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Adair Schools to answer ACLU questions

About Gideon Bible distribution

News from Adair County School District
1204 Greensburg Street, Columbia, KY

An open records request from the Kentucky branch of the American Civil Liberties Union was received by Adair County Schools last week.

According to Superintendent Alan Reed, the ACLU has targeted all of the state's 174 school districts seeking information on how religious groups and other outside organizations distribute literature. The letter specifically mentions the distribution of Bibles by the Gideons International.

In the letter to the school district, William E. Sharp, staff attorney for ACLU of Kentucky states, "Specifically, it has become apparent that public elementary schools throughout the Commonwealth routinely permit members of the Gideons International - a religious organization whose proselytizing methods include the distribution of Bibles and New Testaments - to distribute religious literature directly to students during school hours. In just the past few years, for example, several public school districts have been confronted with parents' objections to this practice, and in some instances it has become evident that public school officials have allowed this practice to occur for many years."

Sharp added, "By allowing an outside group to distribute sectarian materials directly to public elementary school students during school hours, school officials create the impression that the school endorses those religious views which subjects the students to 'subtle coercive pressure' to accept the proffered religious materials."

Reed says he received the letter last Monday and is working with Bowling Green, Kentucky attorney Michael Owsley, who represents the member schools of the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative, to respond to it.

"We plan to review all the state and board policies that pertain to the request and we will follow the Kentucky School Boards Association guidelines and recommendations from our legal staff on this," said Reed. A letter of response from Reed, required by Kentucky law to be mailed within three days, indicated that the board is gathering the information.

"Brenda Mann and I will address the ACLU's request and send them the policies that appear to address their questions," he added.

Kentucky School Boards Association spokesperson, Brad Hughes, cited Kentucky law as their policy:
"No book or other publication of a sectarian, infidel, or immoral character, or one that reflects on any religious denomination shall be used or distributed in any school," states KRS. 158.190.
"In years past members of Gideons International have offered New Testaments to students who wanted one, said Reed. "However, I have never heard anyone question the distribution of New Testaments in Adair County."

The ACLU asked school superintendents to ensure that the issue is addressed prior to next school year, and said that the ACLU might seek to litigate the issue in the courts. The ACLU says that school districts overstep their bounds when they allow groups such as the Gideons to distribute religious material in public schools.

Reed said he will release the full response to the ACLU once his research is completed and a formal letter is drafted in response to the Open Records request. News from Adair County School District, 1204 Greensburg Street, Columbia, KY

This story was posted on 2013-04-15 18:49:09
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