PIKEVILLE, Tenn. — The Bledsoe County school system has banned the distribution of religious material from its schools, meaning the Christian organization Gideons International can no longer give out Bibles on its campuses.
The decision came after someone made a formal complaint, Superintendent Jennifer Terry recently told WRCB. Terry wouldn't elaborate on the complaint's details. By law, public schools cannot impose or promote religion.
"The distribution of religious materials in a public school is in violation of constitutional provisions and well-established federal and state laws and precedence," Terry said.
Gideon Chaplain Charlie Queen said he's been giving away Bibles at Bledsoe County schools for years.
"We simply go in, we lay it on the table, we tell them what it is and who we are and if they want one ... they freely take one," Queen said. "We do not hand it to them, they take it freely and voluntarily."
Pastor Bill Wolfe of Lee Station Baptist Church said his congregation was upset by the move.
"They can take it if they want one and they don't have to take it if they don't want one," said Wolfe, adding that he is 51 and still has the Gideon Bible he received in fifth grade.
Community members plan to protest this decision at the next school board meeting. School leaders say they have a Bible history course that includes a textbook, and students are allowed to bring their personal Bible to school if they wish to.