An Illinois school district has sent a cease and desist letter to a community member who was handing out Bibles to students on school property and has threatened to call the cops if Bible distribution continues.
At the request of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, the La Harpe Community School District has ordered an elementary school principal to stop placing Bible verses on official school correspondence and has also told an unnamed evangelist to stop passing out Bibles on school property.
In May, FFRF sent a letter to Superintendent Ryan Olson to voice two complaints about Christianity being promoted on school grounds in ways that the group claims violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The first complaint involved La Harpe Elementary School Principal Lila McKeown. The principal was accused of using her position to promote her Christian faith through flyers distributed to teachers at staff meetings. The flyers included Bible verses and some were related to holidays such as Easter and Christmas.
One flyer read: “Easter is the celebration of God’s greatest gift – salvation through Jesus Christ.” Another flyer called for the homes of staff members to be “filled with loving presence of our almighty God.”
Secondly, the group accused McKeown of allowing outside adults to distribute Bibles at the school doors. The organization believes that the individuals could be affiliated with Gideons International, an evangelical Christian evangelistic organization.
FFRF requested that the school district take action to stop the practices going on at La Harpe Elementary.
The school district’s attorney responded to FFRF’s request by stating that McKeown was not aware of the Bible distribution but assured that she will no longer be allowed to place Bible verses in staff communication.
According to Christian conservative columnist Todd Starnes, the school district’s attorney explained that it is likely the Bibles were being distributed in the street that splits the school campus in half. The road was previously maintained by the city but has been maintained and owned by the school district since 2013. However, the attorney explained, many community members still think that it is a city road.
In his letter to the school district, FFRF Staff Attorney Ryan Jayne argued that courts have held that it is unlawful to distribute Bibles to students during instructional time and cited a 1993 Seventh Circuit ruling disallowing Gideons International from distributing Bibles in classrooms.
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Source: Christian Post