THE FRIENDLY ATHEIST: In January of 2013, World Changers of Florida, Inc. held Bible distributions at a number of public high schools in Orange County, Florida. No student would be forced to take one, but there would be a table set up where interested students could take a copy if they wanted. This alone could have been illegal, but the Orange County School Board agreed that non-Christian groups could also have a distribution if they wanted. When the Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC) called their bluff and planned their own giveaways, they were heavily censored. Many of their books, they were told, could not be given away, including titles such as Sam Harris‘ Letter to a Christian Nation and Ibn Warraq‘s Why I am Not a Muslim.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation didn’t buy their explanations for why the books were censored and filed a federal lawsuit against the district in June of 2013. Before the lawsuit was ruled upon, the district agreed to let the atheists give away whatever books they wanted. Then the fun began. The Satanic Temple announced earlier this year that they would file a formal request to do a giveaway of materials about Satanism, which eventually morphed into a single fantastic coloring book.
After all of this, the Orange County School Board is finally — finally! — considering not allowing outside groups to do book distributions:
Worried about facing national ridicule if a Satanic group is allowed to give out coloring books to children, the Orange County School Board moved Thursday toward preventing any outside group from distributing religious materials on campus.
Another board member was much more blunt about the reasons for the potential change:
Board member Christine Moore also seemed to struggle with the effect of a policy change on Christian groups. “Everyone’s upset about the Satanists and the atheists coming,” she said.
I spoke with David Williamson of the CFFC and he told me (via email) what he thought about all of this:
“Our members, who are also concerned parents of students in Orange County Public Schools, are pleased the school board has finally realized they have a gaping hole in their policy. We expect they will be able to reach a solution that keeps them out of court and focusing on teaching students instead of propping up religious propaganda. MORE
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