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Humanist Group Takes Public School to Task for Distributing Bibles During Holy Week

For Immediate Release


Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, merrillmiller@americanhumanist.org

Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, mmiller@americanhumanist.org

(Duncan, OK, April 3, 2015)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at Duncan Public Schools and Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Duncan, Oklahoma, protesting classroom Bible distribution by an elementary school teacher.

According to the letter, on April 2, 2015, during the period observed by Christians as Holy Week, a third-grade teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School passed out Gideon Bibles to her students during class time. The teacher made an announcement that she would give Bibles to students who wanted one, and she then handed out the Bibles at her desk. Nearly all of the students went to her desk to receive one.

The American Humanist Association was informed of the issue by a concerned parent whose child, a student in the class, unexpectedly came home with a Bible. After seeing so many other students take Bibles, the child in question felt pressured to do so as well. In response, the child’s mother contacted the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center to report this violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“What makes this particular incident so egregious is the impressionable nature of elementary school students, who are more likely to see their public school’s involvement in disseminating religious materials as an endorsement of that religion,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Numerous cases make clear that public schools cannot assist the Gideons in distributing Bibles to school children.”

“There can be no question that this teacher and this school were engaged in the promotion of Christianity,” said David Niose, the American Humanist Association’s legal director. “This kind of activity is a clear violation of the principle of church-state separation.”

The letter demands that school officials make assurances that teachers in the school district will be informed that they are not permitted to give Bibles to students or persuade students to take Bibles during class time. The letter also demands that the school district and its agents refrain from taking part in the distribution of Bibles at elementary and middle schools during or before or after school hours.

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.


Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.