Local News

Cumberland Schools Crack Down on Bibles in Class

Posted November 20, 2007 11:17 a.m. EST
Updated November 20, 2007 7:14 p.m. EST

— A complaint from a parent prompted Cumberland County Schools to remind all elementary school principals Monday that outside groups aren't allowed to distribute Bibles in the schools.

Geri Weaver, the mother of a student at E.E. Miller Elementary School in Fayetteville, notified the American Civil Liberties Union after a stack of New Testaments were made available in her son's classroom on Nov. 9.

"We have a bible in our house. My son can read it any time he wants. I just don't think it's the school's place to distribute and endorse religious texts," Weaver said.

The books have the imprint of the Gideons, an international group known for placing Bibles in hotel rooms, but it was unclear whether a school employee or outside organization placed them in the classroom.

Miller Elementary Principal Tonya Page couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

David Phillips, the attorney for the school district, issued a memo Monday to all elementary school principals, reminding them that current law allows the distribution of religious tracts in public schools only to high school students and even that is subject to certain requirements.

"Distribution of the Bible or other proselytizing texts and materials in the elementary school environment is an activity that should not be endorsed or allowed in the school building," Phillips wrote in his memo.

He cited a 1998 ruling by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers North Carolina, that said elementary school students are "particularly impressionable" to such texts.

"We are a public school and we certainly have to adhere to the law,” said Wanda McPhaul, public information officer for the Cumberland County School System.

Gideons told WRAL that the group has a long-standing policy of not commenting to the media on such issues.