May 2015 Church & State | AU Bulletin

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that the Phillipsburg , N.J., school district wrongly fired a public school teacher for distributing Bibles to students.

Walt Tutka lodged a religious discrimination complaint with the EEOC’s Newark Area Office after the Phillipsburg School District terminated his contract. In his complaint, Tut­ka argued that district officials had violated his religious freedom rights by refusing to allow him to distribute the Bible.

The EEOC apparently thinks Tutka has a case, but Americans United objected to the finding. In a legal letter submitted to the EEOC’s New York District Office, the church-state watchdog argues that the school district behaved correctly by firing Tutka.

“The courts have uniformly held that the distribution of Bibles to public-school students during the school day – whether by school officials or outsiders, and whether in class or during non-instructional time – violates the Establishment Clause,” the letter stated.

“There’s no ambiguity in the law here,” said Ayesha N. Khan, AU’s legal director. “Courts have ruled repeatedly that public schools are for teaching, not preaching. Tutka has no right to distribute Bibles to students.”

The letter urged the EEOC to consider those court rulings as it resolves Tutka’s complaint.