Bible Distribution in Public Elementary School

Discussion in 'General Education' started by ESL_Teacher_CH, Feb 17, 2018.

  1. ESL_Teacher_CH

    ESL_Teacher_CH New Member

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    I am a substitute teacher at a public elementary school in Georgia. My son is also a student at this school. On Valentines Day, there were two men in the lobby passing out Bibles to 5th grade students. I was stunned. This is clearly unconstitutional and illegal. I don't imagine they would approve of my handing out the Qu'ran or Atheist/Humanist booklets.

    I spoke to the secretary at the school and was told it had been going on for years. When she pushed back on it, she was told by the administration that "they always had done it and always would do it." I don't know what to do. I don't want to jeopardize my career or hurt my son by publicly fighting this practice. But I cannot stand by and do nothing. Frankly, I'm not sure I even want to work in a school that thinks this is okay. Any advice??
     
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  3. JimG

    JimG Comrade

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    No it is not. The government cannot sponsor or forbid a religion. There is no law, as far as I know, that prohibits somebody not affiliated with the government to pass out religious doctrine on governmental property. Please direct me to the appropriate readings if I am incorrect (I’m being genuine, not trying to be a smart alec).
     
  4. JimG

    JimG Comrade

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    Do you actually have such books you wish to hand out? If so, have you asked them?
     
  5. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    you asked for advice. Here's mine. Read the Constitution before you attempt to quote it. Especially before you risk your job and your son's respect. And you make assumptions about Qu'ran distribution.
     
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  6. ESL_Teacher_CH

    ESL_Teacher_CH New Member

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    I am honestly surprised by these responses. Numerous court rulings have found this practice to be unconstitutional. I thought everyone would be as surprised as I was.

    I am trying to post links to more information, but it won't let me post my reply, so here is one from the ACLU that I copied:

    II. BIBLE DISTRIBUTION
    Earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that an Indiana school district's policy and practice permitting representatives of Gideon International to distribute Bibles in public schools during school hours violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. See Berger v. Rensselaer Central School Corp., 982 F.2d 1160 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 113 S.Ct. 2344 (1993).

    In Berger, the father of two elementary school children challenged the local school district's longstanding practice of allowing the Gideons to come into the public schools during instructional hours and distribute Bibles to fifth-grade students. Even t hough the teachers did not participate in handing out the Bibles to the students, and even though the Bibles were not used for pedagogical purposes, the Seventh Circuit held that the in-school Bible distribution was "a far more glaring offense to First Am endment principles" than the nonsectarian graduation prayer at issue in Lee. See Berger, 982 F.2d at 1169.

    A long line of Supreme Court precedents establish that it is impermissible for school officials to allow the machinery of the state to be used to gather an audience for religious exercises or instruction. See Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Educ., 333 U.S. 203; Engel, 370 U.S. 421. In McCollum, for example, the Supreme Court struck down a program allowing religious instructors to come into the public schools to teach sectarian classes during school hours, at a time when students would be free to attend the religious classes or remain in their regular classes. The Court stated that:

    Here not only are the State's tax-supported public school buildings used for the dissemination of religious doctrines. The State also affords sectarian groups an invaluable aid in that it helps to provide pupils for their religious classes through use of the State's compulsory public school machinery.

    333 U.S. at 212.

    It violates one of the Establishment Clause's most fundamental principles to turn government power over to religion. As the Supreme Court has recognized, the public school is the forum through which basic norms of citizenship are transmitted to the next generation and is thus a "vital civic institution for the preservation of a democratic system of government." See Abington Township, 374 U.S. at 230 (Brennan, J., concurring). When government permits a religious group to take over part of the school's facilities during instructional time, however briefly, it strongly implies official endorsement of that religion. In the Grand Rapids case, the Supreme Court stressed the importance of avoiding any "symbolic link" between government and religion. The Court held that the second ("effects") prong of the Lemon test will not be satisfied where the government fosters a "close identification of its powers and responsibilities with those of any -- or all -- religious denominations." School District of the City of Grand Rapids v. Ball, 473 U.S. at 385.

