I've never heard of Religious Freedom Day, but apparently, it exists (maybe it's everyday in the US...). Nonetheless, according to this article
, the Florida "Collier County School Board allowed World Changers to distribute free Bibles to students during off-school hours on Religious Freedom Day, but now the school officials claim that Bibles do not provide any educational benefit to the students and the distribution should stop
Basically, the World Changers (who appear to be Christian) are now barred from handing out bibles. That seems...to violate the first amendment "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
First things first, if this were a private school, it wouldn't be an issue. The whole freedom of religion thing applies to government run organizations, and private schools don't have to follow the rules. But this is a public school (you can't have an official prayer in it), so all the laws apply. And part of the law is that religious freedom is not to be abridged.
Additionally, there was precedence that the bible distribution was OK: "The Collier County School District policy specifically allows the distribution of literature by nonprofit organizations, but only with the approval of the superintendent and the Community Request Committee, whose members are appointed by the superintendent. Approval was denied to World Changers, despite the fact that its distribution included a disclaimer of any school endorsement or sponsorship and that receiving a Bible was purely voluntary. "
So...non-profits are allowed to distribute materials, but all of a sudden bibles are no longer ok??
It is no longer possible to argue that religion is not under siege. The school arbitrarily decided the bible should be singled out as an unacceptable item to hand out. Doesn't that abridge the "free exercise thereof"?
Lastly, the reason the school board gave is bogus: "Bibles do not provide any educational benefit to the students." So there is no educational value to the primary document that provides first hand insight to the culture of the ancient Hebrews, early Christians, the life of a man who had an unimaginable impact on history (Jesus), information about the Roman Empire and the status of other peoples within it. Really, no educational value there? And that's from a completely secular perspective.
My Western Civilization professor at the University of Virginia was not a religious man, but always advised that we accept the bibles when they were being handed out. He said there was always value in having the primary source on you even just as a reference.
For that very same class, we were assigned to read part of the Old Testament while studying ancient Mesopotamia. An acquaintance saw me reading and asked: "What are you reading?"
Me: "The Bible"
" with shock and disdain.
Me: "Because it's assigned for my Western Civ. class."
Her: *with relief* "Oh." *phew*
Such hostility! How very rude as well to judge someone's reading material like that.
But the bible is educational for other reasons too. In English class at my public
high school, a teacher once told us that in order to really understand the vast majority of literature (from Shakespeare to Dostoevsky), one needed to have a decent familiarity with the Odyssey and the Bible. Why? Because references to these two riddle just about everything you will ever read, at least as far as literature is concerned. Authors constantly use biblical phrases, allusions and allegories within their work. To miss these is to miss significant portions of the meaning and the message.
But all secular value aside, the bible is the Bible. It's a sacred text, and there's no reason people shouldn't be given the opportunity to learn about the sacred. I remember receiving bible handouts in middle school (while I was not particularly religious), and I never thought it an imposition. The kind, old men in suits just handed it if we reached out for it while walking home. And you know, I actually read it. I opened the book when I got home and looked through it.
Granted, it gave me more questions than answers back then, but I learned something. And I at least gained a familiarity with what the Word really said, and not just what someone else was telling me about it. That in itself is valuable.What do you think of the "educational value" of the Bible? Is it constitutional for the bible to be excluded from freely being given like this? Should people have the right to be exposed to the sacred?