Bible Distribution in Public Elementary School

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

  1. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Ah. I think there's a historical dimension that you're missing, and a technical meaning of "establish".

    The phrasing in the First Amendment is this:

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."

    To establish a religion, in the sense that's relevant to the First Amendment, is to designate it as official. The framers of the Constitution knew that the Church of England, or Anglicanism, was the established church of Great Britain: from the time of Elizabeth I, an Anglican archbishop anointed the new king or queen, British tax revenues helped support Anglican churches, and a man who wanted to go to a British university or take a job in the British government was required by law to swear to the 39 Articles and to be a regular churchgoer. In Elizabeth's day, Catholics had to practice their version of Christianity in secret, and were subject to legal penalties if they were caught. And the framers were also quite aware that Europe in the 17th century had been wracked by religious wars - not wars between Christians and non-Christians, but between Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians; a good case can be made for the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) as the first world war, or at least the first pan-Western-European war, and the issues, at least on the surface, were religious. I think the framers were anxious to ensure that the European religious disagreements weren't going to ravage the infant United States as well.
     
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  2. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    No. It's not wrong because they're not Christian and would get their panties in a twist meeting someone of a different faith. You're missing the whole point of why it's not okay for adults to proselyte on public school ground.
     
  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    [​IMG]
     
  4. RussianBlueMommy

    RussianBlueMommy Comrade

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    It isn't illegal in most places, because the students can say no thanks. Gideons have handed out little new Testament Bible's from the time I was a child. It's a harmless practice really.

    But you can't say the Constitution forbids it. The Establishment Clause is just that, establishment of religion by government.

    1) The people handing Bibles out are private non-profit organization (not a govt entity)
    2) They are not establishing a required/forced religion.

    As far as handing out Quran's and such, is there even such a group or agency that does so? If so, then to make it fair they should be allowed as well. I am of the mindset that if you allow one you have to allow all, and I would rather allow none (this is coming from a Christian viewpoint).

    And ACLU is not to me a reputable source. It is extremely slanted against any type of Christianity or conservatism.
     
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  5. RussianBlueMommy

    RussianBlueMommy Comrade

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    If my child, for example was given a satanic Bible I would just throw it away. Religious teaching is the responsibility of the family. If it offends you that your child is given a Bible just throw it away and continue to teach your child your family's chosen religion (or lack thereof). Simple
     
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  6. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Children are taught and conditioned to expect to learn when they enter a school. Parents and students expect to learn unbiased math, literature, science and so forth. When a school appears to promote a certain religious or political believe, it has greater influence over vulnerable children than someone in a Walmart parking lot or a street corner.

    Families should impart religious beliefs to their children. It's not the school's responsibility. And it's the duty to of schools and staff to avoid giving the appearance of promoting religion.
     
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  7. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Threads like this make me SO GLAD I still have my School Law textbook. The closest case I could find was Schanou v. Lancaster County School Dist., 863 F.Supp. 1048 (D. Neb. 1994). It's a bit of a slog to read, but in short, distribution of bibles on school district grounds but outside of the school is constitutional. Distribution inside during instructional time violates the Establishment Clause.
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Belch

    Belch Companion

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    I'm well aware of the protestant reformation and its influence on the settlers of the new world. They were escaping religious persecution due to the intermingling of the government and catholicism, which did not bode well for protestants in Europe at the time.

    My literal interpretation of the first amendment might not seem to fit into this at first glance, but I do believe it's perfectly in-line with how the judicial branch interprets the establishment clause. As far as the law is concerned, the bible is just another book. Everybody understands that it's a religious text of vast importance to western civilization, but understanding that and using that as admissible evidence in a court of law to justify a ban on the bible in public schools goes against both the establishment clause and the "free exercise thereof".
     
  9. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    As a parent, I would find this irritating. I don't particularly want to raise my child with religious beliefs. If she grows up and wants to seek religion on her own, that will be her decision to make. I would personally fight to stop this if it were happening... but I don't work in the same school, so that makes it easier.
     
  10. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    That has not been my experience with that organization. They fight for rights for religious expression where those are being denied, as well, at least where I live, and I live basically in the buckle of the Bible belt, so...
     
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  11. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Thank you for this, and it deserved further reiteration, since it seems it was ignored on the first page.

    It is illegal to distribute Bibles on school grounds during instructional hours. Period. It's not a debate.
     
  12. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Wrong. The Bible is not "banned" in public schools. Students may bring their own bibles, and teachers may keep their own bibles, etc. and read from them in their free time. This is a common misrepresentation, just like the people who say "prayer is banned in public schools".

    What may not happen is grown adults distributing religious texts to a captive audience of minors who are still too young to make choices for themselves while state/federal government employees are responsible for them.

