12, 2009 at 1:23 pm
(10) blackmetalworkshop says:

Yes i see that now, I’m digging around and finding some interesting articals, but i am having to dig deep. which proves how hush-hush this is.It seems to be happening when the nations “back” is turned, which turns my stomach. and one school in americus GA was stopped in 2007 after having offered pocket sized psalms on a shelf in the front office since 1974! wow…pathetic.

February 12, 2009 at 2:43 pm
(11) Indigo says:

I grew up on the Canadian West Coast, one of the least religious areas of a not-terribly-religious country, and while they were never actually inside the school, I remember that once a year the Gideons would roll up outside my middle school and hand out Bibles there. It may be that in more religious areas, organisations are less interested in simply handing out Bibles because they know more people already have them.

February 12, 2009 at 3:54 pm
(12) Ol'Froth says:

I wouldn’t object, so long as the distributers wouldn’t object to me eating their holy book, or (as I did when the Gideons were at my college) depositing it in the trash.

February 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm
(13) The Sojourner says:

It occurs to me that there seems to be a die-hard core of about 33% that are always against anything progressive, secular or non-religious. This is about the same percentage in political opinion,approval of the more liberal views and the current president’s policies.

I think this is probably the percentage of fundies,strict Catholics, and other bible thumping theists of the most conservative ilk. They abhor anything that isn’t in their dogmas, and think everyone else is wrong. they insist on spreading their poisonous beliefs to the whole world. Can you guess, I despise the “missionary” mentality?

February 13, 2009 at 4:03 pm
(14) Zayla says:

Point me to one of the schools and I will have no problem approaching them to distrube freethinking literature.

I live in the Northeast which is not a hotbed for this type of thing, but I’m serious. Give me a place and the literature and I’m on my way. Let me know on here and I’ll give you my email.

February 14, 2009 at 6:25 pm
(15) Joan says:

DotDot:
Children DO have a choice. They can go to Christian schools and get all of the creation their little hearts desire. Public funded schools should abide by the Constitution and keep state and religion separate.

February 15, 2009 at 8:24 pm
(16) keoni says:

While I do not know the dates and places the Gideons pass out their bibles, I will share this from Wikapedia:

In addition to their well-known hotel-room Bibles, the Gideons also distribute New Testaments to members of the military of various countries, to hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and also to students. The covers of their New Testaments are color coded based on which groups they’re meant for:

Orange: for sidewalk distribution to middle/high school students
Green: College/University students
Red: for in-school distribution to Middle/High school students
Digital Camouflage/Desert Camouflage: Military
Dark blue: Law Enforcement Personnel/Firefighters/EMTs

February 17, 2009 at 9:00 pm
(17) Elphada says:

Well, DotDot. I think Creationism belongs in Sunday School and not public school. If Creationism does happen to make it in public schools the church should lose the tax exempt status they are allowed. The extra money may actually help social programs and will accomplish more rather than giving out ‘free’ bibles. You cannot eat or wear them and hospitals do not accept the KJV for pay. Plus, a reputable scientist (not that moron Hovind) will be allowed to teach Evolution at your church. I’m Pagan FYI.

February 17, 2009 at 11:00 pm
(18) MPW says:

DotDot: “They donít give A child A chance to choose for them self if they want to believe in evolution or creationism.”

Oh, baloney. You’re entitled to believe whatever you want, but in a science class, you have to know and understand what scientists say about subjects. Whether you ultimately accept it or not is your own business. Any evidence of kids being tortured and forcibly brainwashed, rather than just being presented with reading material and lectures?

Besides, unfortunately, a lot of public schools avoid evolution, or even teach against it, given what a political and religious hot potato the subject is, and how many parents and so-called “educators” are ignorant about it.

March 9, 2009 at 7:14 pm
(19) kngdavid1 says:

I see nothing wrong with handing out any of that material. Schools don’t raise children parents do. Not only that, the child has to chose to read the Bible. As a teenager I grew up in CHURCH!, but I hardly ever read any bible or religious booklets people gave me growing up. Read “Matthew 13″ the soil is understandingI didn’t even care to much. I was focused on Sex, sports, music, and money.
BUT when a Godly seed is planted and the child understands God will make sure they come back when they go astray and they will go astray because how else will a person have relate to you no matter how much Bible he knows about crack or sex if they have never even grazed those environments…that’s why the bible says… 1 Cor 1:26-29

June 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm
(20) Faustinah says:

No…they should not be able to distribute the bible to children. The bible is full of rape, incest, misogyny, murder, slavery, genocide, infanticide, etc. Its, by far, one of the most evil books around. And to attempt to indoctrinate innocent young minds to this disgusting mythology is just sick and wrong.

June 20, 2013 at 4:06 pm
(21) ORAXX says:

There are upwards of 300,000 churches in America and a staggering amount of private property that could be used to distribute bibles. And yet….evangelicals keep trying to force their religion into the public schools. If some group was trying to distribute the koran in the schools, the bible folks, would be going out of their tiny little minds.

June 21, 2013 at 5:59 pm
(22) deb says:

Elphada, it may be a typo, but it is NOT true that any reputable scientist will EVER be allowed to teach evolution in any fundie church! And most SBC churches have yearly emphases for the Gideons to come and preach. On those Sundays, there is always a plea for money to place Bibles in hotels, as well as in schools. They ask the members to pray for special access to the schools, knowing that the secular society makes it SO hard for god’s word to get into children’s hands, like it used to be all the time when I was young. In fact, I can remember getting one in 5th grade. I hope this wouldn’t be possible now, but here in the bible belt, so many people decry the fact that the world isn’t religious/Christina like it was when they were young. It makes me sick, because they speak about it like it was “what must be done to save society”. The church thinks everyone MUST come to see and accept things the way they see them, but they just can’t understand what most of us feel–people just don’t believe that stuff anymore, and the Gideons try to get all this money for all these bibles–WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!

June 21, 2013 at 7:55 pm
(23) Brian says:

Separation of church and state means separation of church and state. Just the thought of people passing out bibles in schools makes me ill. We don’t need to be teaching our kids archaic dogma and primitive superstition. They need better science education to cope with the increasingly screwed up world that we’re leaving to them.

June 22, 2013 at 11:31 am
(24) maria says:

In response to DotDot, even if what you are saying is accurate, socialism is not a religion

June 23, 2013 at 1:18 pm
(25) Gerald Vanderhoff says:

I’m sure the Bible says something, kngdavid1. (It’s a little hard to understand exactly what you’re saying. Perhaps if you’d been handed a pamphlet on syntax,… )

Of course, the Bible also says that bats are birds, that insects have only four legs, and that hares chew cud, so I don’t know if we should take it as seriously as you seem to do.

October 31, 2013 at 1:05 pm
(26) Eric says:

Impressive amount of hate on here. I wish I had the option of not listening to a God hating professor in college like I have the option of saying “no thanks” to a Gideon.

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