|What’s the worst thing a child could stumble on in school? Drugs? Gangs? Maybe bullies? Try a Bible. According to one Tennessee school district, it seems the biggest threat a student could face is seeing a copy of Scripture up close. To “spare” kids this horrifying experience, Bledsoe County Schools is booting the Gideons from school property because a single student complained.
After years of offering free Bibles to those who wanted them, Chaplain Charlie Queen was stunned at the superintendent’s overreaction. “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. We do not hand it to them; they take it freely and voluntarily.” Unfortunately, one “offended” child seems to be all it takes to overrule the Constitution — which is exactly what Bledsoe officials are doing.
As one reporter pointed out, “Even the ACLU notes that it is ‘simply wrong’ to assume that the Constitution had declared public schools to be ‘religion-free zones.'” Still, Superintendent Jennifer Terry is terrified of standing up for the district’s other 1,911 students and issued this statement: “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.”
That’s interesting, since the Supreme Court has said the exact opposite. From Christian clubs to other faith-based activities, the justices have been clear: religious expression in schools isn’t illegal. What’s more, the school can’t ban religious distributions if it allows other non-religious distributions! That’s content-based discrimination.
And locals aren’t happy about it. Pastor Bill Wolfe of Lee Station Baptist Church says his congregation is livid. If the community doesn’t rise up and fight this kind of censorship, he’s afraid his district will be just the first of many to fall. “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.” Already, area families are planning to protest the decision at the next school board meeting.
Of course, the irony of this controversy is that while this is happening in Pikeville, parents in the Nashville area are furious that their kids are learning the Five Pillars of Islam in middle school. Apparently, Tennessee schools are fine with officially acknowledging Islam’s place in history but will not even allow the Bible on school grounds!