ACLU vs. middle school which allowed Bible distribution

The American Civil Liberties Union — champion of liberal causes (to name a few: homosexuality, abortion, and the removal of the word “God” from various “patrioticisms”) — is pressing charges against a middle school for organizing the students so that the Gideons could gift to them a copy of the New Testament (with Psalms and Proverbs).

The event was brought to the ACLU‘s attention by Roman Catholic parents of a fifth grader at the school.

The legal grievance was due to the Establishment Clause found in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. As a refresher, let’s quote it:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The way I see it, Congress was in no way involved with the school’s cooperation with the Gideons, nor were any laws made to that effect. Indeed, based solely upon the plain sense of the language of the First Amendment, the government can be as Christian, Muslim, atheist, Zen Buddhist, or Wiccan as it wants to be, so long as Congress passes no laws establishing such religions or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

It seems to me that the Constitution would allow for the free distribution of religious materials — even in schools, even on government property — and such freedoms would be allowed to Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and so on.

Basically, I don’t see pure constitutionality as being an issue here. The situation simply isn’t prescribed or precluded by the Establishment Clause, though the forbidding of evangelism by way of law is indeed forbidden. Perhaps it is notable, then, that the ACLU exercises its muscle in the court rooms to establish precedents in its favor, rather than working with Congress to make law. What exactly is “American” about the ACLU, aside from the location of their operation? I wonder.

The second grievance the Catholic family had was that the Gideons were sharing a Protestant version of the New Testament. I wasn’t aware the Roman Catholics had an “onlyist” thing going on; do they only use the Douay-Rheims and the New American Bible? What’s so wrong with the New Testaments of say the New American Standard or New King James?

I wonder if any atheists complained that it wasn’t a Skeptics Annotated Bible? If any Mormons are disappointed that it was the “old” New Testament, rather than the new Another Testament? If any J. Witnesses:”(I’m becoming increasingly uneasy about ascribing the Lord’s name to a group I consider a cult…)”: objected to the version not being the New World Translation?

And to think, Christians in some nations risk imprisonment or worse just for possessing a small portion of the Scriptures. How spoiled we English-speakers have become, when every little splinter group gets to have its own version of the Bible, widely available to any who want it, even if it sits on a shelf gathering dust for a few generations.

To conclude, I praise that school for cooperating with the Gideons. No one was forced to take a Bible — I’ve seen Gideons, and they are far from oppressive. And I am thankful that the school’s cooperation with the Gideons’ work was likely an answer to someone’s prayer that the Word of God would have free course, despite wicked and evil men seeking to prevent it (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).

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