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Bible distribution breaks the rules, mother asserts

WATERLOO REGION — A Kitchener mother says school trustees are violating their own rules by allowing Gideon Bibles to be distributed to Grade 5 students in public schools.

The Waterloo Region District School Board has a policy allowing religious material to be distributed through the schools if parents agree, and if the materials are not used in an attempt to convert the child to that religion.

For years, trustees have allowed Gideons International, based in Guelph, to give pocket-sized copies of the New Testament, plus the Hebrew Bible books of Proverbs and Psalms, to Grade 5 students.

But Fauzia Mazhar told trustees Monday night that she is “appalled” by this decision. The Gideons openly state on their website that their mission is “to win the lost for Christ, and our unique method is the distribution of Scripture in selected streams of life,” she said.

Mazhar also said that the Gideons’ request to trustees never stated they were providing New Testaments only for informational purposes.

“What made the Board decide that the material provided by Gideons is only for informational purposes?” she said.

Mazhar asked trustees to reverse their decision.

However, the issue wasn’t on the agenda for Monday evening’s meeting, and trustees did not ask any followup questions of Mazhar.

Mazhar was backed up by Omar Ramahi of Waterloo, who also spoke to trustees.

“The school board should not take any action that’s perceived as favouring one religion over the other,” he said.

Some other residents came out to speak in favour of the Gideons’ practice, which dates back to 1946.

Lloyd McDonald of Kitchener said he got one of those Bibles as a Grade 5 student and didn’t read it for years,

“However, it was there in my dresser drawer when I needed it,” he said. “I benefited greatly from the Gideons’ distribution of Bibles.”

He told trustees that Canada is now a multicultural society, “but its roots are strongly planted in the nations of Ireland, England, Scotland and France.”

“We’re being told . . . the Bible has no place in our educational system,” he said. “She has the right to exercise her freedom of speech, which is upheld in Canada. Such a privilege would not be allowed in many Muslim countries.”

Mazhar said she is not trying to represent those countries.

“I’m here as a citizen of this country, and a member of this community,” she said.

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