Parents Fuming as Texas Schools Let Gideons Provide Bibles to Students
Some parents in Frisco, Texas, are fuming because their public school district allowed Christian evangelists to provide Bibles to students on school grounds, which administrators say was done to stop even more proselytizing outside the schools.
Frisco Independent Schools allowed Gideons International to display Bibles on tabletops in all 13 of the district's middle and high schools last week. Officials say it didn't violate the law, but some parents say school is not the place to be offering the Good Book.
"I was never notified by the schools that they were going to allow this. I was a little shocked," said Debbie Lutz, a mother with three children who attend schools in Frisco, about 20 miles north of Dallas.
Michael Baier, who has a son at Frisco's Lakeland High School, said that religious groups should not be allowed to offer their teachings on campus.
"If they're God-fearing Christians ... they should be giving those items wherever they worship. School is a place to learn, not a place to worship," Baier told FOXNews.com.
Lutz said she wants the freedom to raise her children as she sees fit — and without the interference of religious groups. She told FOXNews.com she worried that allowing one group to offer Bibles in the school would open the floodgates to any groups who want to reach students on school grounds.
"It does open the door for other people to have the right to hand out other stuff. And I think that's not a good door to open."
School administrators say that door was opened because the Gideons used to stand on public sidewalks near the schools and distribute Bibles to students as they went home.
That raised some alarms for parents, some of whom even contacted the police about their children's safety. And it stymied the school system, which says it has "no control over what takes place on the public sidewalks."
The Gideons are now taking advantage of a school policy that allows them to leave Bibles on a tabletop in the schools' front offices, though they're barred from interacting with students or remaining there during school hours.
A spokeswoman for the school district said that a number of materials are made available to students this way, including newspapers, camp brochures and tutoring pamphlets. College and military recruitment information is available all year long. The Gideon Bibles were made available for just one day.
"We have to handle this request in the same manner as other requests to distribute non-school literature — in a viewpoint neutral manner," Shana Wortham, director of communications for the district, wrote in an e-mail to FOXNews.com.
Wortham said that the schools did not solicit or invite the Gideons in, and when one of the evangelists tried to speak to students, administrators quickly stepped in to address the violation.
Gideons International had no comment on their in-school offerings when contacted by phone Tuesday.
Adult representatives for the Gideons have been barred by federal circuit courts from offering Bibles inside classrooms, but they continue to offer to provide them at many schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and elsewhere. The group, founded in 1907, has distributed about 1.5 billion Bibles in the last century, mostly in hotel rooms.
Some parents weren't troubled by the presence of the Gideons or their Bibles.
Holly McCall, president of the parent-teacher association at Roach Middle School in Frisco, said she was at the school when the Gideons dropped the books off, and they didn't disturb anyone.
"I didn't feel like [the Bible] was being pushed upon" students at the school, she told FOXNews.com. She said she didn't expect to be notified every time books or pamphlets are on offer in the office at Roach Middle. That would be like an advertisement for the Bible, she said.
School officials told FOXNews.com they would continue to review their policies, but they stressed that they had followed the letter of the law.
But for some parents looking for a neutral education in the public school system, that wasn't enough.
Lutz, whose children go to schools in the district, said she wants the freedom to raise her children as she sees fit — and without the interference of other religious groups.
"I am not atheist — I believe in God," she told FOXNews.com. "But I just don't want any religion forced on my child at school. That's why my child goes to a public school."
Fox News Online, Tuesday , May 19, 2009, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,520630,00.html