NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge ordered a public school system to stop allowing in-school Bible giveaways, saying the practice violates the First Amendment separation of church and state.
"Distribution of Bibles is a religious activity without a secular purpose" and amounts to school board promotion of Christianity, U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier ruled in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board.
Defense attorney Christopher M. Moody said late Tuesday that the School Board would appeal the ruling.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit for an anonymous family whose daughter said she felt pressured into taking a Bible because she was afraid classmates would call her a "devil worshiper" and think she didn't believe in God. The girl was called Jane Roe and her father John Roe out of fear of retaliation, the ACLU has said.
Jane Roe was a fifth-grader at Loranger Middle School when the Gideons International visited on May 9, 2007. Principal Andre Pellerin notified fifth-grade teachers that the group would be on campus all day, giving away Bibles outside his office. His e-mail said, "Please stress to students that they DO NOT have to get a Bible," according to Barbier.