Multiple petitions are now competing for the attention of Chilliwack school officials as they prepare to decide whether or not to allow free Bibles to be distributed at local public schools.
Mike Unruh, a School District No. 33 education assistant, put up an online petition supporting the Bibles Saturday
"Keeping the Bible an option for Grade 5 students in Chilliwack schools has come into question within the last few months. We want to see this continue being an option for families and students," reads a preamble to the petition, which had 46 signatures by press time Monday afternoon.
Unruh's wife Stacy, told the Times that the key word is "optional."
She wouldn't want religion forced on students, but she's not opposed to her own kids being exposed to different perspectives and would support other religious groups being allowed to hand out materials at schools.
"We follow the Bible, yet we send our kids to public schools so they can see the other side," she said.
Another Bible-supporting petition (dubbed an "affirmation" by pastor Leon Throness) was circulated at the Unruh's Chilliwack Alliance Church on Sunday and attracted 392 signatures in about 40 minutes.
The church eschewed the term "petition," Throness said, because members believe the word's negative tone doesn't represent majority opinion in Chilliwack. "The voices that have been heard the most have maybe been the loudest voices but have not been the most representative voices," he told the Times.
Those opposed to Bibles in Chilliwack public schools have rallied around a BC Humanist Association petition, which has attracted about 330 signatures since being put up last month.
Most of that opposition, however, has come from outside of Chilliwack, with 59 local signatures and 271 sig-natures from Metro Vancouver, Ontario, California and even Europe.
The controversy around Bibles in Chilliwack public schools erupted last October when local parent Richard Ajabu first complained to the district about a parent permission form for a free Bible his daughter got at school.
In November, the Chilliwack school board directed district staff to come up with recommendations for a policy by the end of March to govern the distribution of all materials to students.