I work in a public high school. I was surprised when I stumbled upon the Bible in the religious section of the stacks. I wondered if other schools have the Bible in their collection.
“Placing [the] Bible, in any or all of its various versions, on the reference shelves of a public school library does not violate either Article I, section 11, or Article IX, section 4, which provide, respectively, that no public property or money may be used for religious worship, exercise or instruction, or the support of a religious establishment; and, that public schools shall be free from sectarian control or influence.”
And furthermore, wrote the following statement:
“The constitution is not directed against the Bible, but applies equally to all forms and phases of religious beliefs. If the Bible is to be excluded because it pertains to a religion and a future state, heathen mythology must go with it. Moral philosophy must be discarded because it reasons of God and immortality, and all literature which mentions a Supreme Being, or intimates any obligations to Him, must be excluded. We cannot conceive that the framers of the constitution, or the people, intended that the best and most inspiring literature, history and science should be excluded from the public schools, so that nothing should be left except that which has been sterilized, so as not to interfere with the beliefs or offend the sensibilities of atheists.”
The worry lies, I believe, in the fear that if included on the shelves, somehow the school, the library, and/or the librarian endorses the beliefs and viewpoints of the text. The American Library Association tells us something very different in the Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q & A as follows:
If Materials Are On A Library Shelf, Doesn’t That Mean The Library Approves Of Those Materials?
The presence of any particular materials in a library collection does not imply endorsement of the ideas expressed in those materials. The library is simply doing its job as a neutral provider of information from all points of view—if the library “endorses” anything, it is your right to have access to a broad selection of materials. If you don’t find materials to your liking, ask your librarian to help you!
The American Library Association, in their statement titled Religion in American Libraries Q & A (applicable to both public and school libraries) states:
“Librarians have a professional responsibility to be inclusive in collection development. Libraries serve all members of their communities and within their budgetary constraints should address all information concerns of all members of its community, including religious information needs. Collections should reflect those needs by providing access to diverse religious thought and opinion without becoming a proponent of any of them.”
Pat Scales, in her School Library Journal Column dates April 18, 2017, answers this question exact same question:
How does the separation of church and state come into play when involving religious texts and religious-themed books in a public school library?
Public school libraries do contain many religious-themed books. “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis is a good example. Most libraries have copies of the Bible. Stocking such titles doesn’t violate the separation of church and state. You aren’t requiring that students read them. Issues related to separation of church and state include the fact that school personnel aren’t allowed to profess their faith to students or exercise religious-themed programs. They may teach religions of the world from the cultural standpoint but must avoid theological teachings.
And lastly, our very own National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians and School Libraries reminds us of the following “Common Belief”
5. Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right.
Learners have the freedom to speak and hear what others have to say, rather than allowing others to control their access to ideas and information; the school librarian’s responsibility is to develop these dispositions in learners, educators, and all other members of the learning community.
In summation, including the Bible, or any other religious material, on the shelves of a school library is providing readers with access to information. A Bible on the shelves (or any other religious texts) does not translate to the endorsement of these beliefs, but is simply providing access to these ideas. This is, simply stated, our duty as school library professionals.