The following comes from a September 12 Marin Independent Journal article by Janis Mara:
As Tara Jones, 11, left Del Mar Middle School to go home, a stranger approached her and handed her a small orange Bible, unsolicited. When Tara’s mother found out she hit the roof, concerned for her child and other Marin children who she feared might be approached.
“When I picked up my sixth-grader, she said, ‘Mom, I don’t think you’re going to like this,’” said Janette Jones of Tiburon. “These men, four or five of them, were standing there handing Bibles to our children, and we (parents) didn’t know this was happening.”
The Sept. 3 incident involved people from Gideons International, the same organization that places Bibles in hotel rooms, district officials confirmed.
Jones isn’t the first parent to express concerns about the distribution. When Gideons began handing out Bibles to students in 1946, “there was always some form of protest,” Kevin Kruse wrote in his book, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America.
Initially done on school grounds, “Jewish leaders protested any effort to place the New Testament in public schools, while Catholic officials objected because canon law forbade members of their faith from using the King James Version,” Kruse wrote.
More recently, “Every school year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation receives countless complaints from parents about The Gideon Society or other similar groups who are distributing bibles to their children at public schools,” according to that foundation’s website. The foundation is a nonprofit educational organization.
In the case of the Tiburon distribution, Jones said, the activity didn’t take place on school grounds, but on the sidewalk, and Del Mar Principal Alan Vann Gardner was on hand watching.
John Mini, a Tiburon resident who has a child at Del Mar, said he was surprised by the “permissiveness” of the school administration and police. In a letter to Vann Gardner he wrote:
“Anybody not personally and directly connected with the kids should be considered as a predator by both the school and the police in that situation where the kids are vulnerable.”
“They are unaccountable. They are cowards. They are in and out within 25 minutes. They call an hour before they do their dirty work and get in and out. Nobody has invited them,” Jones said.
Nancy Lynch, superintendent of the Reed Union School District, said “if I understand correctly, if it’s on a public thoroughfare, a public sidewalk, there is a difference between what you can do legally and what we think is appropriate.”
A San Anselmo civil rights attorney confirmed Lynch’s statement.
“It’s a free speech right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution, which has a free speech element,” said attorney Larry Organ. “Certainly on a public street and a public sidewalk, there should be no limitations.”