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ACLU sends Nacogdoches ISD letter cautioning against handing out Bibles

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The following is a press release received from the ACLU of Texas.

AUSTIN – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Texas in a letter today urged the Nacogdoches Independent School District (NISD) to remain neutral on matters of religion and avoid situations like the one at Mike Moses Middle School, where Gideons International reportedly distributed Bibles to students in the cafeteria.

Late last year, on December 9, 2010, representatives of the Gideons distributed Bibles to students at the NISD middle school during the lunch hour. According to a concerned parent and a student who felt pressured to accept a copy, the school's principal announced in the cafeteria that the Gideons would distribute the Bibles. Each student, table by table, was encouraged to go to the front of the cafeteria and to receive a Bible.

The student, whose family has chosen to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, expressed concern about the impact on students with different religious beliefs.  "I bet the school wouldn't let a group give out the Jewish Torah, so why did it let this group do this?" said the student.

"Administrators in Nacogdoches public schools have a constitutional obligation not to favor one religion over another," said Lisa Graybill, Legal Director of the ACLU of Texas.

The ACLU of Texas in its letter advised NISD that future distributions of similar non-district materials should follow court-approved guidelines, including prohibiting teachers and other district employees from participating in the distributions.

"We have seen that these actions can result in disruption at school and discrimination against students with different beliefs," said Manuel Quinto-Pozos, Staff Attorney of the ACLU of Texas.

In 2009, the ACLU of Texas issued a report on Gideons Bible distributions, which concluded that similar distributions in other Texas school districts led to disruptions of the learning environment. The Bibles were used by some students to harass and intimidate students of different faiths.

 

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