Bibles in Schools
A statement from Kelvin Warkentin with The Gideons International in Canada:
As you've probably already read on our website, we began offering New Testaments to Grade Five students in 1946. The Canadian public school system at that time was very open to it, so it became an annual tradition across the country that students would receive their own personal, pocket sized copy. Canada was a different country back then, especially with regards to the diversity of religions in the classrooms.
Grade Five was chosen as "the year" because research shows this is about the time when children begin asking the big questions of life. The Gideons wanted to offer children the opportunity to read a book that they believed would offer them positive guidance in the decisions they would be facing as they grew older. This philosophy has been affirmed again and again by adults who have told us they have hung onto that New Testament for many years and have derived much wisdom and hope from it. That Testament has altered the path of many readers.
However, over time due to the religious fabric of our country changing, school boards began to re-evaluate their policy on this free service by The Gideons. It was usually a case of someone in the community disagreeing with the distribution and voicing their opinion to the school board. In response, some school boards have opted to ban all distribution of "religious" matter to students. Others have opted to evaluate it on an annual basis, based on the community's feelings on it, and make the opportunity available to all religions. Still other school boards are completely open to it and our members still distribute the New Testaments to the schools.
Generally speaking, boards that do allow the distribution send home a letter or card to the parents asking whether or not they consent to their child receiving a New Testament. There is no pressure or "sales pitch" to the parent, and they are free to opt out of this offer.
The Gideons' position is that offering a free New Testament to students is optional to the school boards and we respect their decision. It is completely up to them whether or not students be offered a Gideons New Testament.
We still believe that there is a place for religion in public schools and that shutting out the open discussion of God and other spiritual matters from our public school system will have a long-term detrimental affect on our Canadian young people. However, it is not our philosophy to force the issue, nor do we view it as a right of ours to continue the distributions.
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