By John R. Schirmer
Last month, Nashville Gideon Ed McCrary met with the Nashville School Board to discuss the possibility of Gideons International providing copies of the New Testament to Nashville fifth graders.
In his presentation, McCrary said that there is “not any such thing as a Gideon Bible. These are Bibles handed out by Gideons. There isn’t a Gideon Bible.”
McCrary said Gideons have been distributing New Testaments to fifth graders for more than 60 years and showed board members a copy that dated back to 1957.
Gideons do not pass out the New Testaments directly to students, he said. The books are placed on a desk or in a box and students pick them up if they choose to do so. “They make a choice. We’re not teaching or preaching.”
Board members listened to the presentation without comment and took no action that night. Superintendent Doug Graham thanked McCrary for attending and said the district would take the matter under advisement.
Graham later explained his position on the matter. “As an official of the Nashville School District, one job is to teach about the Constitution and upholding the laws of our land. I understand that people get very emotional concerning their religious beliefs without understanding the magnitude of what they want done. Being emotional cannot change the law or decisions of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has said any public organization funded by tax dollars must remain neutral.”
The school district’s has a duty to “teach the Constitution. The Nashville School District will continue to protect certain rights on religion and prayer. It goes from the bottom up, starting with students. We cannot support things going from adults down,” Graham said.
The district will “protect religion and prayer that are protected by the Constitution. We teach and support the U.S. Constitution. I am not in a position to cherry pick parts of the Bill of Rights that I support and don’t support. For example, I can’t support the Second Amendment and not the First. I support it all.”
Graham said McCrary “came by to visit” April 25. “We had a really nice visit and had a chance to clear the air.”
Monday, the Nashville-Murfreesboro Gideon Camp announced plans to make Bibles available for fifth graders next week.
Bibles will be available Monday, May 9, from 3-5 p.m. at the First Baptist Church Family Activities Building on Second Street in Nashville.
They will also be available Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. Until 12 noon at First Assembly of God in Nashville.
Gideons said parents are invited to take their children to the churches to receive their free copy of the New Testament.