Friday, January 11, 2008

Federal judge blocks Gideon Bible handouts in rural Missouri school district

For more than three decades members of Gideons International have come to the tiny South Iron [County] School District on Missouri's rugged Ozark Plateau to hand out Bibles to fifth-graders. This week, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry ruled that the practice was unconstitutional, reports Jim Salter of The Associated Press. The district is based in Annapolis, Mo., about 120 miles south-southwest of St. Louis.

Three years ago, some parents raised concerns, but the school board upheld the policy on a 4-3 vote. The following year, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit. As a result, the school stopped letting Gideons enter the classrooms, but still welcomed the group or others to come to the school and distribute information before or after school or during lunch. Perry granted a permanent injunction against both the original policy and the modified one. "The policy has the principle or primary effect of advancing religion by conveying a message of endorsement to elementary school children," she wrote. An attorney for the school district said it would appeal. (Read more)

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