Group slams Bible distribution in Oklahoma public schools as 'unconstituional'

(Photo: Geri-Jean Blanchard)

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has decried as unconstitutional the distribution of Bibles in several public schools in Oklahoma. Freedom from religion is a non-profit organisation that advocates the Constitutional provision on the separation of Church and State as well as educating the public on nontheism.

The group has sent out letters of complaint to 26 school districts that received the materials from Gideons International and Jamison Fraught, the son of state representative George Fraught of Muskogee.

According to Andrew Seidel, staff attorney of the organisation, the group received a complaint from a person who saw the younger Fraught's post on his Facebook account saying he had spent the morning with fellow Gideons handing out the Holy Bible to fifth graders in Checotah, Eufaula and Stidham.

In his post, Fraught shared that Gideons had been able to give out Bibles in the counties of McIntosh, Okmulgee and Okfuskee. He added that the Checotah principal also helped them hand out the books to the pupils last year.

"These allegations, if true, violate the Constitution and breach the trust between the District and parents," Seidel's letter to Janet Blocker, superintendent of Checotah Public Schools, read.

Seidel said that under the Constitution, Bibles can only be given to students after they leave campus.

An alternative utilised by some schools allots an entire day devoted to passing out different types of literature open from all denominations.

However, the group is now embroiled in a legal battle with a school district in Orange County, Florida where a school tried to censor materials set for distribution by the atheist group.

"If a school wants to open their doors for anybody to come in and distribute materials, they are able to do that, but they can't limit it at all," he said. "That means that we will come in. We will bring our atheist literature and we will distribute it. We will invite the Satanic Temple to come in and distribute their literature."

Seidel said his group has not yet filed a case against Oklahoma schools and hopes that there will be no need for such action.

While the Gideons could not yet be reached for comment, Sen. Fraught has expressed support for his son's actions, maintaining that there is nothing wrong with passing out Bibles to schoolchildren.

"Passing out the scriptures — you certainly can't be blamed for that. What happens is, this group has used scare tactics...The great thing about Oklahoma is that I've been at a lot of school activities where, at least in our area, we still pray before football games. We still — some people pray before meetings and certainly honor our God-given rights."

Seidel said his organisation has not filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma schools over the issue yet and he hopes it doesn't come to that.