Gov. Bevin urges students to use Bible as conversation starter at school

Reaction to 'Bring Your Bible to School Day'

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) -- On Facebook, Kentucky Governor Matt promoted the national effort, 'Bring your Bible to School Day.'

"Use it as a conversation. A conversation with other students," Gov. Bevin announced on his Facebook page.

His endorsement is getting applause and admonishment. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is sounding the alarm on the governor taking a public stand.

"It is wrong for the governor to use his position, his elected position, to assist evangelizing his personal beliefs," said Edwin Hensley.

Hensley is the co-organizer for the Kentucky chapter of the FFRF. He also has an issue with how any talks about religion would be policed on public school property, including those students who don't want to participate.

"If two students want to talk about it, that is perfectly fine. If a Christian starts evangelizing and the other person, whether it's a non-Christian, Christian of a different belief, saying, 'I don't want to talk about this.' Then it should stop," Hensley said.

We received mixed responses on our WHAS11 Facebook page.

Jon Patterson posted, "I believe this or any kind of religion should be taught at home or private schools not in public schools."

Scott Hollenbeck said, 'Students should take a Bible to school every day.”

Governor Bevin suggested bringing a Bible to school is a teaching moment. "If we followed Biblical principles like treating others as you wanted to be treated, living your neighbor like yourself, simple stuff.  Now, this is the stuff we should celebrate. I love the idea that young people are bringing Bibles to school," Gov. Bevin said in the Facebook post.

The FFRF released this statement in response to Gov. Bevin encouraging students to take their Bibles to school:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is admonishing the Kentucky governor for exhorting students to carry bibles to class.
 
In a highly inappropriate Oct. 3 Facebook video post, Gov. Matt Bevin encourages schoolchildren to bring their bibles to school. The video, which is clearly tagged as “GOVERNOR.KY.GOV,” promotes www.BringYourBible.org, a scheme pulled together by a national evangelical outfit. The governor’s video and posting encourage children to “bring your bible” into classes to convert other students to Bevin’s particular brand of religion: Protestant Christianity.
 
In the video, Bevin erroneously calls the drive “a student-led initiative.” This is not, in fact, a student-led initiative, FFRF points out. It’s sponsored by Focus on the Family, as the website captioned on the video clearly shows.
 
Bevin claims that the bible saturation will end “all the division, and all the vitriol, and all the animosity that’s striking us in this nation,” an assertion that also doesn’t withstand scrutiny. Nothing is more divisive for schoolchildren than injecting religion into public schools, FFRF responds.
 
“For this reason, Supreme Court has reiterated in numerous decisions that preventing such divisiveness is a major reason why the framers of our secular and godless Constitution wisely chose to separate from religion,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to the governor. “The separation of church from state is a founding principle of this nation and of our constitution: Our government and government actors cannot promote, advance or otherwise endorse religion.”
 
The Supreme Court has been even more proactive in safeguarding the constitutional rights of conscience of schoolchildren, FFRF adds. More than 65 years of firm Supreme Court precedent bars officials from imposing religious ritual and indoctrination in our public schools. Parents entrust the public schools with the education of their children and, in return, parents retain control over the religious upbringing of their children.
 
The governor — holding the highest elective office in the commonwealth of Kentucky — has no right directing other people’s children to bring bibles or any other religious books to public schools, FFRF tells Bevin. Such irresponsible misuse of public office appears to give the green light to school officials to likewise misuse their authority to promote religion to a captive audience of schoolchildren. The video will help breed an atmosphere of bullying, because the governor confers upon Bible-believing students the status of “insiders,” with non-Christian or nonreligious students targeted as “outsiders.”
 
“Imagine the consternation had you directed children to bring Qurans to school to ‘celebrate the wisdom of that book,’” FFRF asks Bevin. “It is equally inappropriate for the highest elected officer in Kentucky to endorse the bible's use in our public schools. The government may not take sides in religion, but this is precisely what you have done.”
 
FFRF imparts a history lesson to Bevin in pointing out bibles have even led to violence when forced into the public schools. In the 1840s, riots broke out in Philadelphia as Protestants and Catholics fought over which version of the bible ought to be taught in public schools. Some 20 citizens were killed, another five dozen injured, hundreds fled their home, and churches and property were burned down.
 
“What we find most disturbing is Bevin’s conclusion: ‘We are Kentucky,’” adds Gaylor. “The nonreligious and non-Christian account for more than 30 percent of the U.S. population. ‘We the people’ should include all citizens — regardless of faith — even in Kentucky.”
 
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is writing to Bevin on behalf of its Kentucky membership, its Kentucky chapter, as well as more than 29,000 members throughout the United States. It works to uphold the constitutional principle of the separation of between state and church and educates the public on matters relating to nontheism. 

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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