Stop Bible Giveaway At School, AU Tells Court

A Missouri public school must stop distributing Bibles to fifth-graders, Americans United has told a federal appellate court.

For more than 30 years, South Iron R-1 School District permitted Gideons International to distribute Bibles during class time under the supervision of school officials. The school later revamped its policy to allow the evangelical Christian group to hand out Bibles in the cafeteria or in front of administrative offices between classes.

A federal district judge invalidated both practices in Roark v. South Iron R-1 School District. Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, supporting the lower court’s decision.

“The Constitution forbids government officials to meddle in religious matters,” said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn. “Decisions about religion are up to parents, not school board members.

“If parents want their children to have a Bible, they are perfectly free to go out and buy one,” Lynn continued. “This school board is way out of line.”

The school board continued to allow the Gideons to distribute Bibles at the school even after warnings from the school’s attorneys, superintendent and insurance carrier. The superintendent resigned soon after the board ignored this legal advice, indicating in his resignation letter that the board was “headed down a path that is both illegal and costly.”