Lenny Frankel of Frankel, Rubin, Bond, Dubin, Sigel, and Klien, P.C.
The ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a complaint on behalf of two parents with children in the South Iron schools. We challenged the school district’s long-standing practice of allowing Gideons International to come into the fifth grade classrooms during mandatory class time to distribute bibles to the children.
In 2005, the Superintendent reversed the policy and indicated he would no longer allow the Gideons access to fifth-grade classrooms. Against the advice of the school attorney, the school’s insurance provider, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, and others, the School Board vote 4-3 to overrule the superintendent and mandate that the Gideons be provided access to the children. On October 4, 2005, the Gideons were allowed to come and distribute bibles to fifth-graders during class. Liberty Counsel, a right-wing religious group from Florida, is representing the defendants.
On September 5, 2006, federal district Judge Catherine Perry issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the distribution of Bibles in the elementary school. In strong language, the judge observed that the School Board’s only purpose appeared to be the promotion of Christianity to elementary school children. The school district appealed the judge’s decision.
UPDATE 08/21/07 Court of Appeals opinion affirming preliminary injunction
On August 21, 2007, the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s issuance of an injunction on behalf of our clients. The school district, represent by Liberty Counsel, which was established by the late Jerry Falwell, appealed. Now that the injunction has been affirmed it will remain in effect until the district court makes a final decision on the merits of our claims. In the meantime, the case continued in the district court where both sides have filed motions for summary judgment. We seek to have the preliminary injunction made permanent. There seems little doubt that there will be another trip to the Eighth Circuit after the district court rules.
South Iron Panel Opinion
UPDATE 01/08/08 ACLU Applauds Decision Ending Bible Distribution to Public School Students
The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri applauded the decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri that found the practice of Bible distribution in the public school of a rural Missouri county was unconstitutional.The ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed suit against the South Iron School District in February 2006. The court had earlier entered a temporary injunction against Bible distribution, which was upheld by the Eight Circuit appellate court in August 2007. In today’s decision, District Judge Catherine D. Perry found the school district’s past and current policies unconstitutional violations of the Establishment Clause.
South Iron Permanent Injunction 010808
UPDATE 07/16/09 ACLU Applauds Decision in Bible Distribution Case
ST. LOUIS, July 16, 2009 - The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri applauded the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that upheld a permanent injunction ending the practice of Bible distribution in the public school of a rural Missouri county.
The Court affirmed the injunction entered in January 2008 by the United States District Judge Catherine D. Perry that prohibited the South Iron R-1 School District from “allowing distribution of Bibles to elementary school children on school property at any time during the school day.” The permanent injunction was the culmination of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri’s suit that was filed in early 2006 and asserted that the 30-year practice of distributing Bibles to elementary-school children breached the separation of state and church mandated by the Establishment Clause. The district court had earlier entered a temporary injunction against Bible distribution, which was upheld by the Eight Circuit appellate court in August 2007.
Full Press Release
Decision of the Court