    Especially when the purpose of the Bible distribution is to establish religious belief in these minors, and not for the purpose of analyzing the text for comparison with other religious texts in an academic sense, during an approved religious studies course.
     
  13. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    The key here is instructional hours. Is it instructional hours when students are filtering into school prior to the "start bell" or on the way out after the "ending bell"? If not, people could be in the lobby handing out bibles (or other materials) until the bell rings and can do so as students leave.

    For the OP's post, it is possible it is legal if it was prior to the first bell or after the last depending on the definition of instructional hours.
     
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  14. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I remember the Gideons handing out those little New Testaments on the corner when school let out. They were never allowed on campus or inside the building, though. As a parent, I'd have a real problem with that.
     
  15. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    What you've missed is that your literal interpretation is not on point. No amount of believing that your interpretation is or should be privileged is going to make it so.
     
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  16. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Simple fix. Throw it away if you don't want your kid to have it be it a Christian Bible, Satanic Bible or the Book of Mormon, etc. I don't think anyone will be scarred if the paper touches you.
     
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  17. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    A few months ago I had to remove a Book of Mormon because two kiddos had apparently brought theirs and were fighting over one of them...
     
  18. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Let's get back to the original issue. If the school is allowing people from outside of the school to come into the school DURING INSTRUCTIONAL TIME, this is against the US Constitution. My suggestion, again, is to approach this as a parent of an enrolled student and not as a substitute teacher.
     
  19. otterpop

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    The OP said...

    "On Valentines Day, there were two men in the lobby passing out Bibles to 5th grade students."

    I'd guess this was before school or after school. Although, I haven't read all posts in this thread, so I could be wrong.
     
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  20. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    Catnfiddle's case is a pretty good one, fairly close and it examines a number of the issues that these decisions can turn on, including that the school area was open to all groups after school, and that where the Bible was actually distributed (in the hallway) was NOT authorized by the school.

    Establishment of religion encompasses more than just an official proclamation that some specific religion is preferred. It includes any case where a law or policy favors a religion, or religion in general. If you disagree with this interpretation, imagine a country where no official proclamation had been made but many laws favored a religion -- suppose Japan waived taxes, gave subsidized subway tickets, free college, and preferential governmental employment to anyone who was Shinto, for example. In such a case, they would have in fact established Shinto as the national religion even without any kind of mandate. It does not matter that it isn't "forced".

    In the first constitutional convention, language that would have limited the first amendment to an official proclamation was repeatedly rejected.

    The ACLU has fought for the rights of Christians as well, and they publish a guide for how to run a Bible class in public schools without running into Constitutional issues. The conservative media prefers to portray the ACLU as slanted. Please also keep in mind that they way the ACLU gets involved in cases is that people come to them and ask. If conservatives don't go to the ACLU, thinking that they're exclusively liberal, the ACLU will end up taking mostly liberal cases.
     
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  21. Belch

    Belch Companion

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    I agree that the bible is not "banned" in American public schools. As I wrote earlier, it is unconstitutional to legislate the bible as religious in the first place.

    I disagree with your assumption that grown adults may not distribute religious texts to a captive audience. Where schools get their authority to ban certain books, be they religious texts or comic books is from the Tinker vs Des Moines decision which ruled that the school "must be able to show that [their] action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint".

    What we have here is not the school banning anything, so there's no problem and certainly no violations of constitutional rights of students.
     
  22. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    You have an amusing sense of legal analysis, Belch.

    I don't believe it's unconstitutional per se to legislate merely that the bible is a religious text. There are yearly National bible week resolutions, for example -- they don't typically get legally challenged because they have no real impact, but if they were challenged I seriously doubt it would be a dispute over whether the bible is a religious text.

    There are huge differences in Tinker that keep it from being applicable here. Tinker was regarding whether the school could ban student expression. It isn't about what the school is allowed to express. Under your conception of Tinker, the school could start every day with the Lord's prayer, because to do so isn't banning anything.

    Lemon v Kurtzman regards what schools are allowed to do, and requires a legitimate secular purpose. Personally I think the courts in general are pretty forgiving about what "legitimate" means, so considering it as "plausible purpose" may be more accurate.
     
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  23. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    My guess is that instructional hours here are defined as whatever hours the school has identified that they are responsible for the children.

    Most schools in my experience define this slightly after the final bell has rang and slight before the starting bell has rung.

    Or it could mean for any hours that the school is open.
     
  24. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Not an assumption. It's the law.

    As someone else mentioned, just because you don't think something is unconstitutional doesn't make it so. Our government isn't subject to your personal version of alternate reality.
     
