Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Florida School District Bans Bibles on Religious Freedom Day

In Florida, the Collier County School District has a day once a year called Religious Freedom Day. In past years the Superintendent allowed for a table to be set up where students could take a free Bible. There was a sheet distributed with the Bible making it clear that it was not associated with the school district.

However, the Superintendent recently decided that Bibles serve no education purpose and therefore could not be included in displays on this day. The details I can find are somewhat skimpy, but one has to assume the Superintendent is worried about the so-called "separation of church and state" issue. Keeping in mind that the separation phrase comes from Thomas Jefferson, one should also remember that Jefferson himself, as president of the Washington, D.C. school district, authorized the use of two books as primary reading material in the public schools: the Watts Hymnal and the Bible.

But that is only a guess. Regardless of whether that was a factor with this school system, as it has been with so many others in this country, I still object to the through that the Bible has no role in Religious Freedom Day. Most of our early settlers came here in order to worship in their own way, using the very same Bible. Many quotes from our Founders come from the Bible. Many of our government buildings and monuments have carved in them quotes from the Bible. Then there is Jefferson's use of the Bible for teaching reading in the public schools.

Our Constitution and its First Amendment's Religion Clauses were meant to keep the central government from interfering with religion. The idea was to avoid centralized control over religion, and to assure free of religion. As such, there is no justification for using the Constitution as a reason to prohibit offering the Bible. And I believe the school system is free to determine how they run various events. Not knowing more details, I can't claim there was a violation of First Amendment rights by denying this permission because I don't have enough detail available. (Schools are required to offer equal accommodation to religious groups as they would to non-religious groups in many areas.) If this display table was denied solely because of its religious materials (which does seem silly on "Religious Freedom Day"), then that would be a violation. Perhaps more details will arise.

Read more about it at the link below:
Florida school district bans Bibles on Religious Freedom Day

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