Opinion

When political correctness rules all else

By Jim Merriam, Toronto Sun

During a recent vacation I opened the Bible in our hotel room.

Placed by the Gideons, of course, it was one of the most useful Bibles I have ever seen.

It was complete with references to helpful biblical passages for various stages of life — both the good and the bad.

The hotel Bible was the King James Version, known around this household as the best version of what has been called the most purchased but least read book in the world.

If memory serves me correctly, Gideon Bibles used to carry a note that they were free for the taking. The one in our hotel room had no such message.

When I asked the desk clerk about it, she said the Bibles were replenished every three weeks or so, but she had no extras and knew nothing about taking one home.

She advised — in one of history’s great understatements — that I shouldn’t steal the Bible.

The Gideons began Bible placement in 1908 when 25 were put in the Hotel Superior in Iron Mountain, Mont.

In 1911, the first Bibles placed outside the U.S. were by Canadian Gideons in Toronto’s King Edward Hotel.

Hotel rooms are not the only place the Gideons reach out with Bibles. Since 1946 the Canadian organization has been presenting New Testaments to all Grade 5 students in Canada whose parents consent.

The Gideons give out Bibles because they believe “the Bible contains a message of hope and benefit from God for every person on earth and our objective is to share that message through personal witnessing and placing Bibles and New Testaments into people’s hands. We believe that God’s Word can change lives.”

Pretty hard to argue with that, you’d think.

Well, not around an area of southwestern Ontario that once might have been known as the Bible Belt.

That Gideon tradition simply wasn’t strong enough to stand up to the political correctness of 2012.

The region in question is home to the Bluewater District School Board, which covers an area that stretches from Tobermory in the north to Dundalk in the southeast and past Kincardine in the southwest.

The board, meeting as a committee of the whole, voted in early April to stop allowing the Bibles (and materials from other religions) into schools. The decision still must be ratified later this month.

Although controversial in the area covered by the board, this decision passed with little notice elsewhere in the province.

That is until some of the residents of the area who objected to the Bible ban got carried away. It was broadly reported that the decision resulted in a “torrent of threatening calls and hateful e-mails directed at trustees.”

Perhaps those respondents should have spent some time reading the Bible before they got so carried away defending it.

The Gideons, a peaceful group if ever there was one, have distanced themselves from this vitriol.

That issue aside, a more reasoned debate continues in the board’s home region with opponents calling out the school trustees for not seeking community consultation as they had promised to do.

That’s in spite of the fact some trustees admit there have been more attempts by the community for input on this question than all other issues combined this board has faced.

The last chapter has yet to be written in this story of political correctness running roughshod over community values in an area with a strong religious tradition.

jmerriam@bmts.com


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