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Distributing Religious Materials Banned From Tennessee School System

A county school system in Tennessee has banned distribution of all religious materials in its schools after a recent complaint.

Bledsoe County Schools has long permitted the Christian organization Gideons International to distribute Bibles on its school campuses.  A recent complaint pulled the Bibles from the shelves of school libraries, WCRB reports, but it was still possible to distribute the Bibles elsewhere.

"We simply go in and we lay it on the table. We tell them what it is and who we are. If they want one, they freely take one," said Charlie Queen, the chaplain for Sequatchie Valley Camp of Gideons. "We do not hand it to them, they take it freely and voluntarily."

But a new complaint has now induced Bledsoe County Schools to end distribution of all religious materials. According to WCRB and The Associated Press, Superintendent Jennifer Terry said that the decision was made after someone lodged a formal complaint to the school system.  

"Bledsoe County Schools do not allow the distribution of religious materials from any religious groups. The distribution of religious materials in a public school is in violation of constitutional provisions and well established federal and state laws and precedence," Terry said in response to a question about the decision.

Queen said he views the decision as a loss of freedom.

"We are right here on Veterans Day ... people have fought, sacrificed and died for their country and for these freedoms. Now another one is trying to be taken away, that's what breaks my heart."

Local pastor Bill Wolfe of Lee Station Baptist Church said members of his congregation were upset at the outcome of the decision and are ready to take a stand. WCRB and AP report that community members plan to protest the decision during the next school board meeting.

"They're not going to stop at Bledsoe County. It will come to Sequatchie County, Cumberland County, Rhea County and all of the surrounding counties here. They're going to try and stop it everywhere," Wolfe said.

Sources: AP via Local 8, WRCB TV / Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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