HERINGTON, Kan. — Representatives for Gideon International will no longer be allowed to make Bibles available to students at an elementary school in Kansas following a complaint from a national humanist organization.
The American Humanist Association (AHA) recently sent a letter to the superintendent of Herington Schools and the principal of Herington Elementary School to advise that it had been contacted by the parents of several children who were unhappy with a recent one-day Bible distribution.
According to the correspondence, the Bibles were placed on a table in a commons area where those interested could freely take a copy.
“Your school district has allowed an outside religious organization, believed to be the Gideons, to distribute Bibles to young children at Herington Elementary School. The district’s actions in assisting the Gideons in distributing Bibles to elementary students represents a clear breach of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution and we hereby demand assurances that this practice will discontinue immediately,” the letter, written by attorney Monica Miller, read.
It asserted that allowing the Bible placement sends the message that the school and district endorse Christianity.
“By assisting Gideons in distributing Bibles to a captive audience of elementary students, the school district sends the ‘unequivocal message that’ the school district, ‘as an institution, endorses the religious expressions embodied’ in the Bibles, and thus violates the Establishment Clause …,” Miller wrote.
Under threat of a lawsuit, AHA demanded a response advising that the Gideons would no longer be allowed to make the Bibles available at the school, and that teachers would be instructed that they too are prohibited from offering the Scriptures to students.
On Tuesday, Superintendent Ron Wilson told the Kansas City Star that while the school was “in no way … trying to impose anything on anyone,” he and Principal Donalyn Biehler agreed that they would end the longstanding practice of allowing Gideon International to place Bibles at the school for a day.
“Our district respects all religious beliefs and the constitutional rights of every student,” Wilson told the outlet. “We will no longer allow distribution of religious materials.”
As previously reported, throughout early America, textbooks such as Noah Webster’s “Blue Backed Speller” and Benjamin Harris’ “New England Primer” contained numerous references to Christianity, and those such as Webster were strong advocates for teaching children the ways of the Lord. Webster is considered the Father of American education.
“Practical truths in religion, in morals, and all civil and social concerns, ought to be among the first and most prominent objects of instruction,” he 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; and without both kinds of knowledge, citizens can not enjoy the blessings which they seek, and which a strict conformity to roles of duty will enable them to obtain.”
In 1830, Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the Philadelphia Bible Society, wrote:
“[T]he benefits of an early and general acquaintance with the Bible were not confined to the Jewish nation; they have appeared in many countries in Europe since the Reformation. The industry and habits of order which distinguish many of the German nations are derived from their early instruction in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible. In Scotland and in parts of New England, where the Bible has been long used as a schoolbook, the inhabitants are among the most enlightened in religions and science, the most strict in morals, and the most intelligent in human affairs of any people whose history has come to my knowledge upon the surface of the globe.”