    A school's participation in or supervision of the Gideons' Bible distribution impermissibly suggests that the Gideons' program is a valid part of a legally required education. The practice also carries the unmistakable message that religion -- in this case, Christian Bible study -- is the norm and the non-adherents are something less than full members of the school community. "When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion, it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs." Lee, 112 S.Ct. at 2665 (Blackmun, J., concurring). See Wallace, 472 U.S. at 69 (O'Connor, J., concurring)(government endorsement of religion violates the Establishment Clause because it "sends a message to nonadherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that the are insiders, favored members of the political community"); see also Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 688 (1984)(O'Connor, J., concurring).

    As the Seventh Circuit aptly observed in Berger:

    the act of accepting a Bible in front of other students, with the option of returning it later privately or choosing not to read it, signals accord with the Gideons' beliefs. Presumably, the fifth graders could make a public show of not accepting the Bible, just as students could walk out of the graduation ceremony in Lee, or leave during the scriptural reading in Abington, but the First Amendment prohibits the government from putting children in this difficult position.

    982 F.2d at 1170.

    Moreover, the Supreme Court repeatedly has emphasized the impressionability of primary and secondary school children and the pressure they are apt to feel from teachers, administrators and peers to conform. As the Supreme Court recently observed in Lee, "there are heightened concerns with protecting freedom of conscience from subtle coercive pressure in the elementary and secondary public schools" 112 S.Ct. at 2658. See Edwards, 482 U.S. at 584; see also Grand Rapids, 473 U.S. at 390 ("The symbolism of a union between church and state is most likely to influence children of tender years, whose experience is limited and whose beliefs consequently are the function of environment as much as of free and voluntary choice").

    The Seventh Circuit also properly rejected the school district's argument that barring the Gideons from distributing Bibles in the public schools would violate the Gideons' First Amendment free speech rights. It is well established that the free speech rights of individuals and religious groups to engage in religious expression must be subordinated to Establishment Clause concerns where those individuals or groups seek to observe their religion in a manner that unduly involves the government. See, e.g. , Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (students and teachers may not recite prayers in school); McCollum, 333 U.S. 203 (teachers may not provide religious instruction on public school property); see also Berger, 982 F.2d at 1168. Religious groups such as the Gideons remain free to promote Bible study and otherwise proselytize in ways that do not carry the imprimatur of state endorsement.
     
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  7. Janeway

    Janeway Rookie

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    Yes, this is illegal and unethical. I’d go straight to the principal and then up the chain from there until it was resolved.
     
  8. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    We have a group that does this every single year. They go to all the elementary schools and try to get on campus. Yeah, NOT gonna happen. So they end up standing off campus (about a block away) and handing them out after school.

    I have nothing against any religion whatsoever. The issue I have with them being on campus is: Have they been fingerprinted and cleared by the DOJ? My students' safety is my #1 priority.
     
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  9. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    This post is very ironic.
     
  10. JimG

    JimG Comrade

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    Thank you.
     
  11. JimG

    JimG Comrade

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    I would present these readings you just posted here to the proper admin.
     
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  12. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    These groups were handing out bibles to my own children as they walked home from school. I had the same concerns you did. I don't know those people, and I certainly don't like that they stopped my children and got close enough to give them ANYTHING. I called the cops on them and that ended it really quick.
     
  13. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Was this during instructional time? If so, I retract my statement. And good luck deciding where you want to work next/send your son to school.
     
  14. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I would object to anyone lurking around the school and giving "free" stuff to kids. This is creepy.
     
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  15. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    :yeahthat:
     
  16. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    I am okay with it, as long as what they are giving is candy, and that they are giving it out from the back of an umarked white van. Other than that, it's a no go.
     
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  17. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    :)->:confused:->:oops:->o_O

    I feel bad for laughing...
     
  18. viola_x_wittrockiana

    viola_x_wittrockiana Comrade

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    We had a yearly campus invasion at my university. Technically we were a presbyterian school, but the association was loose. In any case, students were uncomfortable and administration was not happy. They weren't allowed ON campus, but they'd stand at the crosswalks between the dorm areas and academic buildings. You couldn't avoid them without jaywalking. We eventually got police to get rid of them because they were impeding access to the crosswalks.

