Monday, June 09, 2008

Bibles at school?


I'm really starting to feel ashamed at the city I live in. Take a look at this...
Not surprisingly, I have an "in" on this story. I have several friends with kids at this school.

"Students from Stockdale High School are upset after being told by the school
district they can't hand out Bibles to fellow classmates. "

Yeah. Ummm. Not really.
Brant Bonetti, the young man in question, brought out the Bibles to hand them out in tandem with yearbooks. As a student would approach the table to get their yearbook, Bonetti asked them if they wanted a Bible. He was NOT told he couldn't hand Bibles out to other students, just that he could not do so during school hours, on school property, during a school sanctioned activity (handing out yearbooks).

Administrators said while the students have good intentions, the Bibles cannot
be distributed.

Again...this is not quite true. Bonetti stated that these Bibles were "for his friends and fellow grads". He was told by administration, after they received calls from STUDENTS who felt weird about this, that he had to hand the Bibles out on his own time. That's a far cry from saying "you may not hand these out" period.

One student said the district has violated the student's first amendment rights.
The Kern High School District said rules are rules and they stand by their
decision. Stockdale High graduate Brant Bonetti, it all started with a simple
yet thoughtful idea. We raised money earlier in the year, about $1,700 to go
ahead and buy Bibles, said Bonetti. Enough so that if every graduating senior
wanted one they could have one.


And, what about those who did not want one? Giving out a Bible to your friends is a thoughtful gesture. I can't dispute that. If his heart was in the right place, which I'm sure it was, then Mr. Bonetti could've done this on his own time. In fact, I daresay the gift would've been more special. Instead, it was treated like a prison line-up where you get your clothes and your Bible from the guy behind the desk. Not only is handing them out with yearbooks tacky as hell, it's also inappropriate. Another thing that strikes me is that $1700 is a lot of cash. Would that money not have been better spent by helping a local charity?

The Vanderbilt bound 18-year-old thought it would be a nice gesture to give away
Bibles to students as they picked up their diplomas the day after graduation. I
may not see these people for the rest of my life and this is just one more
opportunity for God to impact them, said Bonetti.


And, here we have it...this wasn't about a gesture between Bonetti and some friends. It's about gathering souls. How egotistical can you be? Mr. Bonetti, if you are reading this, why is it that you think these people would not choose God if it weren't for your presence? If your God exists, then surely that deity could impact people without your sanction, presence, or Bible.

Five minutes into the giveaway, Bonetti was called into the principal's office.
He said 'You can't pass out the Bibles,' said Bonetti. I said, 'What do you
mean? I already got this cleared and everything,' and he said, 'Someone from the
district office called us and we're going to have to stop you from doing it.'


What no one mentions is that other students were calling home and parents were calling the district. These students and parents were uncomfortable with this. I don't blame them! And, if I were a non-Christian student waiting for my yearbook, I would be incredibly annoyed by some holier than though kid offering me a Bible. A student shouldn't have to dodge evangelism in schools. Less than two miles away from Stockdale High School is Bakersfield Christian High School. Go there and hand out Bibles. Heck! I'll drive you! But, doing it in a public school setting during school hours is a bunch of crap. How would it go down if every person receiving a yearbook had to go down a receiving line where they had the opportunity to reject or accept the religious texts of every religion or, let's say, "God is Not Great" by Hitchens? That would be an awfully long line.

The Kern High School District said passing out Bibles violated regulations. John
Teves from the Kern High School District said, Printed material like the Bible
can't be distributed during a school sponsored activity.


For once, the KHSD did the right thing!

We just want there to be a level playing field, said Bonetti. Whether it's me
handing out a Bible, or my friend handing out a Koran, those students have the
right. Teves said the school district wants to re-examine the rule so there's no
confusion next year."


A "level playing field"? A level playing field would've included Mr. Bonetti calling every other religious group in the locale and telling them he was going to give people "one more chance" to accept his God, so maybe they might want to come pass out a Gita', the Koran, a Book of Mormon, The God Delusion, or some other religious text. Hanging out a Bible with yearbooks, where students are forced to make a public display of their faith where they may not want to do so, is NOT A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD!

19 comments:

Joanna said...

I have to agree with you - so inappropriate! While I am a religious person, I would never dream of doing this. I would realise that doing this would probably have a greater negative effect than positive. You may find one person to willingly take it, but 99 would be offended. Not great odds! Out of school, no problem. You are so right - it sounds like an assembly line! If I were offered something in that manner it wouldn't feel special, like the person really wanted me to have it. It would be like being asked if I wanted a side of fries with my Big Mac! Out of school in a personal setting is the appropriate way to do this.

Peter said...

"Whether it's me
handing out a Bible, or my friend handing out a Koran, those students have the
right. "

On the contrary, they do not have the right to promote their religion on others during school hours at a school sanctioned event. Time and again, people fail to realize that the right of freedom of religion also means that a government institution, ie public schools, cannot allow ANY religious proselytizing, even if it managed to do all of them, which it cannot possibly do.

