HIDDENITE, N.C. — A public school in North Carolina cut two Bible verses out of the back cover of planners donated by a local church before giving them to students out of concern that it would be considered a form of religious indoctrination.
According to reports, Sulfur Springs Baptist Church contacted East Alexander Middle School over the summer to ask what it could do to help. The church then had $2,000 worth of planners printed for the students and donated them to the school.
However, because the back of the planners quoted from Philippians and Jeremiah, school officials literally cut the Scriptures out of the back cover.
“We just put it back there for an encouragement,” Assistant Pastor James Safrit told local television station WXII. “We know that the school year ended rough last year. We know coming back [there would be] split days.”
The school district says the inclusion of the Scriptures violates the “separation of Church and State.”
“It is an individual student’s right to share their beliefs — religious or otherwise — but not the public school’s role to indoctrinate them with any religious teachings,” Alexander County Schools said in a statement.
“We’re legally bound to do what we’re supposed to do,” Human Resources Director Dr. Alisha Cloer also told WBTV. “We can’t break the law.”
However, some parents believe that the decision to keep or remove the Scripture should have been up to them and not the school.
“Why couldn’t it be my decision or my child’s decision to take it off?” asked parent Roger Hayes, whose daughter received one of the cut-out planners. “That hurt my feelings; it really did. This society right now, I think we need God in our lives and Jesus in our lives, and this tears my heart apart.”
The school has handed out half of the planners to students, and while it initially decided to discontinue distribution at this point, according to WSOC-TV, officials have since agreed to allow any student who wants a planner to have one.
As previously reported, 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.
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 public and private schools alike until approximately the early 1900’s. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.
“Save me, O God, from evil all this day long, and let me love and serve Thee forever, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Thy Son,” it read.
Noah Webster’s famous “Blue Back Speller” also referenced Christianity, including God-centered statements in reading lessons such as “The preacher is to preach the gospel,” “Blasphemy is contemptuous treatment of God,” and “We do not like to see our own sins.” Webster, a schoolmaster, is known as the “father of American education” and strongly advocated teaching children the Scriptures.