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ACLU protests distribution of Bibles at South Dakota school

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 (AP)

The American Civil Liberties Union is urging a central South Dakota school district to reverse its decision to allow the distribution of Bibles to fifth-graders.

The South Dakota chapter of the organization said Monday it wrote to the Miller School District detailing how U.S. courts have prohibited Bible distributions in public schools under a variety of circumstances.

"Under the Constitution schools cannot intentionally, or unintentionally, advance religion or become too entangled with religious groups," said a copy of the letter provided to the media. "The courts have repeatedly said that schools must also avoid favoring or appearing to favor a religious view, and they may not create any situation in which students feel coerced to participate in religion."

Board president David Fremark told The Associated Press Monday that he hadn't received the letter. He declined to comment.

The board recently voted to allow the group Gideons International to distribute pocket-size New Testaments to fifth-graders. The ACLU has previously protested similar efforts across the country.

The organization said in its letter that schools that allow the distributions venture "onto shaky constitutional ground" and open themselves up to legal challenges.

Aside from reversing the Bible distribution decision, the ACLU is also asking the board to craft policies on the distribution of non-school materials that meet legal standards.

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