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February 26, 2010

Gideon Bible guys passing out New Testaments to Walnut Creek Intermediate students Thursday


A different but discussion-provoking incident happened during afternoon pickup at Walnut Creek Intermediate...

My son and his friend, whom I meet at the 7-Eleven parking lot on Oak Road, plopped into the car, and my son announced "This guy was handing out Bibles after school."

Bibles? Handing them out? At School? What? Isn't there some Church-State separation here?

My son held up up a pocket-sized volume of the New Testament, bound with faux, orange leather binding and embossed with gold lettering.

The book looked shiny and new, but I wondered, who in Hades was handing out Bibles to Walnut Creek Intermediate school kids?

As it turned out, as my son continued to explain, the Bible Guy wasn't standing on school grounds when he handled my son the good book. Rather, the guy was on the trail--the Ironhorse Trail--when he made his offering. The Ironhorse Trail runs alongside the WCI playing field and is part of the East Bay Regional Parks District.  

Still, hearing about this Bible guy made me wary.  Not because of the item he was handing out, but because he had approached my son and some other kids. I envisioned some disheveled guy, with a crazed look in his eye, hearing voices, and mumbling "Repent! The end is near!" Also, as I've reported on this blog in the past, there have been a couple incidents involving WCI kids on that portion of the Ironhorse Trail, at least one of which involved a suspicious behaving man approaching a student.

So, I followed my son and his friend back down to the trail, and I saw that there were two guys--two nicely but casually dressed older gentlemen. They each held cardboard boxes and, with smiles on their faces, were handing out the little orange Bibles to kids. "Would you like a Bible," they were asking.

I approached them and asked where they were from. The Gideon organization, one of the gentleman told me, offering me a New Testament, which I took.

Back in the car, a discussion popped up among my son, his friend, and me, about the religion, Christianity, the difference between the New and Old testaments, and our beliefs. As I may have mentioned before, I'm not religious, and my family doesn't attend church, but I told my son he might want to read some portion of the book he received. I said both the Old and New Testaments contain interesting, famous stories and lessons about life, and some beautiful writing. I mentioned that I had a former high school English teacher who now teaches a class on the Bible as literature at Diablo Valley College.

As if to punctuate my statement about the Bible's literary value, my son's friend happened upon a passage from Chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation, and read it aloud: "And He said to me, 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts."

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with Gideon guys passing the Bible to students on public ground as long as we agree that equally there would be nothing wrong with Muslim guys passing the Quran to students on public ground.

Anonymous said...

I agree. If you don't want it, just say no.

Louis said...

More than likely this would be legal although I make no claims of being a Constitutional law scholar so this is my opinion only. The Gideons were off of school property; however, it seems a little underhanded - a way to get around the church/state issue. Personally, I would have politely refused the Bible. It would be a different issue indeed had they been on school property.

Anonymous said...

While I do agree they are entitled to pass out the Bibles, just like any organization can pass out materials, I have to question why they chose a middle school. I remember an adult handing me one on the sidewalk outside my middle school, could I have said no? Yes, I could have, but as a middle schooler I didn't know that that was an option, everyone else was taking them, shouldn't I? It seems like they are taking advantage of kids, who may or may not be able to make the decision for themselves. I would encourage them to try handing them out to adults who truly can make a decision about whether they want one.

Louis said...

Well said anonymous "I remember an adult handing me one on the sidewalk outside my middle school, could I have said no? Yes, I could have, but as a middle schooler I didn't know that that was an option."

You are right. I don't know if I could have said NO as a middle-schooler or not, either. As an adult (and one approaching 60 - YIKES) I'm sure that I am much more demonstrative. I had forgotten how shy I was at 14 (insert big smile here).

Anonymous said...

SM - you seemed concerned about kids' safety until you saw that these guys were "nicely...dressed older gentlemen".

Child molesters can be nicely dressed older men. It doesn't matter if they're handing out bibles or candy or telling kids that they have a puppy in the van.

These guys demonstrated bad judgement and a disregard for parental authority.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. Now you want a country where people can't hand out a bible on public property (let's be clear...by public we mean all property that isn't privately owned...that's all public streets, parks, parking lots, open space, etc...)? How about literature on weight loss, political campaigns, business sales, etc...? Are those things o.k.?


Let's protect our children from any new thought or idea...we wouldn't want to challenget the little dears to have to think.

Louis said...

Anonymous said...
"Oh my goodness. Now you want a country where people can't hand out a bible on public property (let's be clear...by public we mean all property that isn't privately owned...that's all public streets, parks, parking lots, open space, etc...)? How about literature on weight loss, political campaigns, business sales, etc...? Are those things o.k.?

Let's protect our children from any new thought or idea...we wouldn't want to challenget the little dears to have to think."

Anon, I think you may be missing the point. Number one, in this day and age, it is unfortunately dangerous for unsupervised children. One never knows who the preditors are. My second thought is that religious practice should be taught at home and in our places of worship. What if the small child being approached is Jewish? Muslim? Buddhist?

Anonymous said...

