Students across the country are taking up some different reading material today for the first-ever “Bring Your Bible to School Day.” Sponsored by the Christian group Focus on the Family, “Bring Your Bible to School Day” was created in response to an incident in Florida earlier this year.
A student in Ft. Lauderdale alleged that his teacher did not allow him to read the Bible during his free reading time. In a letter dated May 18, 2014 an attorney representing the Broward County Public Schools told the conservative group Liberty Institute that the district “does not ban the Bible” and that there has never been a policy forbidding children from reading it.
The U.S. Department of Education has been explicitly clear that prayer and reading from religious texts during non-instrunctional time is a constitutionally protected right. Still, the conservative legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has issued a memo outlining the legal issues surrounding “Bring Your Bible to School Day.”
According to the ADF, students can directly advertise the event to their fellow students, distribute Bibles and discuss its contents with their classmates under the first amendment, which protects “religious speech.” The ADF also contends that “the separation of church and state does not justify the suppression of ‘Bring Your Bible to School Day.’” The first amendment requires that public institutions, like schools, must treat all religious events equally in order to not give the perception of bias towards or against any religion.
Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family and facilitator of the event, told Huffington Post "It's a religious freedom event for students in public schools going up all the way to the college level.” Cushman said “There are going to be thousands of students all across the nation bringing their Bible voluntarily into their schools….they’re doing this not only as a visual demonstration of what their religious freedom rights are...but also just to initiate conversations with their classmates about God's love.”
Focus on the Family has also released a student guide that included religious t-shirt and poster designs, Bible quizzes students could share and a "pass the verse forward" activity with scriptural passages to give to classmates.
"All of this would be done before and after class so it doesn't interfere with classroom instruction time," Cushman said. ”It's about conversation, not confrontation."
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