Grove, Oklahoma — Residents in the city of Grove, Oklahoma recently turned out for a school board meeting to urge officials to repeal its new policy prohibiting the distribution of Bibles to students.
According to reports, it has long been a tradition by Gideons International to distribute pocket Bibles to fifth graders in the city. However, the Grove School District states that they received a complaint from a parent about the practice, who threatened to file a lawsuit if the distribution was allowed to continue.
“Simply, a phone call to our legal counsel is $120 for ten minutes,” stated Chairman Dr. Jim Rutter. “Nobody on the board is opposed to the Gideons or opposed to the Bibles. We’ve just got to do what’s in the best interest of the school and avoiding lengthy legal battles.”
“There were people that wanted us to lose our jobs for allowing the Gideons to pass out Bibles last year,” added Superintendent Sandy Coaly. “If it was me personally, we would have [the Bibles] in our backpack and read them 30 minutes a day.”
Rutter explained that Oklahoma state law actually prohibits the distribution of religious materials on school property, but that the district had not enforced the prohibition until now. He advised that those who wished to distribute Bibles to students should do so off school property.
However, an estimated 100 Grove residents turned out for last week’s school board meeting to show their support for the Gideons.
Pastor Tony Wisdom of Grove First Assembly of God was one of the residents that spoke that evening.
“[Students should have a right to receive] the greatest book ever written,” he said, evoking applause from those gathered.
He stated that students are never forced to receive the Bibles and can refuse them if they wish. He opined that other religions should also have the right to distribute materials to students.
Wisdom’s attorney, Robert Plunk, told the board that the Rotary Club distributes dictionaries to third graders, and Gideon’s International should have equal opportunity to reach fifth graders.
As previously reported, Wisdom is fighting another battle in the city as officials reportedly removed signs from his church property because they used the name of Jesus. They allowed other signs to remain that used generic words such as “church” or “prayer.”
“From a governmental perspective, those general terms were okay — they were non-threatening, but when you start putting out a particular name and a particular religion, in this case Christianity, that’s when the issue arose,” explained City Council member Marty Dyer, who upheld the removal. Dyer serves as the pastor of Newsong Church in Grove.
School board members have not yet come to a conclusion as to whether it will uphold or rescind its new policy.
“I am for anything that puts morals and character back into our schools,” stated parent Leanna Buske.
Gideon’s International was founded in 1899 in Janesville, Wisconsin, and first began distributing Bibles in 1908.