Elementary school allows Gideons International to distribute Bibles, atheists threaten lawsuit

(Photo: Dave Edmonds)

A Georgia elementary school distributed Bibles to their students last week, and some parents and atheists are crying foul.

The Bartow County School District allowed evangelical organisation Gideons International to offer Bibles to students on school property in what protesters are calling a violation of the separation of church and state.

Atheist organisation the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) contacted the district two years ago for engaging in the same practice. FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel said that district superintendent John Harper pledged to end the activity in 2012.

On Thursday, Gideons International passed out Bibles during class time at Cloverleaf Elementary School. Parent Jessica Greene was angered to learn of the distribution when her fifth-grade son, Leo, brought the Bible home.

"I was just shocked that the school system would do that," she told 11 Alive Atlanta. "I tried to contact the superintendent. He has not returned my call."

Leo described how the Bible distribution took place.

"We were in class, our teacher said that these people had volunteered to hand out Bibles, and she said there's going to be a line in the library," he explained.

The FFRF said that the children could choose whether or not they wanted a Bible, but one girl who declined was allegedly berated by the other students.

"[She] was teased and ostracised and forced to defend herself by saying that she 'believed in God, but in a different way,'" Seidel said in a letter to the district.

The FFRF compared Bible distribution to "tobacco companies trying to get kids when they're young," and said that if it continued there would be a lawsuit.

No comment was received from Superintendent Harper, Gideons International, or Cloverleaf Principal Evie Barge in regards to the controversy.