Thursday, September 07, 2006

Elementary School Enjoined In Gideon Bible Distribution

A federal district court has granted a preliminary injunction to elementary school parents to prohibit Annapolis, Missouri's South Iron R-1 School District from allowing the Gideons to distribute Bibles to elementary school students on school property during the school day. In Doe v. South Iron R-1 School District, (ED MO, Sept. 5, 2006), the court rejected the school board's argument that denying groups the right to distribute Bibles, while permitting other kinds of literature to be distributed, would amount to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. Instead the court found that it was highly likely that plaintiffs would succeed in proving that the school's policy was adopted for the purpose of promoting Christianity, and was thus in violation of the Establishment Clause.

The suit was originally filed to challenge the school board's decision to permit the Gideons to distribute Bibles in the classroom to fifth graders. While the litigation was pending, the school board adopted a new policy that permitted distribution of any kind of literature, including Bibles, to students in any grade, on 48 hours notice, with distribution being limited to the hallway in front of the administrative offices and the cafeteria area during limited time periods.