Saturday, January 12, 2008

We Have Our Problems, But Today I am Proud

Chalk one up to rationality in Missouri. A Federal court in this state recently ruled on an Establishment Clause case.

A school in Iron County allowed Gideons to distribute Bibles to the fifth graders during class time. Other groups were occasionally allowed to distribute materials, but only the Gideons had a long-standing arrangement to use the class time of children for distribution of reading material.

The superintendent went to the school board and told them this practice was unconstitutional. From the decision,

He further stated that if the Board wanted to allow the distribution of Bibles at school, it should adopt an “open forum” policy that would not allow discrimination against any organization. The Board made no decision or comment on the suggestion of an open forum policy, but instead voted to “pretend this meeting never happened, and to continue to allow the Gideons to distribute Bibles as we have done in the past.”
Once they got sued for it, the district changed their practice, allowing Gideons and other groups to distribute to students, but not during classtime. Well, the court didn't buy it.

From the decision,
The School Board defendants may have voted to pass the new policy, but there is absolutely no indication that they did so because they realized that their old practice was flawed and possibly unconstitutional. To the contrary, they continue to argue that their past practice was proper, and statements from their depositions show that many of them do not view the new policy as either a necessary or a positive change.
The ruling rendered an injunction on the board's old policy, but didn't affect the new policy. Well, they're appealing the decision, which shows how much they cared about the new policy. It's possible this will end up appealed to the Supreme Court. We'll see if they take it.

-Hat tip to Ed Brayton. Also, read about it on The Washington Post.


Prazzie said...

This is fantastic. And who wants free bibles anyway? No fifth graders I've ever met. When I was in fifth grade, I sent a spoof note to a fellow classmate, as though from a boy who had a crush on her. She suspected that it was me and in order to ensure she didn't respond to a boy who hadn't asked her out after all, she asked me to swear on the Bible that it wasn't me. Chances of pulling off the prank outweighed my fear of hell, so I swore on that Bible. This is why fifth graders shouldn't have Bibles. It encourages lying.

Ben said...

That's a pretty funny story there Prazzie. I remember one day in my high school, the Gideons were giving out little New Testaments in the parking lot. Every student took one but few held onto them. The parking lot was littered with little orange bibles in a matter of minutes even though the majority of students were Christian. I still have my little pocket Bible. I find it's a good thing to have on me when discussing the Bible. If only I could find a free pocket-sized copy of the Old Testament.