8:31 - Mocking and twisting people's words...not cool. The points being made are:
1) Strangers should not be hanging around on trails, approaching children. It shows bad judgment.
2) Parents are responsible for their children's spiritual education. Circumventing that is disrespectful and arrogant.

MickeyMartin said...

Religion will always be a hot button topic. It is an issue of free speech but it does lack taste. Choosing to exercise this freedom to approachable school kids with no supervision is kind of creepy. Although middle school kids are pretty smart these days. Religion is a sacred and mostly cultural choice for most families. Kids have a right to make their own choice on these matters, but 12 is probably not the right age to make choices about where and with who you will be spending your after life. You should be deciding what you will be doing in the after school.

Anonymous said...

I joined the Gideons back in 2006, and took time out of my Wall Street career workday to hand out Bibles at Richmond High and at JFK High on Cutting. We stayed clear of school property and gave out at least 200 bibles.

I was accompanied by a retired dentist, a postal worker, a mechanic, and an accountant. We were courteous to the kids, and to their parents as well. With few exceptions all the kids were respectful, curious, and receptive.

This story's headline is judgmental in its tone, and in its verbiage. How about this instead: "Christian Men introduce Middle School Kids to God's Word and to His message of Salvation?"

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to the Bahai, Sikhs, Native American, Goddess worshippers, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Wiccan, Druid, and Muslim nicely dressed older gentlewomen and gentlemen to do the same...and if I left out your favorite religious group, I apologize...come on down and pass out your stuff. IT'S A FREE COUNTRY!

AKA Soccer Mom said...

Dear 5:48 p.m.
Thanks for sharing your experience as a member of the Gideons...

Sorry, but my initial impression, picking my son up and hearing that some stranger handed him material s of a religious or political nature--was wary. A man approaches my son and other middle school kids and hands them religious materials.

Right outside their school grounds, as they are passing out of the gates from their playing fields. It was also timed when their school is dismissed...

Talk about a captive audience, shooting fish in the barrel.

Obvious, the Gideon members planned this.

I'm not saying their offering was objectionable. Not to me personally.

Then again, it raises questions of whether any organization with a religiuos or political viewpoint would or should similarly target middle school kids in Walnut Creek, or elsewhere. Just as they are leaving school en masse, when their parents are not likely to be present.

The more that I think about it, the more than I think that the Gideons overstepped a boundary. Not legally, but in terms of common decency. They took advantage of a situation. They planned it, and they know it.

Okay, they were passing out the Bible. That's okay, right? 'Cause it's the Bible.

But what if members of another group were passing out other materials? Shouldn't they have similar justification for doing so?

A pro-abortion group
An anti-abortion group
An Islamic group, passing out the Koran.
A group that supports legalization of marijuana.
A supporter of the Tea Parties, and the right-wing agenda...
Someone who has certain views on immigration, the death penalty, health care...

I don't know.

As a parent, do you feel comfortable with people handing out religious or political material to your middle-school-age kids as they are leaving school property?

And, yeah, I put to the religious and political into the same category.

As to the headline suggestion:
"Christian Men introduce Middle School Kids to God's Word and to His message of Salvation?"

I don't think so. It's long, and, as you said about my headline, it is "judgmental in tone."

Anonymous said...

I went to WCI, and now I am at LL and they've been doing that for years. At the beginning of the school year they were at the front entrance of my school handing them out, but from what i remember, mos people said no.. but when they were handing them out at WCI when I was there, they were pretty forceful about handing them out..

Dan Simoes said...

Personally I don't see a problem. No one criticizes Girl Scouts for selling cookies outside BART and taking advantage of the fact that they know people will be arriving around 5PM.

Anonymous said...

a Bible is always nice to have on hand. Its part of a complete library. Yeah Gideons

Anonymous said...

I'n a Christian, but I'd like to get a free copy of the Koran and the Torah...that would be cool.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want someone handing out pro-abortion literature to my kids.

On the other hand, an intermediate school aged girl can get an abortion in CA without her parents being notified, but we can't hand them bibles? Something seems very wrong with this picture. I can't even see my kids medical records at Kaiser because they are over 12 yrs. of age.

Anonymous said...

I'm with 8:16. Thumpers get way too defensive. Didn't Phillip Garrido distribute religious materials with his hostage and their children?

Child molesters don't dress a certain way that would call them out. Does a claim to religion mean they're immune from being suspect of inappropriate behavior towards children.

If I want my kid to have a Bible, I'll buy him one. The Gideons should stick to putting their propaganda in hotel rooms.

Castle Hill Bill said...

5:48- Given the hightened concern for child safety, why are you distributing your books in the immediate vicinity of schools? Has the hotel distribution system been proven ineffective in gaining more prospects? Have you considered handing the testaments out at the Buckhorn Grill? Past reports suggest that at certain times you can find a complementary thinking group there.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I actually wouldn't want my middle-school aged child to have to encounter that. Yikes!

I may not be religious either, but I have a spiritual appreciation of God and others' beliefs. Lately, though I'm meeting far too many hypocritical so-called Christian. Off topic, I know. Just felt like venting on that.

Anonymous said...

I'm planning an open carry, bible distribution event downtown. Anyone interested?

