Due to a single complaint, the Bledsoe county, Tennessee school system has put in place a new ban on the distribution of all religious materials, including the Christian Bible, the Associated Press Reports.
Bledsoe County Schools Superintendent Jennifer Terry recently told the media that due to a complaint, the school is now banning religious distributions, meaning that the Christian group Gideons International will be barred from the school going forward.
Gideon Chaplain Charlie Queen says that the decision surprises him, because he has been giving Bibles away in local schools for many years. Kids are free to take one or pass them up with no pressure, he reported.
“We simply go in, we lay it on the table, we tell them what it is and who we are and if they want one…they freely take one,” Queen said. “We do not hand it to them, they take it freely and voluntarily.”
For her part, Superintendent Terry insisted that the distribution of Bibles violates the Constitution.
“Bledsoe County Schools do not allow the distribution of religious materials from any religious groups. The distribution of religious materials in a public school is in violation of constitutional provisions and well established federal and state laws and precedence,” Terry said.
The U.S. Supreme Court, though, has ruled that religious expression in schools is not illegal. In 2001, for instance, a Christian club sued a New York school that wanted to restrict the club. The SCOTUS ruled that the school had to allow the club to meet on school property.
Even the ACLU notes that it is “simply wrong” to assume that the Constitution had declared public schools to be “religion free zones.”
Local community members have said they plan to protest the new policy.
“My whole congregation is very upset,” Pastor Bill Wolfe of Lee Station Baptist Church told WRCB TV.
Wolfe warned that if this policy were allowed to stand it would just be the beginning.
“They’re not going to stop at Bledsoe county, it will come to Sequatchie county, Cumberland county, Rhea county and all of the surrounding counties here. They’re going to try and stop it everywhere,” Wolfe added. ” We’re sliding further and further away from the principals our nation was founded on and it’s very sad because we used to be a Nation under God Now I really believe we are slipping further away and we’re not going to be able to say that much longer.”
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