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  25. RussianBlueMommy

    RussianBlueMommy Comrade

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    I have not seen the ACLU public ally backing up Christians. Maybe they do, I would be interested to see this ACLU Guide to forming a Bible study group though. There is another group that seems more slanted to conservatism a nd that is the ACLJ. I'm not very familiar with them, but I know the ACLU has been painted in a bad light in recent years among conservatives.
     
  26. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    So you are saying you really don't know.
     
  27. RussianBlueMommy

    RussianBlueMommy Comrade

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    Our school defines instructional time as classroom time. Lunch, Breaks, and before/after classes/between classes is not considered instructional time.
     
  28. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    The other issue is within the school walls vs. outside while on school grounds.

    I am SO GLAD I pulled up the legal precedent so I can add to the conversation rationally and factually. Emotionally, I'd be all over the place.
     
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  29. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I admit that this is a fuzzy line.

    Here is a link from the FFRF that recommends people report any instance of Bibles being handed out on school property or during "school hours".

    https://ffrf.org/outreach/item/14034-bible-distribution-in-public-schools

    From the standpoint of the state avoiding the establishment of a religion it would stand that this behavior would be prohibited for any time the state is responsible for the children's supervision (including lunches and breaks).
     
  30. Teacher234

    Teacher234 Cohort

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    State and Church MUST be separate, to my knowledge.
    If there is a person who is handing out bibles and it is not appropriate for the type of school, the person should be asked to cease the activity or escorted off the property.
    This is illegal, as far as I am concerned.
    (Although, while this is a strict policy, banning the holy bible in school is censorship.)

    If it was a book that was about the bible, then this would usually be acceptable (but only in middle school and high school).
     
  31. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    Particularly relevant to this thread...ACLU defends rights of students to distribute religious material

    https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-supports-right-iowa-students-distribute-christian-literature-school

    Here's the guide
    https://www.aclu.org/other/statement-bible-public-schools-first-amendment-guide

    For what it's worth, though, I think you're correct that the ACLU has skewed more liberal in it's cases, but I think realistically that's because of the perception that's been created. If conservatives have a problem them typically go to someplace like the ACLJ or the liberty council even when the ACLU would also support their cause.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
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  32. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    I suspect a legal determination of instructional time would not turn primarily on what the school called instructional time, but rather on other factors. A court wouldn't be find fond of the idea of a school simply defining it's practices as legal (or, for that matter, defining permissible practices as illegal).
     
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  33. Peregrin5

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    Somewhat unrelated: why aren't there "legal studies" classes in high school? Or are there? This is rather fun.
     
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  34. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Students - yes. The Gideons are older gentlemen. It is like prayer in schools. It can be student led.

    I live in the bible belt and we have the Gideons visit our schools. We don't send the bible home with the low level, non-verbal SPE student who is Muslim in our building. We know his parents wouldn't approve and he can't read it anyway. If we had any parent say "don't send that bible home", then we would not send it home.
     
  35. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    What would your school do if the temple of Satan wanted to come in to give away materials?
     
  36. otterpop

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    No doubt there would be parents up in arms about that and there would be a quick policy change.
     
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  37. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Oh, I'm sure there would be some parents mad and policies changed.
     
  38. Belch

    Belch Companion

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    Sans an argument for your position here, I can only plead ignorance of what you are attempting to say.
     
  39. Belch

    Belch Companion

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    The whole idea of freedom of thought harkens back to the age of enlightenment, and that whole brouhaha regarding freedom of thought and expression, which had been made illegal in Europe, which explains why so many protestants left Europe for the new world.

    As to your rebuttal, there is nothing unconstitutional about national bible week resolutions because Congress is not allowed to say that this is religious. You can call it national nothing day, and it's the same thing.

    The idea behind this whole separation of church and state comes from the state using the powers invested in to mandate that certain ideas are illegal. This can also be found in the first amendment which echoes that same regard.

    The idea that our beliefs should not be illegal is fundamental to understanding the American constitution.

    If we can agree that our very thoughts should be free, then your entire argument breaks down. If we can't, then your constitution breaks down.
     
  40. Belch

    Belch Companion

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    I'm of the opinion that religion really shouldn't be taught in schools unless it is true. We should be limited to disseminating truth.

    Emotionally, yeah... I know that first graders aren't adults, so we need to be careful with what we teach. So do we teach the truth, or do we teach a redacted version of the truth?

    It's a vastly interesting subject to me, which goes way beyond whether people should be allowed to pass out bibles in the hallways. For that, yeah, I'm totally against that. But why would I be against that?

    I know in my heart why not, but I can't figure out a way to accomodate that belief with my belief that I'm not a knowitall. Maybe those guys passing out literature in the hallways are correct, and I'm wrong. Should I let my students decide for themselves? That's the way I lean, but....
     

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