Atheists triumphant in stopping bible study at Missouri schools

A protester dressed as a copy of the Bible joins groups demonstrating outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington June 30, 2014. | Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

A public school district in Missouri suspended a middle school Bible study program following a complaint lodged by a national atheist group.

Last week, the Joplin School District announced that they have scrapped Bible study activities that were held at different locations in the school district.

The move came after American Humanist Associations (AHA) alleged that a Bible study program led by teachers and outside clergy members was being held at North Middle School.

In December, Monica Miller of AHA's Appignani Humanist Legal Center wrote a nine-page letter to Joplin School District, claiming school employees used treats to lure students into attending the Christian activity, which reportedly took place during school hours on Thursday mornings.

The letter revealed that a concerned parent, who also happens to be an AHA member, informed the association of the Bible studies being purportedly hosted by an NMS teacher and members of a church group. It also highlighted the use of donuts, which were distributed to those who managed to stay until the end of the service.

"As a public school district, Joplin Schools is required to remain neutral on religious matters and cannot play favorites," Miller told The Christina Post, explaining that endorsing a Christian Bible study and luring students into joining the activity with treats such as donuts constitute a violation of the First Amendment.

Even though they suspended the Bible study program, the school district officials maintained that the sessions were student-initiated and that they halted the Bible study because it did not comply with a new district policy on limiting student-led initiatives to those in grades 9 to 12. In a statement sent to News-Leader on Monday, the school district also dispelled claims that the activity was done during school hours and that they forced young scholars to attend, stressing that participation was purely voluntary.