Distributed holy books raise questions of religious freedoms


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The holy book of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

by Chloe Siohan, Staff Writer

If you were walking home from school and were handed a Bible, what would you do? Accept it or reject it?

Recently in front of Glen Rock Middle and High School, individuals have been handing out Bibles to children and teens leaving school.

This has been an ongoing issue for years, but it has recently become a more frequent occurrence. Whether one agrees with the practice or not, neither the school nor police can be involved since the solicitation has occurred off-property. The individuals handing out copies their holy book are standing across the street from the school on the corner of Hamilton and Harristown Ave.

One perspective comes from Angelina Monti, a freshman who doesn’t practice any religion.

“I don’t really know what somebody’s motivation would be to stand in front of a school and hand out bibles, I just don’t understand it,” she said.

Monti strongly believes that religion is a personal choice, and that people shouldn’t force others into believing in their religion.

“I think that children should have the right to choose what they believe in, not just be forced into a religion because their parents or family was in it,” she said. “I do think it is kind of inappropriate for adults to be hanging around schools handing anything out to children.”

Monti thinks Bibles and other Holy Books should not be handed outside of school because it is specifically targeting children.

“I think that it needs to be closely monitored because we don’t know if these people are dangerous or not, and no kid should feel unsafe or uncomfortable about some strange guy handing out bibles outside school,” she said.

Despite Monti’s discomfort, no one can tell the person to leave because it would infringe on one’s rights as an American citizen.

Principal Arlotta said, “My understanding is that as long as they are not on school property they have a right to do so.”

Monti wants to see this being monitored closely. “If they can’t tell him to leave, then I at least want to know that nobody is in danger by simply walking home from school,” she said.

Through an online chat with a missionary for a website associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, located at www.mormon.org, some representatives, who requested to not be named, said that people should not be banned for sharing what they believe.

“We have the freedom of religion in the United States. Everyone else has agency or the ability to choose whether or not they would want to take a Bible or other book of scripture,” one said.

The representative had passed out the Bible and the Book of Mormon in the past.

“Of course I have had negative experiences passing out a Bible or Book of Mormon,” the representative said.

According to the online representative, it is acceptable for a person to hand out Bibles and other holy books in front of the school as people can share and believe whatever they want.

“Anyone can believe what they want, but also anyone can share what they believe,” the representative said.

Not everyone agrees, however.

Terrence O’Brien, a Senior Pastor at the Community Church of Glen Rock, says that it is not appropriate for Bibles to be handed out outside of school.

“Handing out Bibles unsolicited can be intimidating and give the wrong  impression that a faith practice can be imposed on people,” O’Brien said.

Reverend Terrence O’Brien gives a sermon to a congregation at the Glen Rock Community Church.
Photo Credit: Terrence O’Brien
Reverend Terrence O’Brien gives a sermon to a congregation at the Glen Rock Community Church.

“While I do believe that having some kind of faith in one’s life is important and beneficial, I also believe that the best way to introduce Christianity or any other faith to someone is by example, by the way we live our lives, by what we say and do, how we treat each other,” he said.

Although O’Brien practices Christianity, he believes that Bibles outside of a school can be an intimidating act.

“We all enjoy the freedom to express our beliefs – a tremendous right that we share in our democracy.  But I don’t believe we have the right to impose those beliefs on others,” he said.

O’Brien also posed a solution to the problem. “Without taking away the individual right of expression, perhaps the best way to allow both the students and those passing out Bibles, to co-exist peacefully is to have a ‘no fly zone’ around the school,” he said.

He suggested that religious solicitation could be limited within a certain proximity to schools, similarly to how political parties could not promote candidates within a certain range of a voting center.

Ultimately, O’Brien said, “The key component that comes into play with this argument is where the handing out of Bibles and materials is taking place. Where does one draw the line between the freedom of expression and the separation between church and state?”