For 40 years, a costumed character known has “Bible Man” has been visiting public schools in Grundy County, Tennessee, leading songs, preaching sermons, handing out religious literature, and putting up Baby Jesus displays. But now that an atheist parent has complained, those visits are coming to an end, WRCB (Chattanooga) is reporting.
(NOTE: The Tennessee “Bible Man” is not to be confused with Bibleman, the Christian superhero character created in the 1990’s by former Eight Is Enough actor Willie Aames – they are two separate characters played by two separate men.)
Horace Turner has dressed up as “Bible Man” and hung around Grundy County schools for as long as anyone can remember. But last month, The Freedom From Religion Foundation stepped in after an anonymous parent complained, saying the character’s obviously Christian message in a public school is unconstitutional.
The atheist mother behind the complaint said that Bible Man’s presence in the school and his religious teachings made her son uncomfortable.
“At first he did not know that he didn’t have to go [to Bible Man’s activities]. As he got older, it bothered him that he had to sit through this because it’s not his religion.”
After the school received the Foundation’s letter, Bible Man took the hint and stopped visiting the schools. That hasn’t sat well with school officials or some parents, says school official Dr. Willie Childers.
“I believe the perception was that we’re trying to get rid of him, and that was not the perception we wanted to present.”
In fact, the atheist mom who brought the complaint against Bible Man tells Raw Story that she and her family have been the subject of intense harassment since her complaint. She says her son has been targeted on Facebook, and at least one person posted a picture of a burning house to her Facebook account.
“We just can’t get over how much hate there is in their loving, Christian hearts.”
This is not the first time the Freedom From Religion Foundation has created a controversy by addressing the issue of religion in public schools. Earlier this year, the Foundation created a heated controversy in West Virginia, according to this Inquisitr report, by asking a public school to remove a memorial to a beloved teacher because it had angels and crosses in it.
As for Bible Man, although he’s taking a break for the moment, school officials are hoping they can work out a compromise that allows him to visit the school on what’s known as a “club schedule;” that is, allowing the students the opportunity to choose to participate in Bible Man’s activities in the same way they would any other extra-curricular activities, according to Dr. Childers.
“We are trying to make sure that the procedures that we do are legal and constitutional for every citizen.”
Do you think Bible Man should be allowed to hang out at a public school and offer Christian-based religious education to the children in Tennessee schools? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/larryrains,]