In Jackson County, Alabama, the local elementary school actually allows a guy who goes by the name Bible Man to hold assemblies every month to tell stories from the Bible to the students. And now the school board, after meeting with their attorney, has decided to allow him to keep doing despite threats of a lawsuit.
A parent’s complaint about religious assemblies during the school day brought more than 100 people supporting the assemblies to a called meeting of the Jackson County school board Monday night (Jan. 30, 2012).
Board members retired with their attorney into closed executive session to consider the five-page complaint sent last month by the Freedom from Religion Foundation on behalf of the parents. After an hour’s deliberations, board members returned to the room to announce, to applause, that they would not be banning the Bible Man from schools, despite the complaint about his monthly meetings with county elementary children.
I’d love to know what their attorney told them. If he or she told them anything other than “you’re out of your mind if you think you can win in court,” they should be fired and sued for malpractice. But he seems to be going along with it:
“The courts have told us what we can and cannot do pretty explicitly,” said John Porter III, attorney for the Jackson County school system, speaking from his office Wednesday. “What we are trying to do is to work out a legal way for Mr. Turner to continue to come to the schools.”
There isn’t one. He can rent school facilities after school on the same basis with anyone else in the community and invite anyone he wants to listen to him. But he cannot go into a public school during school hours and speak to students required by law to be there. This isn’t even remotely an open legal question, it’s absolutely clear. And of course, the wingnuts are out in force:
Any parent who objects to the Bible Man should consider homeschooling, says Alabama Sen. Shadrack McGill (R) of the state’s Eighth District, whose children have been educated both through homeschooling and in the Jackson County schools.
“We were established to be a godly nation, a Christian nation,” McGill said Wednesday. “We need God in government. We need God in the public school. The more we trend away from God, the more we suffer – morally and spiritually.”
Not one person showed up at the school board meeting to speak against Bible man. You can hardly blame them. They would almost certainly be the target of threats and violence if they did.