Understanding your rights is the first step to properly exercising them.

Christine said...

Was this kid hoping that his fellow grads would have a St.Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus style conversion on the way to the pop machine? More likely that these kids were thinking about the raging house party that was going to happen. I don't blame them for being uncomfortable. Public school is not the place for religion.

The martyr attitude that comes out in situations like this drives me nuts. I also love the distortion of facts.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Calladus said...

I don't have a problem with bibles in school as long as they are not a disruptive influence, and are used responsibly by the student.

Just as with a cell phone, don't whip it out and interrupt the teacher. Keep it closed and put away in class.

Also, I wouldn't have a problem if bibles were offered, out of the student's backpack or locker, during lunch, or in-between classes - as long as no one is made late for class.

Heck, I wouldn't have a problem with the kid standing on the street outside of the school offering bibles to anyone who walked by - before and after school.

I have made the offer on a few occasions to local Christians to help them pass out bibles to students before and after class, outside of the school grounds.

But this wouldn't give you the right to have the bible open while "on the job". Your job as a student is to learn.

You can bring a comic book to school too. But if you are reading a comic or the Bible when you should have your math or history book open, then expect to have either confiscated, and perhaps receive detention for not doing what you were supposed to be doing.

Calladus said...

Anon - why a donation? Take me with you and I'll help pass out the bibles before and after class from off campus.

Think of the win you would have - "Atheist Passes Out Bibles to School Children!"

And just think of the questions you would get asked.

CrypticLife said...

From what I understand, students can promote their religion (i.e., proselytize), even during school hours. I cannot see any reason this would not include giving away Bibles. It is teachers and administrators who are not allowed to proselytize by law.

However, schools may restrict it where it is either disruptive or gives the impression of school endorsement. While schools could stop friends from giving the Bible away on grounds of disruption, they have to show there is some actual disruption. Giving away Bibles with yearbooks would give it that impression, and as such is inappropriate.

I wonder how, and who, actually raised the money, incidentally. If it was raised through school or PTA activities then diverting the funds to pay for religion could be illegal.

Calladus said...

Tim Todd Ministries runs a thing called "Truth for Youth" where they hand out bibles to kids. Todd calls it "legally smuggling in bibles" and makes it sound subversive.

Donors buy the bibles (which are filled with Jack Chick-like graphic novels in the front) for about $4-5 each, which are then distributed with great fanfare.

But it's a waste. I wanted to see one of these bibles, so I bought one from Amazon's used book area for a penny. There were hundreds on sale for a penny each - just pay shipping.

And even that was too much - cause I found my second Tim Todd bible at the Salvation Army for less than a buck - in mint condition.

My advice to Christian donors - don't buy new bibles, buy the used failure bibles and pass those out. You'll be saving the word of god, and saving a few bucks too. Win - win!

Allyson said...

As an atheist who grew up in a heavily Catholic community, there were student displays of religion at the public school all the time. However, these students only involved those who wished to participate. There were prayers around flagpoles, and students doing mini-bible-study during lunch, but these students were pretty reasonable about not trying to get non-Christians involved.

This kind of incident, however, bothers me. Yeah, the student could easily reject the offered bible. But the Christian students should not be attempting to prostelytize in the first place. It's simply not appropriate on school grounds.

Rufus said...

I'm just curious as to what the reaction would be if someone had started handing out copies of "The Origin of Species" to go with it.

I've just had a look and you can get a copy for £3.59 (about $7-$8). Seems far cheaper than $1,700 for bibles for everyone who doesn't run away fast enough, and might be more interesting?

Or possibly the abridged version of Sir James Frazer's "The Golden Bough", for those who are interested in the anthropology of religions in general for the same price? "[I]t offers the thesis that man progresses from magic through religious belief to scientific thought."

Speaking as someone who went to an anglican school (I'm from the south of England), if the deeply religious want to increase their flock then the absolute worst thing they can do is try to get their message into schools. At best it'll make no difference and at worst it'll scare their potential lost sheep away for good.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

If you can't read the rules of the blog, then don't post. No anonymous comments.

CGDH said...

When I was teaching elementary school, I had to confiscate a Bible from a student. It was a delicate situation and I was afraid that I'd handle it incorrectly and get in big trouble. Here's what happened:

A student brought her special Bible for show-and-tell. Fine.

She read it to herself during silent reading. Fine.

She wrote, "You are fat and ugly" on the inside of the back cover and started flashing the message at other students. Not fine.

I confiscated the Bible and sent her to the office. I was sweating bullets, especially because I had already had some minor scuffles with parents and administrators over refusing to say the pledge, teaching that humans are mammals, and flipping out on a kid who used the phrase, "That's so gay."

For the rest of the afternoon, while I waited for the mandatory debriefing with the principal, the student, and the student's grandmother, I felt an escalating sense of panic. I resolved to stand firm because I would have done the same thing if it were any other book.

In the end, I shouldn't have worried. Grandma was wicked angry, but not at me.

