An atheist group is claiming victory after a Georgia school district pledged not to allow outside groups like the Gideons to distribute religious materials in the classroom.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which represents atheists, agnostics and skeptics, sent a letter to Effingham County Schools in Springfield, Ga., last December alleging that two schools – Ebenezer Elementary and Marlow Elementary – had allowed the Gideons to “enter classrooms, preach to students about the significance of the bible, and distribute Bibles to students.” The allegations were made on behalf of “multiple” parents of students, according to the letter.
“It is our understanding that every child was given a bible, but they were told that they could return it to the teacher if they don’t want it,” the letter, dated Dec. 13, said. “... Courts have uniformly held that the distribution of bibles to students at public schools during instruction time is prohibited.”
The district had “egregiously violated” the rights of its students, the letter said.
Attorney James D. Kreyenbuhl, representing the school district, responded May 29 and said the matter had been resolved.
“Although I disagree with your characterization of the School District’s handling of this matter or that any students’ rights were ‘egregiously violated,’ the Board of Education has authorized me to assure that outside adults, including the Gideons, will not be allowed into the classrooms of any schools in the School District to proselytize or distribute religious materials,” wrote Kreyenbuhl of the firm Brennan, Harris and Rominger.
FFRF, in a press release, said it was “gratified” with the conclusion.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation often is involved in high-profile cases related to church-state matters.
Last year, a court-ordered Kentucky to allow a man to have an “IM GOD” personalized license plate after the state rejected it for being too controversial. FFRF represented the man.
This year, a Kentucky high school removed a Bible verse from the wall in its athletic locker room following a complaint from the organization.
But FFRF lost a major case at the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this year when the judges said an historic 34-foot World War II-era cross can remain standing in a Pensacola, Fla., park.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Dolgachov
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.