In the January 2013 meetup of Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers, Suzanne Lamb spoke to the group about a situation in a Muhlenberg county high school. When challenged about letting the Gideons distribute bibles in the school during class time, the school board decided to implement an "open forum" policy to allow any group to distribute literature, but did not originally put the policy in writing nor publicize it. Suzanne Lamb discovered that the school board was using the policy to allow special access to the the Gideons (but not necessarily any other group) by examining the school board minutes, and decided to do something about it. With the help of the Secular Student Alliance and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, she put pressure on the school board to honor the "open forum" policy by allowing her to distribute FFRF materials on the school grounds.
Here are a few important points from the presentation:
- Open Forum policies regarding access to public schools by outside organizations can be used as loophole strategies to give religious groups privileged access. It is important to know of these policies and be sure they are being implemented appropriately.
- If you become aware of potential Church/State violations in your district, you can contact groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Secular Student Alliance for legal advice. Oftentimes, it only takes a letter from a national organization to solve the issue. These situations do not always have to lead to a lawsuit.
- If children are raised from K-12 with consistant endorsement of religion in the schools, they come to see such Church/State violations as normal and to be expected.
- We need to remember that this is not an issue for atheists only. We have religious allies in Church/State Separation issues. In her presentation Suzanne speaks of a Baptist minister who spoke out strongly in favor of her case.
You can read more about the case at Suzanne's blog, What to Tell the Neighbors. Posts specific to the Muhlenberg County case may be found under the label "Gideons" in the right sidebar.