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State News

October 12, 2012

Gideon Bibles questioned by Grove schools

Grove —  

For the first time in school history, Grove school officials were threatened with a lawsuit if they allowed a worldwide faith-based organization to distribute Bibles to fifth-grade students.

A crowd of about 100 people turned out Tuesday night for the school board meeting to show their support for allowing the Gideons International to give out New Testaments.

Rev. Tony Wisdom, a Grove pastor, and Robert Plunk, an attorney, addressed the five-member school board, urging them to rethink the policy.

The red pocket-size New Testament, which also includes the books Psalms and Proverbs, has been given out to Grove students for decades. Gideons International was founded in 1899 and has distributed Bibles in 190 countries, according to the group’s website.

Plunk told the board the Rotary Club passes out dictionaries to third-grade students, and Bibles can be passed out as long as it is done in the same manner.

The school should abide by the laws of the land, Wisdom said. Students should also be given access to the greatest book ever written, he said.

The minority should not override the majority, Wisdom said to thunderous applause.

Other religions should have the right to pass out materials, he said.

Students are not forced to receive Bibles or other religious literature, Wisdom said.

The board did not address the policy during the meeting.

Tricia Pemberton, state Department of Education spokeswoman, said the state agency does not have a policy on distributing Bibles but leaves that decision up to local school boards.

After the meeting, Dr. Jim Rutter, school board president, said the school had received several complaints in the past when the Bibles were passed out.

“There were people that wanted us to lose our jobs for allowing the Gideons to pass out Bibles last year,” Sandy Coaly, school superintendent, said on Wednesday.

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