TORONTO - An Ontario public school board's decision to ban distribution of Gideon Bibles to its young students has unleashed a torrent of threatening calls and hateful emails directed at trustees.
Some messages to the Bluewater District School Board express racist sentiment and question trustees' patriotism.
"When are you 'politically correct' idiots, with your heads buried in the sand, going to realize that every action you take to destroy Canadian heritage...?" one email began.
"Allowing newcomers to Canada the ability to walk all over our heritage has got to stop before they carry us into the realm of a warring nation like the one they often left behind," another writer said.
The invective has unnerved some trustees as they prepare to formalize the ban on distribution of all non-instructional religious materials prompted by a parent's complaint about the decades-old tradition of offering free Gideon Bibles to Grade 5 students.
Trustee Fran Morgan called the "onslaught" of messages "really disturbing," and said it has made her uneasy about driving the 30 kilometres to board meetings at night by herself.
"I really do feel threatened by it," Morgan said from Griersville, Ont. "It's been very unpleasant."
The Bluewater board, with more than 18,000 students in 53 schools across a broad swath of southern Ontario territory, is expected to formalize the ban at its meeting April 17, following in the footsteps of several other boards across Canada.
Ban proponents argue distribution of the Bibles has no place in a secular school system, and that it potentially violates human-rights legislation.
The board nixed the idea of allowing any religion to hand out materials on the basis it would suck up scarce resources and could be legally risky.
One writer blamed the decision on "a handful of non-Christian elected officials."
Board chairwoman, Jan Johnstone, admits the vitriolic responses — some urging trustees to "watch your back" — are unnerving.
"People do crazy things," Johnstone said. "They see Christianity as a fundamental part of their Canadian identity."
Another wrote one trustee: "How is that you agree with God's 10 Commandments and yet you have broken them countless times, you hypocrite!"
The Gideons, an evangelical Protestant association, started in the United States in 1899. The Gideons International in Canada was founded in 1911 and today is an autonomous national association.
Gideons International has been placing its Bibles _ comprising a New Testament plus the books of Psalms and Proverbs from the Old Testament _ in Canadian public schools since 1936.
Kelvin Warkentin, a spokesman for the Gideons International in Canada, acknowledged times have changed.
"Over time, due to the religious fabric of our country being re-woven, school boards have begun to re-evaluate their policies on this tradition," Warkentin said.
"The Gideons' response to the school boards' decisions to discontinue the distributions has always been complete acceptance."
Although one trustee received a phone call he thought was tantamount to a death threat, the board has so far not referred the matter to police, but a spokesman said the situation was being monitored.
Trustee Kevin Larson, who would have preferred all religions be allowed to distribute materials, said he was "disappointed" by some of what he's seen.
However, those views are in the minority, and two leaders in the religious community have apologized for the hateful expressions, Larson said.
Trustees emphasized that most of those in favour of continuing the distribution practice have been respectful in their views.
Note to readers: This story clarifies an earlier version. It specifies the Gideons International in Canada is an autonomous association.
FORBIDDEN IN THE BIBLE:
Lunch time? Leviticus 11:7-8 reads: And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.
Thinking of getting the Superman insignia on your bicep? Leviticus 19:28 states: Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
Off to the barber? Leviticus 19:27 states: Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
It's bad enough if you're a man who has had his private parts injured -- or heaven forbid cut off -- but to add insult to injury, Deuteronomy 23:1 states: He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
Have you ever had your palm read? Or maybe you've consulted your horoscope for a little guidance? Leviticus 19:31 reads: Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God. Photo by zopdeep on Flickr.com
Heard some juicy news about Harold in the accounting department? Can't wait to tell your BFF that you just read that Snooki is pregnant? Leviticus 19:16 states: Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour; I am the LORD. Photo by JoeInSouthernCA on Flickr.com
Gentlemen -- if you ever get in a fight and you get the feeling your lady might jump in and lend you a hand by squeezing your opponent's... ahem... "secrets," you'd better stop her. Deuteronomy 25:11-12 states: When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.
Kids these days -- you never know what's going to come out of their mouths! But hopefully your child doesn't curse you because Exodus 21:17 states: "And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death."
When it comes to the Bible, this is a big no-no (unless your spouse was cheating on you): Mark 10:11-12 states: Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
In our fast-paced society, does anyone really work Monday to Friday from 9-5? Exodus 31:14-15 states: "Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
Headed to church, ladies? 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 states: Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
Craving a big bowl of popcorn shrimp? Leviticus 10-11 states: And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. Photo by jeffreyw on Flickr.com
Today it might be harder to find a bride who is a virgin rather than the other way around. But Deuteronomy 22:20-21 states: But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you