Apparently, religious expression is fine in Florida’s Orange County School District if Christians are the ones doing it. However, once atheists and Satanists enter the fray, it’s time to make some changes,
On Thursday, the Orange County School Board moved toward preventing any outside group from distributing religious materials, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“This really has, frankly, gotten out of hand,” said chairman Bill Sublette, referring to Satanist and atheist groups’ intent to distribute literature. “I think we’ve seen a group or groups take advantage of the open forum we’ve had.”
The school board did not have an issue permitting evangelical group World Changers of Florida to hand out Bibles on three separate occasions — and the group fully intends to do it again in January. In fact, the group has already purchased copies of the New International Version to be handed out in 18 district high schools. “We’re looking forward to doing it again,” said World Changers Vice President Greg Harper.
The “open forum” may have applied to the Christian group, but when Satanists announced their intent to distribute an activity book that includes coloring pages, a maze, a word jumble, and other educational materials, and lessons in morality, suddenly the non-Christians were “taking advantage.”
All of the children in these Florida schools are already aware of the Christian religion and it’s Bible, and this might be the first exposure these children have to the actual practice of Satanism. We think many students will be very curious to see what we offer, Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves said of the Temple’s intent.
“If a public school board is going to allow religious pamphlets and full Bibles to be distributed to students — as is the case in Orange County, Florida — we think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that these students are given access to a variety of differing religious opinions, as opposed to standing idly by while one religious voice dominates the discourse and delivers propaganda to youth,” Greaves added.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation also announced their intent to distribute materials, including a pamphlet titled “An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible,” which features an image of a Bible sexually assaulting a woman.
While this may seem offensive, and is certainly intended to be, FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel points out that it’s no more inappropriate than the content of the Bible. “I think if you look at the content of that brochure and what is actually in the Bible, and some of the things that are in the Bible in terms of sex and compare that to the cover [of the pamphlet], the cover is pretty tame compared to anything that is in the Bible,” he said.
School district counsel Woody Rodriguez says that the Satanic Temple is the only group besides World Changers to formally submit a request.
World Changers is unhappy with this latest development. Despite that it is an obvious attack on those who do not subscribe to the Christian faith, Harper calls the planned policy change an attack on Christians.
“They seem to be moving against the interests of a large part of the community,” he said, likening it to the district’s August decision to ban football chaplains at schools. “The Bible will open somebody’s heart, somebody’s mind, and cause them to pursue answers.” The World Changers VP likened the policy amendment to the district’s August decision to ban football chaplains after receiving complaints of Christian proselytization.
Lucien Greaves is also unhappy. “It strongly implies they never intended to have a plurality of voices,” he said of the impending policy change.
Board member Christine Moore is also concerned with the impact a policy change would have on Christian groups, but openly admits that the concern lies with non-Christians exercising the same freedom. “Everyone’s upset about the Satanists and the atheists coming,” she said.
Conveniently, the school board will not be voting on the matter until “January or February,” the Sentinel says.
The Christian group intends to hand out Bibles in early January.