- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - After a group distributed Bibles near a Lincoln middle school, the district started getting complaints, but officials say the group didn’t break any rules.

A group of people distributed Gideon Bibles outside Lux Middle School last week, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (https://bit.ly/1p8yRoG ).

Parent Mary Anne Andrei contacted the district and to the American Civil Liberties Union afterward because she was concerned no one screened the people distributing Bibles.

“Just showing up with a box of Bibles isn’t a credential,” she said. “To volunteer, I have to have a background check.”

She also argues that the practice blurs the separation of church and state.

The district’s John Neal said school officials don’t have authority over the group handing out Bibles because they stand on public sidewalks.

“You can’t change a person’s right of free speech or what they hand out,” said Neal, an assistant to the superintendent.

The Gideon group generally lets the school district know about their plans as a courtesy but doesn’t have to get permission because they stay on public property, Neal said. School officials are always outside their buildings to monitor student’s arrival and departure and to make sure students are safe, he said.

Neal said the district has fielded questions about the practice over the years but has never had complaints that children were harassed.

Other groups have passed out leaflets near Lincoln schools before, including a group promoting alternatives to the military.

ACLU Nebraska officials they are still reviewing the issue and haven’t decided whether to take any action.

Andrei said the main things she wants are more notice from the school if a group is demonstrating nearby and more oversight of anyone handing out materials to students.

“All I’m asking for is a dialogue with everybody and better communication from LPS,” she said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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