    There's nothing quite so bizarre as having to teach a Chinese exchange student what a bible-thumper is.
     
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  19. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Hahaha!
     
  20. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Distributing anything outside of school property is a red flag for danger. Police should be notified. Concerning school time distribution, with prior parental permission, following any laws, and not interfering with class time, I see no problem with distribution of literature. If students become interested in exploring a religious belief, it is of educational benefit. Reading and studying are beneficial and more productive than video gaming.
     
  21. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    My only suggestion would be to approach this as a parent of an enrolled student, NOT as an employee of the school.
     
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  22. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    It's technically legal, as long as the school let's in any other religious group to distribute as well. The problem is that no school wants to do this.

    You face potentially serious repercussions personally, regardless of whether you approach as a parent or employee (parents who object--and I'm sure some do--also face serious repercussions).

    The temple of Satan has sometimes fine gone to schools where bibles are given away and requested access to distribute their coloring book --really in an effort to expose schools and pressure them to end these practices. You could approach them and ask. I don't know if they need a publicly identifiable sponsor the way the ACLU would.

    Article about coloring book distribution
    https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5846640

    Their message, despite the name of their religion, is positive and no one would think of it as immoral if the word "Satan" were removed.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
  23. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Not sure if it is legal or not. If they are invited onto campus by principal, then they don't need to be fingerprinted like any guest on campus. If they follow other guest policies of the school, then it shouldn't be a safety issue. If they just come in without checking in with the office, yes I would have an issue with that.

    If they are invited, do you really want to be the one to stop this? Okay, not sure what is your religion, but let's pretend there is the possibility of a Christian God. Most people either agree this is true or at least possible. Also, we 100% agree everyone will die someday. Then when we die, isn't it possible that we might face someone like Jesus? If this is true, do you really want to explain to him that you helped keep bibles out of the schools? I sure wouldn't. Something to consider as most of us don't consider how something might effect us 100 years from now.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
  24. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    There are a multitude of varying religious/non-religious beliefs in the U.S., and there are a multitude of varying beliefs even among Christian churches. My area has many churches, some varying slightly and some varying greatly in their beliefs. Some Christian churches regard the Bible as literal and some do not. Some believe in a literal Deity and some do not. Earlier, I suggested the importance of parental permission concerning what religious literature/activities students should receive, but I'd like to add to that: Schools should also be allowed to give or refuse permission, and the students themselves should have a choice to accept or refuse. The larger question might be, does it interfere with the operation of the school? An exaggerated example of interference might be if a school admitted every possible group in the community. I also have concern about the resulting uproar when a particular group is permitted or when a particular group is not permitted. If an activity or distribution is a positive enhancement to the students' education, and does not disrupt the regular school program, it seems it should not be totally ignored.
     
  25. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    Lots of religions are possible. Unless you're giving them all equal access, you run into a constitutional issue.
     
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  26. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    And what if a school truly was allowing anyone who asked but only a small number were interested in asking?
     
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  27. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    Reading this is gross. Ever hear of Pascal's Wager?

    I don't want to get into a religious debate, but this is one of the most offensive posts I've read in a long time, even if you didn't mean it that way.

    You wanna answer to Zeus there readingrules??????
     
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  28. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    No, I didn't mean it to be offensive and sorry you found it to be so. Yes, I have heard of Pascal's Wager.
     
  29. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    This kind of mentality needs to stop. If it matters to you truly, you will be willing to risk a job. I doubt anything would happen to your son - you could bring up bullying charges if anything did (most of the teachers probably hate the idea and I doubt students really want a copy).

    If something is honestly wrong, be willing to stand up for what is legally right. It sets a good example for our children too.
     
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  30. Sarah Tygert

    Sarah Tygert Rookie

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    If you contact your local, or the national Satanic temple, they'll be happy to come in and extend their legal right to also distribute their material. This usually puts a very quick end to any and all allowance of such distributions. ;) They're quite happy to get involved in these issues, it's part of what they do.
     
  31. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    I just went onto their site and they also do after school clubs at publicly financed schools that offer religious clubs.

    Based on a quick read of what they do, they would be glad to contact your administration and politely request equal access to your school. This way you would not be involved at all.
     
