updated 1/9/2008 8:37:12 PM ET 2008-01-10T01:37:12

A federal judge has ruled that it's unconstitutional for a school district to allow the distribution of Bibles to grade school students.

For more than three decades, the South Iron School District in Annapolis, Mo., allowed representatives of Gideons International to give away Bibles in fifth-grade classrooms.

Eight parents sued two years ago and won a temporary injunction against the handouts.

The district then altered its policy, saying the Gideons and others were still welcome to distribute Bibles or other literature before or after school or during lunch break, but not in classrooms.

But federal Judge Catherine Perry now has ruled both practices unconstitutional, saying their purpose "is the promotion of Christianity" with the school's apparent endorsement.

Mathew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, a religious legal advocacy organization, represented the school district and says he'll appeal.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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