Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Is This OK?

Some time ago I was made aware of the Lifebook Project,
It is a very simple concept.  It involves students giving a book to fellow students.  The bulk of the book is the gospel of John; the rest is some Old Testament background and questions and answers for teens.  You can see all of the book at the link above.  

The books are provided for free by the Gideons International.  
I and my associate decided this could be a great opportunity for our students.  I signed Covington Bible Church up.  A sister church also registered.  We received 1,000 books each--enough to saturate the middle and high schools in our area.
Having signed up and received the books, I was about at the end of what I could do.  This is a student to student project.  So I approached several high school and briefly described the project.  Every one of them quickly said they would be involved.  In fact one of the student leaders actually approached me and told me that she wanted to lead the effort at her school.  Some of us met together to eat pizza and watch the training videos--they are on the website, too--and I pretty much told the teens they were on their own.  A few weeks later a couple of them came to me and said this and that, and is it OK if we do it this way?  I told them it is their project.  Go with it.  
They did and are.
It makes a gray-haired pastor thankful.

In the last couple of days we have received some discouraging news.  Even though it is completely legal for students to engage in religious activity in non-disruptive ways, some of our local administrators and school boards have said the students cannot pass out these books, or they are being needlessly restrictive.

I am including the links to some information about the legality of this kind of activity toward the bottom of this post, but before I list them let me say a couple of things to you adults.

  • Please commend these youngsters for being willing to participate in this project.  I'm doing it right now.  You gals and guys rock!  I hope adults rise to the challenge of evangelism, as you have.
  • Let's not get in the rock-throwing, chanting, marching on the school board office mode.  Unfortunately we live in a time in which the ACLU and groups like them have cowed school systems into submission.  (There are lots of political implications to that, but those are matters for another post.)  It really doesn't matter to many school systems who is right.  What matters is the knowledge that if they get taken to court, it will cost them money--money they don't have.  I don't want to be guilty of using the same bullying tactics as the other side.  Rather, I appeal to the consciences of those in charge.  What these youngsters want to do is right, and it is wrong to tell them that they can't.  BTW, A BIG THANKS TO THOSE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS WHO ARE WORKING WITH US.
  • In appropriate ways, make the facts known.  We live in a land where there are appropriate ways to make the truth known.  I'm not encouraging you to be obnoxious, at least not too obnoxious--in fact I hope you will be nice--but I am also not saying you should be quiet.  We probably shouldn't be quiet.  That's why I publishing this.
  • Know that the Gospel is not stopped by these kinds of roadblocks.  Let's go on.  BTW, if you can come up with a creative way of distributing these books off-campus, let me know.  I'll try to help.
In 1995 President Bill Clinton and US Secretary of Education
Richard Riley wrote clearly and extensively about the rights of students on school property.  Here is a brief quotation, followed by the link to much more:
. . . the First Amendment imposes two basic and equally important obligations on public school officials. . . . First, schools may not forbid students acting on their own from expressing their personal religious views or beliefs . . . [and] must give students the same right to engage in religious activity and discussion as they have to engage in other comparable activity. . . . At the same time schools my not endorse religious activity or doctrine. . . .

Here is another article that explains the rights of students: 

Summary of what the above looks like to me:
I'm a preacher and not a lawyer, but it would appear to me that unless the schools that are preventing the distribution of Lifebooks are also banning passing out invitations to birthday parties, and advertisements for non-school concerts, tractor-pulls, and scout meeting, that they are violating the rights of students by zeroing in on this project because of its religious content.