An Oklahoma school system has promised that its employees would no longer be allowed to hand out Bibles to students after an atheist group threatened to take legal action.
In a letter to Duncan Public Schools last week, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center said that a third-grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School offered Bibles to her students recently, and most of the students had accepted the offer. But the parents of one student contacted the Appignani Humanist Legal Center because their child felt pressured to accept the Bible.
“What makes this particular incident so egregious is the impressionable nature of elementary school students, who are more likely to see their public school’s involvement in disseminating religious materials as an endorsement of that religion,” American Humanist Association attorney Monica Miller wrote to the school system. “Numerous cases make clear that public schools cannot assist the Gideons in distributing Bibles to school children.”
Duncan Public Schools responded on Friday with assurances that school staff would abide by federal law.
“The District understand that it has an obligation to follow the law set forth by our federal courts on this matter,” attorney Scott Stone explained. “The District understand that its obligation to obey the law exists whether the District or its employees agree with all aspects of the constitutional law established by the courts.”
To that end, Stone said that teachers were being informed that they could not distribute or pressure students to take Bibles or other religious material. And that teachers were not allowed to discourage or encourage any religious beliefs while in the performance of their duties.
“The District and its agents will refrain from leading, authorizing or condoning the distribution of Bibles or other religious material at any elementary school during school hours, or immediately before or immediately after school hours,” Stone insisted.
But the lawyer added that the District reserved the right to allow the distribution of Bibles on school property “insofar as it concerns secondary students.”
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