Hixon, Tennessee – Some parents whose children attend an elementary school in Hamilton County, Tennessee are expressing their disapproval of Bible distributions to the students.
The effort, led by Gideon International, is soley permission-based as McConnell Elementary School recently sent home permission slips to parents in order to respect those who do not wish for their child to receive a copy of the New Testament.
According to the Times Free Press, one parent, Mitzi Yates, found a permission slip in her son’s backpack and contacted the school to ask that the Bibles not be distributed to children even if parents approved.
“I’m not anti-Christian,” she told the publication. “I almost wish we could have a real solution that wouldn’t ban the Gideons or anyone else from visiting and sharing their books of faith. I actually would like to see a range of cultural experience shared with the children.”
She stated, however, that she was concerned about religious coercion.
Similarly, parent Tommy Coleman sat in the school lobby one day last week in hopes of thwarting the distribution. Coleman has also been a part of a lawsuit to stop the County Commission from praying at meetings.
“School is a place for learning, and not much else needs to go on there,” he said.
Coleman stated that he may involve the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) in the matter, an atheist activist organization that regularly challenges government promotion of religion nationwide.
However, officials with the Hamilton County School District believe that the distribution should be permitted as the district has an open policy that allows for all groups to distribute materials, no matter the religion or subject matter involved.
“We cannot create a barrier to the distribution of religious literature that is not in place for secular literature,” stated school board attorney Scott Bennett. “We have to be viewpoint-neutral.”
“No one’s trying to usurp the rights of a parent here,” said board member Greg Martin. “I don’t understand how anybody would be upset with parental involvement.”
However, the Times Free Press conducted a poll of its readers in conjunction with its report, asking, “Should public schools allow Bible distribution?” Out of just over 1,900 votes, 33 percent said yes, and 66 percent said no.
The first textbook used in America even before its founding, The New England Primer, was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was brought to the nation by the Puritans. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.
“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all,” it read, in teaching children the alphabet, using Adam as an example of the letter A.
“Thy life to mend, this Book attend,” it continued for the letter B, referring to the Scriptures. “My Book and heart shall never part.”
“Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and that which is to come,” read another section. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Schools have increasingly become more secular in recent years, and many court cases have been fought over the issue.