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Bible distribution in Tennessee school sparks controversy.

An elementary school policy that allows outsiders access to children for Bible distribution is being criticized in McMinnville, Tenn., and could spark a lawsuit.

Administrators at Dibrell Elementary School in Warren County permitted representatives of Gideons International to hand out pocket-sized copies of the New Testament to fifth-graders. Roy Pierce, human resources director for the school district, said the religious group had been distributing the Christian scriptures to children for at least 20 years, and the county had no plans to change the policy.

Sherry Trotman, the school's principal, told the Associated Press that students who were uncomfortable with the Bible distribution were allowed to leave the room while Gideons handed out the books.

After several parents complained about the practice, Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote to school officials and said "legal action" may be necessary if the religious promotion continues.

"The reason for the prohibition on Bible distributions is not that the Constitution requires schools to be hostile toward religion," wrote Americans United attorney Allison Pierce, "but that it requires schools to remain neutral on religious matters, by neither encouraging nor discouraging particular religious points of view."
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Publication:Church & State
Geographic Code:1U6TN
Date:Dec 1, 2001
Words:192
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