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  32. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Isn't that only a solution if the school then stops all groups? Otherwise, will the OP be happy about that literature being handed out as well?

    OP, make sure your choice about what to do aligns with your end goal if that end goal is legal. Sometimes when people do something they think is clever then end up with a solution worse than what they started out with.
     
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  33. Sarah Tygert

    Sarah Tygert Rookie

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    Contrary to popular belief, the Satanic Temple stands for a lot of fantastic principles, and they're actually not at all deistically Satanic. It just ruffles religious feathers having something with "Satan" in the name in schools, and, as was said above, is a way to have it anonymously taken care of without oneself actually getting involved. You can also report it to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, they will also take charge of such issues.
     
  34. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    I would have made the same comment regardless of what religion you chose or if you said to call the atheists to do the same. OP has to be aware that she may end up with a situation that is in her eyes worse than the current one by taking your advice of fighting it by trying to poke the sleeping bear.

    If the OP's problem is any religion (or atheism) in the school, your advice could make things worse.
     
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  35. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I personally would be annoyed at having a thousand and one belief/non belief parties at my school taking away attention from the fact it's a school (and I believe rather strongly in proselyting one's beliefs).
     
  36. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    As a practical matter,I believe most schools simply end bible distribution, since the ones the do have bibles distributed trend to loathe the idea of the satanic Temple coming in. (Imagine a high school with two tables, one with bibles full of dense archaic written test and one with satanic coloring and activity books. Now picture which set of books generates more interest. It's not an image your topical school administrator will enjoy. Neither will he enjoy explaining it to parents.)
     
  37. viola_x_wittrockiana

    viola_x_wittrockiana Comrade

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    To me, this falls pretty well under a "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" situation. From the beginning of this country, we've intended to keep "Caesar" separate from religion. Multiple court rulings have put schools in Caesar's camp, so that's the end of it IMO.
     
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  38. Belch

    Belch Companion

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    I'm not sure about the legal precedent regarding all of this, but my basic understanding is that congress is not allowed to establish a religion. So is this handing out of bibles by an employee of a state funded school somehow establishing a religion?

    Wouldn't this definition of a particular "religion" as a legal definition be considered establishing a particular religion?

    By this, I mean, how have you managed to legally define christianity as a religion in order to say that this is unconstitutional? It seems to be a circular argument.

    X is Y therefore Y is X.

    Christianity is a religion, therefore a religion is christianity. The very ability to say that Christianity is a religion is not allowed, at least to Congress.

    Would you have a problem if they were handing out harry potter books? How is Harry Potter not a religion, yet bibles are?
     
  39. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I can't speak for the actual laws, but in my experience...

    In high school, there was a religious club, something like a prayer group. The local pastor attended, but it was led by students. As far as my understanding, the group had to be run and organized by students. An adult could supervise, but not persuade or recruit students to join.

    I found this link on religious clubs in schools. To quote:
    I'd have less of an issue with Bibles being handed out if they were distributed by a student group. I don't think an adult (non-student run) religious group of any affiliation has any business passing out Bibles to students, especially students that young.

    That said - if it were my child, it would irritate me, and I may say something about it, but I'd probably just drop it. Not my hill to die on. Especially if I was also employed or hoping to be employed in the district. If it were something I specifically didn't want my kid to have, I'd donate it. Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with children being informed though. Another option rather than donate would be to offer to purchase them religious texts from other religions so they could explore multiple viewpoints.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2018
  40. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Definitely not legal or constitutional (especially on school grounds), but you shouldn't be the one fighting this battle especially if you've already gone up the chain of command and they've ignored you. (I say this as a hard-core separatist of church and state and the one usually complaining about things like this on this forum).

    Collect evidence and send it to the FFRF (Freedom from Religion Foundation). It's their mission to find events like these and directly confront the people responsible. They're the ones always in the news filing the law suits, and they have a well-funded legal team for this purpose. You can do this anonymously thereby leaving you and your son out of it, but having done your due diligence in reporting it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
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  41. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    It may be because it's late here, but I'm having trouble finding the salient point of your post. What is your argument? (Do you have an argument?)
     
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