I did the right thing, but any time a Bible is involved, teachers are nervous. There's no way to know how an incident will be interpreted, especially after it has been filtered through a scared 9-year-old.

AlisonM said...

We just want there to be a level playing field, said Bonetti. Whether it's me
handing out a Bible, or my friend handing out a Koran, those students have the
right.


If they wanted a level playing field, they should have been handing out religious texts from underrepresented religions. You know, because everyone's heard of Christianity, but unless they know just as much about, say, Sufism, or Kali death cults, then the playing field isn't really level.

And I wonder if Mrs. Bonetti would be the first or the second parent to call the school district to complain about those materials being distributed in school. . .

aimee said...

Never heard of the Dollar Store? Why in the world did that much money need to be spent on the bibles? That's just regoddamndiculous.

Todd said...

Here is an update to the story. Chad Vegas is such an Asshat.

http://www.bakersfield.com/hourly_news/story/470482.html

Scott Riegel said...

They passed out Bibles (The New Testament and Psalms to be more specific) at my school (I live in Texas) during lunch, and it pissed off the few non-Christians that we have down here. The school said something to the effect of "any religious person could pass out their religious text if they got our permission".

curecreator said...

I disagree. This may have been "awkward" for those individuals that did not want a bible but all you have to say is no thanks. Especially if you respect the religion for what it is then you don't have to worry about offending anyone. Not to mention, if they are going to give students history books laden with others OPINIONS about religion then why not let them have some content so that they may decide for themselves what religion they want, or would that be violating someone's choice. Plus, it doesn't matter if this is morally wrong because Brant has the first amendment defending him if he wants to do this. Also, if you say that this is not allowed because that would be promoting a religion through a government institution, then you are also saying that these students that are required to go to school are also required to let the government take their rights at the same time. Additionally this event had already been approved by the district to let Brant distribute the bibles so was there just some official that decided he didn't like Brant's religion anymore?

I don't think that any of you actually know Brant Bonetti but he is my neighbor and his brother is one of my best friends and Brant would never try to alienate another student and most everybody knew it except the district "whizzes" who know best about everything. Besides if he hadn't been even half right he wouldn't have had the support of the local news stations now would he?

curecreator said...

BTW the money was raised through the school's Christianity club.

Berlzebub said...

@ curecreator:
I disagree. This may have been "awkward" for those individuals that did not want a bible but all you have to say is no thanks.
Or go to the church and get the message there, which is what the church is for but not schools.

Especially if you respect the religion for what it is then you don't have to worry about offending anyone.
What is the religion then? Different people have different views of religion. My personal opininion is that religion is a way for people to shirk responsibility for thinking for themselves.

Not to mention, if they are going to give students history books laden with others OPINIONS about religion then why not let them have some content so that they may decide for themselves what religion they want, or would that be violating someone's choice.
To my knowledge, history books give information (facts) about what religions have done, but only in the context that it applies to history. If a student wants to know more they should study it on their own, or take a class on religion.

The choice is that they can go to a church to learn about any specific religion available to them. That part is not the school's job.

Plus, it doesn't matter if this is morally wrong because Brant has the first amendment defending him if he wants to do this. Also, if you say that this is not allowed because that would be promoting a religion through a government institution, then you are also saying that these students that are required to go to school are also required to let the government take their rights at the same time.
The government is not taking their rights. They can still learn about religions by going to the churches during their free hours. If the school offers a comparative religion class they can even learn about multiple religions during school hours. However, public schools are neutral ground. No school authority or student can use government property to endorse a particular religion. Therefore, the bible handout was unconstitutional.

Also, reread the first amendment. I do not think it means what you think it means. If they allow one religion a special priviledge on school grounds they have to allow all religions the same priviledge. Considering the number of religions the simplest solution is to take religion off the table.

Additionally this event had already been approved by the district to let Brant distribute the bibles so was there just some official that decided he didn't like Brant's religion anymore?
Persecution complex much? Perhaps the district didn't think through the repercussions. As I pointed out, schools are neutral ground. When students, and their parents, complain then the original approval needs to be rethought.

I don't think that any of you actually know Brant Bonetti but he is my neighbor and his brother is one of my best friends and Brant would never try to alienate another student and most everybody knew it except the district "whizzes" who know best about everything.
So Brant should get special priviledges? Again, refer to the first amendment. A person's character doesn't matter when it comes to matters of the constitution.

Besides if he hadn't been even half right he wouldn't have had the support of the local news stations now would he?
Is this a variation on Argumentum ad Populum? Earlier you were talking about the "OPINIONS" in history books, but now you're saying that the opinion of the newspaper counts for more. Again, this is special pleading. A newspaper's support doesn't count for much when it comes to the law.

BTW the money was raised through the school's Christianity club.
Good for them. Perhaps they should have put the money towards something more useful.

It doesn't matter if Brandt was handing out Bibles, Koran's, Torahs, God Delusions, Necronomicons, or any other religious text. If the students had wanted Bibles they could have gotten them on their own.