Killjoy said...

Hey, it's just more kindling.
Use it to start a fire on one of those Spare the Air days.

Anonymous said...

Wow, glad I found this! Today my 13 year-old daughter showed me a little orange bound New Testament and said, "Guess where I got this? Right outside of school, there were these old guys with cardboard boxes handing these out to all of us while we were leaving school." Then as she slammed the little book down on the table she exclaimed, "That's disgusting!" What she found disgusting is not about the book itself but about the fact that these guys presence felt scary and harassing to her. I don't know yet if they were on a public sidewalk or not. I'll keep you posted. But it's a little strip next to the parking lot of the school that ends at a canyon; also next to the crosswalk so children are immobilized waiting for the light while several of the men kept dishing out books. I have taught my daughter well. She is spiritually and religiously educated and will make up her own mind if she chooses any organized religion or not. She took a book she didn't want though because everybody else was. What do you expect? We all remember the impressionable middle school days. Wary as well in San Diego.

AKA Soccer Mom said...

So 10:23 p.m. It looks like it's happening all over. This Gideon Bible hanging out...

At my son's school, there is once entrance at the back that all the kids use to reach a pick up area on a street that runs along the campus. But they have to cross a recreational jogging, walking, biking trail that runs throught the town. The trail belongs to a regional park district. The Gideon guys were on park district land, but standing right in the face of the school entrance/exit.

Anonymous said...

A dear friend of mine just died on Christmas Day with no warning. Thank God he became a Christian before he died and is spending eternity in Heaven with his Savior, Jesus Christ, rather than an eternity burning in Hell. If the Gideons want to help my child find their way to Heaven through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, I would be very thankful. Too bad they are having to do the parents' jobs!!

Anonymous said...

I'm a San diegan, and I don't like that my child was handed a bible today on her way out of high school. The crosswalk where she was given the bible is a bottleneck, and the men have all the advantage over the children. I'm not going to pretend that the Gideon bible or any religious book is harmless. It can be poison in the wrong hands, and religion is the prerogative of the individual, not something to be pressed upon a child at a cross walk. As a mother of a 14 year old dughter, I can attest to her temporary brain damage, inability to predict the future, and complete lack of judgment. It's a part of adolescence, and I am not so naive as to think these middle aged men don't KNOW full well that a captive, insecure adolescent audience is, as one commentor put it "shooting fish in a barrel". Religion is the family's decision, and later the adult child's decision. I refuse the idea that prostheletizing in front of schools is legitimate! Do what other churches do. Hold a carnival, give away candy, have 'youth group gatherings' to attract teens, etc. Though manipulative, these strategies, at least, have the implied consent of the parents. This Gideon street corner strategy is a sneaky one that I heartily resent, as do most other parents, regardless of religion.

Anonymous said...

I'm not happy at all! After picking up my 5 yr old from the bus stop she pulls out an orange copy of the NT. Then she explains while waiting to get on the bus at school that a man gave it to her. What? a stranger approaching my 5 yr old and noone stopping it? Why is this allowed? This is wrong on so many levels. Seperation of church and state for a reason, Strangers allowed around my daughter, and we are Jewish.

Anonymous said...

I am a Christian and I do respect the opinions most of the comments that I have read here. I do believe it is the job of the parent to introduce the belief system in their home and too their children especially to a child under 15 years of age. Now if that child comes willingly to ask questions then I would ask that child does he or she parents know of their thoughts on the topic of Christianity? If that person is 17 and older I believe that they are old enough to respond too. They are at that age to where they are going through the things that they don't quite understand such as "Honor thy mother and father". Let's face it, there are teenagers out there that don't understand that their parents are instructing them because they love them and don't want to see what they know lies out there in the cold and uncaring world and there are people out there that will hurt them. The must be taught wisdom and the bible can teach them that.

Anonymous said...

I am not religious and I have no issues with those that are. I drive school bus at a middle school and last year The Gideons were standing at the gate where the student leave school to get on the bus. The children could not avoid taking a bible without ridicule from the children that do attend church. All children should be made comfortable about there beliefs at school.

Anonymous said...

Found this blog. Glad you're putting your english degree to good use, but honestly if you've got such a problem with suburbia why don't you move to the ghetto? People like you make the otherwise pleasant suburban life unbearable.

Anonymous said...

They were in my town yesterday. Hit the High School and the Middle School. I didn't mind the High School but they freaked out my middle schooler. He is a small kid - looks like he is much younger and he was waiting for me at the same spot one of the men was standing. He told him to leave him alone and he won't stop talking to him. I could see the whole thing as I was in the line of cards coming up the street. He didn't want one. I did say something and the guy was really rude about it. He actually said "I wasn't talking to him". Hmmm. I could see him talking to my kid. Yes, he was across the street. The kids are still minors and parents still have some rights. I feel the same way about anyone giving my kid literature (even info that is my political brand). These are adult men.

Anonymous said...

Adding........it was a different story with my High School daughter who was probably taller then these guys and plays Var. sports. They went to every single exit - there was no way the kids could avoid them.

Maryanne said...

So, I do not really consider it may have effect.