A school district in Florida officially banned the distribution of Bibles and religious materials after a Satanist group attempted to hand out some devil-themed literature of its own.
The Orange County School Board voted 7-1 on Tuesday to prevent all religious materials from being given out at public schools reportedly in an effort to prevent the Satanic Temple, a New York-based group, from distributing a controversial coloring book and associated fact sheets, WFTV-TV reported.
The previous policy allowed for religious materials to be on a table for students to take on a designated day, though the school board has now reversed course, with only one member of the board voting to keep the religious allowance in place.
The Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal firm representing World Changers of Florida — the group that was distributing Bibles — has said that banning religious materials is not constitutional and that it may sue as a result.
But Bill Sublette, chairman of the school board, said that officials are prepared to deal with any legal challenges, the Christian Post reported.
Lucien Greaves, a spokesperson for the Satanic Temple, said months ago that his group — which does not actually worship the devil — doesn’t want to see religious materials in schools. But if the district planned to continue allowing Bibles, he and his organization said that exposing kids to other ideals was essential.
“If a public school board is going to allow religious pamphlets and full Bibles to be distributed to students … we think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that these students are given access to a variety of differing religious opinions,” Greaves said last year in a statement. “As opposed to standing idly by while one religious voice dominates the discourse and delivers propaganda to youth.”
Debate over the Bible distribution, though, started well before Satanists jumped into the mix, with the Central Florida Freethought Community suing Orange County Public Schools back in 2013 for the right to hand out atheist literature after learning of the Bible distribution.
The lawsuit was dismissed in July 2014, with the district allowing the atheist group to distribute its materials. At least one of the literary works, “An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity in the Bible,” had initially led the district to ban the materials.
An attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, had argued that, if the open policy is slated to continue, the Satanist materials must also be permitted.
In the end, it appears atheist and Satanist activists got their wish, with the school board even going so far as to debate whether all outside materials and not just those with a religious slant should be banned from distribution, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Sublette called taking such a drastic measure “an injustice” to groups like the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club, among others. In the end, only materials that are political, sectarian or religious were banned; this does not impact the Bible’s use as a historical tool in classrooms.
Read more about the debate here.
It should be noted that The Satanic Temple, which does not believe the devil to be real and instead “advocates for religious tolerance and pluralism,” made headlines last year with plans to put a satanic monument on the Oklahoma state capitol grounds.
The group also cited Hobby Lobby in an attempt to exempt female followers from abortion laws that they view as a violation of their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” launching a campaign to advance the pro-choice cause.
(H/T: Christian Post)