Questions are rampant when it comes to the Bible and public schools. At the core of the debate is one central curiosity: whether Bibles are banned from public schools.
When did public schools ban the Bible?
Is the Bible allowed in public schools? When did public schools ban the Bible? These are just two frequently asked questions surrounding the intersection of faith and the public square. And here's a response that might surprise you: Bibles were not banned from public schools.
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Students are, in fact, free to bring their Bibles to school and to read them during free time, including recess and before and after instruction. Each year, there's a "Bring Your Bible to School Day" event where hundreds of thousands of kids — 514,609, in 2020, to be exact — take part in the initiative.
The take your Bible to school day effort describes itself as follows:
Bring Your Bible to School Day is a nationwide, student-led movement to read and treasure Scripture as God’s Holy Word, to encourage others with the hope we have in Christ Jesus, and to celebrate our religious freedoms in the United States. It all culminates with Bring Your Bible to School Day on the first Thursday of October. ... This event empowers Christian students of all ages to speak God’s grace and truth into the culture around them, starting with two simple steps — bringing their Bibles to school and sharing what God’s Word means to them.
Spearheaded by the Christian group Focus on the Family, Bring Your Bible to School Day offers kids a powerful opportunity to show the importance of their belief in scripture. Focus on the Family put together a frequently asked questions section of their site, which offers some important information about the effort.
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For anyone wondering "Is the Bible allowed in public schools?" or "Is it legal to have a Bible at school?" the organization explains, "As a student, you have constitutional rights to bring your Bible to school with you whenever you would like."
Is the Bible banned in public schools?
As we have noted, the Bible is not banned in public schools. But while you can bring the scriptures into school, students should be sure to abide by district rules and regulations. One of the biggest considerations is to ensure that students aren't disruptive during class and instructional times.
Either way, Bibles are allowed. Focus on the Family has more on its FAQ page, noting that there are two categories to be aware of:
1. First Amendment rights: As a student in a public school, you have First Amendment rights to engage in voluntary, free speech conversations. It just has to be done in a way that does not interfere with or substantially disrupt classroom time and academic instruction. You can voluntarily express your personal and religious beliefs to your classmates through verbal or written expressions. But make sure to follow school policy and do not engage in these activities during classroom or instruction time.
2. Equal Access rights: Student clubs (including Christian ones) and individuals have equal access rights to participate in the same free speech expressions and activities already allowed by the school for other clubs and individuals.
Now that we've covered the fact that the Bible is allowed in public schools, let's tackle another issue: the presence of Bibles in public school libraries.
Are Bibles allowed in public school libraries?
Just because students take your Bible to school day and other efforts prove that the Bible can be in schools doesn't mean its presence is always welcomed. One area where there is additional debate is in public school libraries, where the Bible's presence has often made waves.
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The Bible has appeared on the list of the most challenged library books. But Bibles and Christian literature are allowed to be placed in schools, specifically if these books are donated. A teacher named Hannah Sailsbury actually has a nonprofit she started called Bibles in Schools.
The mission is simple: encourage people to donate Bibles to schools. Salisbury decided to create the Bible project after noticing that a student was reading an old Bible he got from her school library. She explains what happened next:
Jesus opened my eyes that day and put it on my heart to get engaging Bibles in the elementary schools in my county. Bibles in which they could read and would be excited to check out of the library. After rallying a team of friends, family, and people from my church, we donated the Action Storybook Bible in all of the 38 public elementary schools in our county.
It started a movement and people began to get excited that we have every right to donate Christian literature in our schools. People began joining the mission and the movement is spreading to other counties and states! I never thought that my prayers would become a movement to make Jesus known in schools all across the nation.
Now that we've covered the fact that the Bible is allowed in public schools, be sure to find out more about how you and your family can participate in Bring Your Bible to School Day — and download our free "Fearless Faith Movie Guide" — a document filled with inspiring stories of Christians living their lives with boldness.