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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Highland schools receive warning letter from ACLU

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The American Civil Liberties Union has sent a warning to Arkansas school districts -- think before soliciting religious materials.

"The ACLU is not anti-religious," said Rita Sklar, executive director of ACLU of Arkansas. "We are opposed to the United States government promoting religion. The reason the founders established such a program was to promote religious liberties. That's what we're working to do."

Sklar said her organization learned a couple months ago of an incident in the Highland School District where students had the opportunity to take home a Bible supplied by the Gideons.

"We had a parent in the district complain that her child brought home a Gideon Bible and she contacted the ACLU," Highland Superintendent Ronnie Brogdon said.

The incident and another near Mountain Home prompted the ACLU to send letters to all Arkansas school districts warning them about religious materials at schools.

The availability of Gideon Bibles at school is a familiar issue with the ACLU. Sklar said the organization receives 20 to 30 calls a year about such matters.

"This is an old issue," she said. "The Gideons have a practice of wanting to distribute Bibles to fifth-graders."

Some schools allow the group to do so by providing the Bibles on a table, handing the Bibles out to students and other ways, Sklar said.

"In any case it is inappropriate," she said. "Our government is not supposed to favor one religion or another or even religion or non-religion."

Sklar said the ACLU does not have a problem with Gideons handing out Bibles on a sidewalk or area close to but not owned by the school district.

"It (Bible distribution in school) is unconstitutional," she said. "It violates the religious liberty rights of public school students."

The Highland School Board voted not to let religious presentations take place in school.

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