GROVE — School officials were urged at a Tuesday school board meeting to rescind a new policy prohibiting the distribution of Scriptures to fifth-graders.
Gideons International has given the pocket-size New Testament, which also includes the Psalms and Proverbs, to Grove students for decades.
About 100 people turned out for the meeting in support of allowing the group to continue that tradition.
The Rev. Tony Wisdom and lawyer Robert Plunk urged the five-member school board to rethink the ban, which was approved this year after complaints and threats of a lawsuit from parents.
Gideons International was founded in 1899 and distributes Bibles in 190 countries, according to the group's website.
Plunk told the board that the Rotary Club gives dictionaries to third-graders, and that the Scriptures can be offered as long as it is done in the same manner.
The board did not address the policy during the meeting and took no action.
Wisdom, who spoke to thunderous applause, said students should be given access to “the greatest book ever written.”
The minority should not override the majority, he said, adding that other religions also should have the right to give out materials.
Students are not forced to take the New Testaments or other religious literature, Wisdom said.
School board President Jim Rutter said the district had received several complaints in the past when the Scriptures were given out.
“There were people that wanted us to lose our jobs for allowing the Gideons to pass out Bibles last year,” Superintendent Sandy Coaly said Wednesday.
“We were told if we allowed them to be passed out, the school would be sued,” Coaly said. “If it was me personally, we would have them (Bibles) in our backpack and read them 30 minutes a day.”
Ken Black of Gideons International said, “We are working with the school to work out a compromise not to break any laws.”
“I have a child in Jay Middle School, and I see nothing wrong with the Gideon's offering Bibles on campus,” resident Leanna Buske said.
Buske said it would be OK for other religions to offer reading materials. Students are free to take the material or not, she said.
“I am for anything that puts morals and character back into our schools,” Buske said.
Amie Harrison of Miami, OK, who has two school-age children, approved of the Scriptures that were given to her children in previous years.
“As a parent, it is my responsibility to teach my children what I hope they will believe and follow,” she said. “So when someone hands them something, they will have the ability to decide if they want to accept it or not.”