CARTERSVILLE, Ga. — A prominent atheist activist organization has threatened to file a lawsuit against a Georgia school district if it allows a well-known Bible distribution ministry to continue to offer Bibles to public school students.
The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter on Friday to the superintendent of the Bartow County School System after Gideon International reportedly distributed Bibles at Cloverleaf Elementary School earlier this month. The organization asserts that the distribution is unconstitutional.
“We understand that teachers announced the Bible distribution and sorted their students into those wanting Bibles and others,” the letter, written by staff attorney Andrew Seidel, outlined. “In our complainant’s class, only one child (not our complainant’s) refused to take a Bible. … The teacher then walked the students to the library, and, leading by example, took a bible from the adult male that set up shop in the public elementary school library.”
FFRF then asserted that the distribution was unlawful because it took place while school was in session, and because a teacher was involved. It stated that the practice makes students who do not want a copy of the Bible to feel ostracized and claimed that the sole student who declined was “teased.”
“As well as alienating non-Christian students, teachers, and members of the public whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with the message being promoted by the school, such bible distribution alienates the one in five Americans, and one in three young adults, who now identify as nonreligious,” the letter contended. “They are not only alienated, but pressured to violate their personal religious beliefs by the Gideons, their teacher, and their peers.”
Seidel then asked that teachers be instructed that such distribution is illegal, and that the principal of Cloverleaf Elementary School, as well as any teacher who divided the classroom would be reprimanded. The group threatened that it “will not write another letter but instead file a lawsuit” should another Bible distribution take place.
FFRF had written to the district two years ago to likewise object to a Bible distribution on campus, at which time they were told that “any future practice will be reviewed carefully” and “[n]o principal, teacher or any other school official will encourage a student in Bartow County School System to accept a Gideon Bible in the future.”
The school district has not yet responded to media inquiries about the matter.
As previously reported, the first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in colonial schools for at least one hundred years. 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.
In 1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed “The Old Deluder Satan Act,” which required that children be taught to read so they could learn to read the Bible.
“In being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, … and that learning may not be buried in the graves of our forefathers in Church and Commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors, it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof, that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read,” it read in part.