Representative for Gideons, Ellen Reid, attended the SPERD regular meeting on May 9 to request permission to give a New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs to every grade 5 student in division schools.
Reid explained, “We are not forcing them. Before they are handed out in schools, parents have the option of signing a card stating that they DO NOT wish their child to receive a Bible.”
Gideons provides Bibles to institutions “as a free gift without obligation.” In Canada, distribution in schools began in 1946.
However, SPERD policy AP 521, approved in 2013 says, in part, that “schools are not vehicles for … the solicitation of students and their families by commercial, cultural, political, religious, or special interest groups.” Bibles have not been given to children in SPERD schools since that policy came into effect.
Gideons have chosen to give grade 5 students the Bibles because at that age they can read and comprehend, and “can be introduced to one of the options,” asserted Reid.
Reid has worked on reserves across Canada and with street people in St. Paul. She is convinced that “the Word of God is life changing.” Her goal is to “build relationships and a moral standard.” Providing students with Bibles will give them an opportunity to discover God’s Word, if the children are interested.
Reid commented that the board’s mission statement encourages religious freedom. It says: “We value the uniqueness of all and respect cultural, linguistic, spiritual, and religious diversity.”
School board chair, Heather Starosielski, acknowledged that families in the division, “are very diverse and we respect all religions.” However, she suggested that no one doctrine should be promoted unless equal time is given to all.
Starosielski recommended to defer a decision until research has been done into the history of the policy. The issue will be revisited at the June 21 board meeting.