MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — Students at a Pennsylvania high school claim that they were prohibited by their principal from distributing Bibles during their lunch period. The school district claims that the students never formally applied for permission, but attorneys for the students say that is because they were already told that distribution during the school day is not allowed at all.
According to the Harrisburg-based Independence Law Center, in November, a student with the Christians in Action Student Club at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School attempted to share Bibles with his classmates in the cafeteria, but was told to stop.
The Bible club’s teacher advisor was reportedly instructed by the principal to advise the student that he cannot distribute material during the school day, and if he wishes to do so outside of the school day, he must ask for permission.
“Please inform him that he is not permitted to hand out Bibles during the school day. Like other literature, if he would like to request to distribute them outside of the school day, he may submit a request which will be reviewed in accordance with district policy and case law,” Principal David Harris allegedly wrote, according to a report by PennLive.
The Independence Law Center consequently sent a letter to the school district to outline its concerns. It believes that the district policy surrounding the matter is constitutional, but the way that it is being applied by the principal is not.
The Mechanicsburg Area School District is now arguing that a request for permission was never submitted, and takes issue that the Independence Law Center did not speak with Harris first, but went directly to the district superintendent about the matter.
“The student group never submitted a formal request for distribution of Bibles, and the ILC never contacted the building administration to discuss the issue,” it said in a statement, as reported by The Sentinel. “Instead of submitting a request and working with the high school administration in a collaborative manner, the ILC’s approach has evoked negative emotions that divide our school and community.”
The district implied that students are actually allowed to distribute material during their lunch period as long as they follow the policies.
“There are rules any student or group must follow when they wish to formally distribute any material to other students during the instructional day, inclusive of lunch. These rules are established to respect the rights of all students, create a sense of belonging in the school, and ensure there are not disruptions to the school day,” it stated.
“We would gladly engage in a conversation that instead takes the time to consider what is best and inclusive for all students and respects the wishes of many parents in our school community.”
The Independence Law Center, however, holds to its original statement that the principal advised the group that distribution during the lunch period isn’t allowed at all.
“Not only did Principal Harris tell these students that they were ‘not permitted to hand out Bibles during the school day,’ but he also ordered that they not even hand out Bibles outside of the school day unless they were granted permission first from the school,'” it outlined.
Both sides plan to continue to work through the matter.
As previously reported, in 1828, just 41 years after the signing of the U.S. Constitution, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”