Teachers Barred From Giving Students Free Bibles at Okla. School After Atheists Threaten to File Lawsuit

A public school district in Oklahoma has agreed to stop allowing for the distribution of Bibles following threatened legal action from an atheist organization.

Duncan Public Schools sent a letter to the American Humanist Association in response to a complaint leveled against an elementary school teacher who distributed several Gideon Bibles to her students.

Scott W. Stone, legal counsel for Duncan Schools, explained to the AHA's legal arm the Appignani Humanist Legal Center that actions were being taken in response to their complaint.

(Photo: Reuters/Rick Wilking)First grader Adam Kotzian (C) does a spelling drill with classmates in his classroom at Eagleview Elementary school in Thornton, Colorado, March 31, 2010.

"All teachers and administrators in the district are being advised that they are not permitted to distribute Bibles or other religious materials to students in class or during class time," wrote Stone.

"Teachers and administrators in the district are being advised that they should not attempt to persuade students to take Bibles or other religious materials during class time."

Monica Miller, attorney with the Legal Center, said she was pleased with the school district's response to her organization's concerns.

"It is not the place of public schools to promote religion by handing out Bibles," Miller said in a statement released Monday.

"We appreciate the school's willingness to address the issue and to enforce the separation of church and state so that the rights of all students are upheld."

Earlier this mont,h Duncan became the center of a church and state controversy when the AHA and others learned of an incident wherein a third grade teacher passed out Gideon Bibles to students.

"Erica Mackey is a third grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Duncan, Oklahoma," reported Garrett Haley of Christian News Network

"Mackey reportedly announced to her students that she had several New Testament Bibles and asked if anyone would like one. Nearly all her students came up to her desk to get copies of the New Testaments."

On April 3, the Legal Center contacted the school system, telling them that "it is beyond clear that the school district violated the First Amendment by assisting in the distribution of Gideon Bibles to elementary school students."

While agreeing to halt the distribution of Bibles to elementary school students, Stone of Duncan Public Schools did not completely reject the possibility of Bible distribution for other grades.

"The District reserves the right to allow such distribution of Bibles or other religious materials insofar as it concerns secondary students," Stone wrote.

"Any such distribution shall only be permitted after a complete review and prior approval by the district's superintendent and the district's legal counsel to ensure that it is done without coercion and in a constitutionally acceptable manner."