GRAND JUNCTION, Co. — Colorado Mesa University has put an end to a Bible giveaway that is part of the pinning ceremony for nursing school students.
According to reports, the on-and-off practice involved members of Gideon International handing Bibles to students as they stood on stage. But five students, whose names have not been released, complained to the university about the handouts, contending that it violated the separation of church and state.
The Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) also sent a letter to President Tim Foster to demand an end to the practice, and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, (FFRF) soon followed.
“Thrusting bibles at students—who may be of varying faiths or no faith—at graduation is coercive, embarrassing, and beyond the scope of our public higher education system,” wrote FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel. “The practice of distributing Bibles alienates non-Christian students, teachers and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school.”
He asked that the practice be subsequently discontinued.
On Wednesday, Tim Foster, president of Colorado Mesa University, responded by stating that after seeking counsel, he had decided to end the Bible distribution practice.
“I have sought legal counsel and researched legal precedent. I have listened to the divergent viewpoints of others,” he wrote. “Taking all that into consideration, the Bible give-away at the pinning ceremony will be discontinued.”
According to reports, the vast majority of colleges founded in early America were based on the Christian faith.
“Practical truths in religion, in morals, and in all civil and social concerns ought to be among the first and most prominent objects of instruction,” Noah Webster, who penned the nation’s first dictionary, wrote in 1839. “Without a competent knowledge of legal and social rights and duties, persons are often liable to suffer in property or reputation, by neglect or mistakes.”
“Without religious and moral principles deeply impressed on the mind, and controlling the whole conduct, science and literature will not make men what the laws of God require them to be,” he continued. “And without both kinds of knowledge, citizens cannot enjoy the blessings which they seek, and which a strict conformity to rules of duty will enable them to obtain.”