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Associated Press:
Alabama Education Association distributes religion guides to 50,000 teachers.

August  27, 2005

Two booklets containing instructions on handling religion in Alabama's public schools are being distributed to some 50,000 teachers statewide by the Alabama Education Association.

The state teachers union is distributing the 16-page "The Bible and Public Schools" and the 20-page "A Teacher's Guide to Religion in Public Schools." An AEA spokesman, David Stout, said the goal is to dispel the notion that the Bible and prayer aren't allowed in public schools.

The booklets advise an academic, not devotional, approach to religion.

Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center produced the booklets after U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley in 1999 suggested a guide to teachers.

Haynes has been the principal organizer and drafter of a series of consensus guidelines on religious liberty in public education endorsed by a broad range of civil liberties and educational organizations. In January 2000, three of these guides were sent by President Clinton to every public school in the United States.

Olivia Turner of Montgomery, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said Wednesday she has not read the booklets and couldn't comment. The AEA's distribution of the material was reported by New York Times regional newspapers in Alabama.

Alabama Association of School Boards spokeswoman Sally Brewer Howell said school boards already receive updates and training on religion issues in schools to keep current on the law.

The AEA-distributed booklets emphasize that teachers and other school employees are government employees who may not promote religion but may explain its history, its place in ancient and modern times and the Bible in its various forms.

Schools may strive for awareness but not acceptance of religion, the booklets say.

Schools also may sponsor religious studies but not the practice of religion and schools may expose students to diverse religions but may not impose, discourage or encourage any particular religious view.

The guides also say schools may teach about religion but may not denigrate or promote any particular one. Schools may inform students but not seek to conform him or her to any particular belief.

 
 

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