Buncombe and the Bible: Promoting Faith Is Not a Public School Task

Church & State, February 2012 | Go to article overview

Buncombe and the Bible: Promoting Faith Is Not a Public School Task


Public schools shouldn't be in the business of promoting religion. The U.S. Supreme Court made that clear 50 years ago in an important decision called Engel v. Vitale, the first challenge to school-sponsored prayer to reach the high court.

One of the core messages of the Engel ruling is that it's not the job of public school officials to push any religion on pupils.

Amazingly, five decades later, it seems some public school officials either haven't gotten that message or simply choose to ignore it.

In Buncombe County, N.C., recently, a parent objected after her son, who attends an intermediate school, brought home a Bible. The Gideons had delivered the Bibles to the school, and officials there agreed to make them available.

That didn't sit well with Ginger Strivelli, who contacted the school to express her concerns. In response, Principal Jackie Byerly claimed the school would be happy to distribute the scriptures of any other religion.

But when Strivelli called the school's bluff and showed up with copies of a Pagan book of spells, she was told the school's policy on the distribution of religious literature was under review. …

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