DELTA, Colo. – A Colorado school district will distribute pamphlets from atheist and satanic groups on April Fool’s Day, but parents of local students aren’t exactly laughing.
The Delta County School District plans to allow the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation atheist organization to put out pamphlets on a table in the library of Delta County high schools and middle schools after a dispute over a Bible distribution in December, KJCT reports.
District officials allowed Gideons International to put out Bibles in the school’s library in December, prompting a complaint from at least one parent. The parent contacted school officials, alleging the distribution violated constitutional protections, but school officials insisted the non-curricular literature met district policy guidelines.
Blogger Anne Landman wrote about the Gideons Bibles December 18:
The parent’s child attends Delta Middle School (DMS) and reported to her mom on Friday, December 18, that her social studies class went to the school library with their teacher, Mr. Michael Long ([email protected]). Once in the library, Mr. Long “announced to the class that there were free bibles available” and students “could pick one up off of a table located in the doorway of the library and take it home.” A student who noted this was a violation of separation of church and state in a public school, took a photo of the bibles on the table and sent it via text to her mother, pointing out that the table was located where students had to walk around it to enter and exit the library.
The student who did not take a bible was confronted by her classmates about why she didn’t take one, and they started shaming her for not conforming to Christian beliefs.
Unsatisfied with the response from school officials, the parent contacted FFRF, which apparently coordinated with the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) and the Satanic Temple to counter the Gideons giveaway.
On March 10, the groups sent a letter requesting the placement of atheist and satanic materials in school libraries in the same fashion as the Gideons Bibles.
The request includes brochures and pamphlets with titles like “Top 10 Public School State-Church Violations and how to stop them” and “It’s Okay to Not Believe in God!”
Others include “What They Said About Religion,” “Ten Common Myths About Atheists,” “Why Women Need Freedom From Religion,” “An X-Rated Book (Sex and Obscenity in the Bible),” “What’s Wrong With The Ten Commandments?” and “Why Jesus?”
The Satanic Temple also wants to give away “The Satanic Children’s BIG BOOK of Activities,” Patheos.com reports.
Kurt Clay, assistant superintendent of Delta County schools, told KJCT the district has no other choice but to allow the materials if they comply with the district’s policy on non-curricular materials. The policy states officials cannot discriminate against materials unless they promote violence, commercial products or politicians, or if the materials interfere with school operations. Publications also cannot be given directly to students or contain pornographic or obscene material.
Clay said that if the district wants to make Boy Scouts or 4H materials available to students, it must also allow atheist and Satanists to do likewise.
“This is the other side of that,” he said. “The policy says we cannot discriminate what is handed out, we just have to follow the process.”
The materials are set to be distributed April 1.