Court to Decide on Bible Distribution at Public Schools

A federal appeals court in St. Louis heard arguments Thursday in a case involving the distribution of Gideon Bibles to children in public schools.

The South Iron R-1 School District formerly had a policy that allowed outside religious groups to distribute Bibles to fifth graders during the school day.

The policy prompted a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the district in September 2006, demanding a stop to the distribution.

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Catherine D. Perry, a lower federal court judge, ordered a halt to the Bible distribution, calling it "an instrument of religion."

Following the order, the district then adopted a written equal access policy that treats the distribution of secular and religious literature outside of class on an equal basis. Under the new policy, outside groups could apply to distribute literature from stationary tables in two designated locations but were prohibited from distributing material inside classrooms.

Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, who represents the school district in the case, asked the appeals court Thursday to reverse the ruling.

"The Bible cannot be singled out for special penalties like contraband. How ironic that in America, until recent times, the Bible formed the basis of education, and now its mere presence is radioactive in the opinion of some judges," said Staver in a statement.

"The Founders never envisioned such open hostility toward the Christian religion as we see today in some venues. To single out the Bible alone for discriminatory treatment harkens back to the Dark Ages. America deserves better. Our Constitution should be respected, not disregarded."

At issue during the hearing was whether the permanent injunction entered by Perry was based on the revised policy or the former policy.

Staver argued before the court that the permanent injunction did not take the new policy into appropriate consideration.

"It would be inappropriate for this previous injunction based upon a specific incident to literally gut the public forum and single out one single piece of literature...namely the Bible," stated Staver.

The court is expected to issue a decision in a few months.

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