NEW ORLEANS - Today, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana ruled against a public school in Tangipahoa Parish that handed out Bibles to 5th graders, saying the school infringed students' religious freedom. On May 9, 2007, the principal at Loranger Middle School invited the Gideon group into the school to distribute Bibles. Students were pulled out of class, brought outside of the principal's office and put in a line to receive Bibles.
The ACLU brought the lawsuit after a family, who remained anonymous in the case, contacted them. "The family was uncomfortable that their daughter was asked to accept a Bible in school," Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana, explained. "A child shouldn't have to choose between her family's beliefs and the wishes of school administrators."
"We couldn't find a single case from any court in this country holding that Bible distribution to grade school students is constitutionally permissible," Esman continued. Judge Carl Barbier agreed that the school's actions violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and amounted to religious coercion.
The ruling says the school's defense – that a student could choose not to accept the Bibles - is not enough, given the enormous pressure most children feel to fit in with classmates or follow teachers' wishes.
"This is the second time we have had to stop public schools from handing out Bibles, and the fifth time we've had to sue the Tangipahoa Parish School Board for violating the rights of students," Esman said. "We will continue to fight for the religious freedoms of everyone."
Judge Barbier's decision can be read here.