Americans United for Separation of Church and State today praised a federal appeals court decision barring Bible distribution in a Missouri public school district.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the South Iron R-1 School District may not allow distribution of Bibles to children in elementary school.
Americans United, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, hailed the ruling.
“Parents, not school officials, should make decisions about their children’s religious upbringing,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “School officials are wrong to allow evangelism by outside groups.
“As a Christian minister, I don’t have a problem with the Bible,” Lynn continued. “But I do have a big problem with government officials who try to impose religion on school children. They have no right to do that.”
The battle over religious advocacy in the Annapolis, Mo., school district has been long-running. Parents brought a lawsuit in February 2006 challenging a school-approved Bible giveaway by the Gideons International, an evangelical Christian group. The conflict has continued since then, with school officials repeatedly trying different tactics to maintain the Bible distribution.
Said Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan, “This battle has gone on far too long. It is past time for school officials in this district to obey the clear commands of the First Amendment. They must respect the rights of parents and the constitutional separation of church and state.”
The appellate panel’s decision in Roark v. South Iron R-1 School District leaves in place a permanent injunction barring school officials from “allowing distribution of Bibles to elementary school children on school property at any time during the school day.”