Focus on the Family attempted to dampen the mood of GLAAD's annual Spirit Day by hosting “Bring Your Bible to School Day” on Thursday.
Sponsored by a pair of right-wing Christian groups with a history of antigay activism, the event was characterized as a response to alleged cases of public schools banning students from bringing Bibles to class, reports The Huffington Post.
“It’s a religious freedom event for students in public schools going up all the way to the college level,” Candi Cushman, an education analyst for Focus on the Family, told HuffPost. “They voluntarily bring their Bibles to school as a visual celebration of their religious freedom and start conversations with other students.”
The event was sponsored by Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defending Freedom, the latter being an antigay legal group that has stepped in to defend several states' bans on same-sex marriage. Focus on the Family claims the day was started to encourage students to exercise their First Amendment right to religious expression.
“The Supreme Court has stated that public schools cannot restrict religious speech simply because it may be perceived by some as ‘offensive’ or ‘controversial,’” wrote the Alliance Defending Freedom in a legal memo. “The Supreme Court has squarely stated that a student’s free speech rights apply ‘when [they are] in the cafeteria, or on the playing field, or on the campus during authorized hours.’”
Since 2010, LGBT media watchdog GLAAD has organized the observance of Spirit Day in October encouraging LGBT people and allies to wear or "go purple" on social media in support of bullied LGBT youth.
Bring Your Bible to School Day purports to support religious freedom in its entirely, but Thursday's event focused exclusively on Christianity, and a conservative, evangelical brand at that. Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told HuffPost his group might consider a similar event for Muslim students.
“It depends on the intention of the effort,” Hooper told HuffPost. “We would encourage Muslims to bring their Quran to school every day, but whatever would be done would have to be respecting the rights of other people.”
At present, CAIR sponsors “Explore the Quran,” a campaign that focused on distributing the Quran to public libraries and prisons in an attempt to combat prejudice and spread awareness about Islam.