Bible request from Gideons faces immediate hurdles from schools

Bible request from Gideons faces immediate hurdles from schools

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A group with The Gideons addressed Dougherty County School Board members in an effort to allow the distribution of Bibles in schools, but their plans are already in an uphill battle.

Some board members are in favor of the proposal. However, school board attorney Tommy Coleman says it's unconstitutional for them to allow the Bibles to be distributed on school grounds.

Glenn Phelps, with the Gideons, presented board members with a map showing many other South Georgia counties that allow Gideon Bibles to be distributed.

But Coleman held that if it was happening, those school boards were not obeying the law.

Phelps detailed the map, that highlighted all of the Georgia counties in pink that do not allow the Gideon organization to hand out Bibles, including the Dougherty County School System.

"I think the community, the majority of them, would be in favor of it. But the constitution says the government cannot foster a religion," said Coleman.

A Gideons representative spoke to Dougherty County school board members Wednesday encouraging them to allow their group to make bibles available to students.

"I think that everyone is for that idea. And man, would it just build character just to have our children to have that opportunity. In fact, it ought to be taught," said DCSS Board member James Bush.

"I think all the board members are in favor of it and I would be. But at the same point in time, the attorney pointed out some issues that we need to consider," said Superintendent Dr. David Mosely.

School Board Attorney Tommy Coleman encouraged board members to follow the law, saying it would be unconstitutional.

"There have been specific cases about the distribution of bibles by the Gideon organization and they have almost unanimously been ruled to be unconstitutional, because it has the effect of the government sponsoring this distribution," said Coleman.

Still, board members pushed the issue. "I petitioned Mr. Coleman to give us something in writing as to how this can be possible legally," said Bush.

"I don't find from the research that we've done in the past on this very same issue that there's any practical way to do it and have it remain constitutional," said Coleman.

He said he doesn't believe there's any practical way to legally distribute Bibles to students at school.

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