By Simon Brown
“Bible Man” isn’t a super hero, but it seems he has the power to control the minds of the Jackson County (Ala.) School Board.
Bible Man, also known as Horace Turner, Jr., leads monthly assemblies in public schools in which he tells biblical stories to elementary children. The original Bible Man, Horace Turner Sr., started this program at least 35 years ago.
A parent complained to school officials about Bible Man’s sectarian outreach, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed a five-page complaint with the school board on behalf of the parent. The complaint outlined dozens of legal arguments for restricting Bible Man’s proselytizing, but after a five-hour deliberation earlier this week, the board decided to keep it going.
According to The Huntsville Times, Jackson County Schools Superintendent Ken Harding said, “We know it’s going to be a fight. But our constituents are pretty adamant about what they want for their children. Hopefully we can meet the law and keep the man, too.”
State Sen. Shadrack McGill (R-Woodville) decided to weigh in as well. He said anybody who doesn’t like Bible Man should consider homeschooling and that the board’s decision is supported by a majority of the parents.
McGill also said that religion belongs in both public schools and other agencies of government.
“We were established to be a godly nation, a Christian nation,” McGill said, according to theTimes. “We need God in government. We need God in the public school. The more we trend away from God, the more we suffer – morally and spiritually.”
It’s amazing how insensitive and indifferent some people are. The public school system is supposed to be a place that is religiously neutral and accommodates everyone. No parent should be asked by a government official to homeschool a child because she has the “wrong” views about religion.
As for needing more religion in schools and government, McGill is suggesting nothing less than ignoring the First Amendment. Such comments are completely inappropriate for a lawmaker who has sworn to uphold the Constitution.
McGill and Harding have tried to justify the Bible Man assemblies by claiming that they were always optional, but that defense doesn’t hold up. FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor told the Times that courts have said young children often cannot tell the difference between something that is required and something that is voluntary, and that pressure to attend the assemblies would come into play.
“We cannot put the power of religious interpretation in the hands of the Bible Man, the Quran Man or anyone else,” Gaylor said. “We cannot offer [indoctrinational] classes in public schools. It’s disingenuous to say this does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
How would McGill and Harding feel if Quran Man showed up at a public school one day and wanted to preach? Would McGill tell parents to homeschool their kids if they don’t like Quran Man?
That scenario is about as likely as Bible Man learning to fly.