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Jan 22 2013

Freethinkers Demand Equal Time for Book Distribution in Schools

After the schools in Orange County, Florida allowed a Christian group to come in and distribute copies of the New Testament to students in 11 schools, a secular group in that state is planning their own distribution of books to show why this is wrong:

A day after a Christian group distributed bibles to students inside 11 Orange County high schools, a group of atheists and secular humanists said they plan to hand out materials as well.

“We don’t want only some groups to have their say,” said David Williamson, organizer of the Central Florida Freethought Community. He said he would prefer to see the school district modify its policies to ban all such handouts. But until then, “we want to be on a level playing field.”

Muslim and Jewish leaders said they had no plans to distribute their own religious books.

“It is proselytizing. It has no place in public schools,” said Rabbi Rick Sherwin of Congregation Beth Am in Longwood.

Rabbi Steven Engel of Congregation of Reform Judaism in Orange County, said he was “deeply disturbed” that the New Testament was given out in schools. “This is absolutely wrong. It violates the separation of church and state very clearly.” He said allowing the distribution on campus makes it appear government is endorsing a particular religious viewpoint.

And the way to combat this is to demand a truly open forum. In most cases, the school will quickly back down and end the entire program once Christians no longer have exclusive access to it.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle

    The atheist groups will be able to put their own materials on tables once their volunteers have background checks and their choice of literature is screened by the legal department for discriminatory or offensive content, Rodriguez said.

    The Bible endorses mass murder. And genocide. And rape. And slavery. Its contents have been used for almost two millennia to justify misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia.

    If the school district is going to censor materials that are discriminatory or have offensive content, they had damned well better not allow the Bible on school property.

  2. 2
    David Williamson

    Thanks for covering this! All links, video, and our organized response can be found at http://www.facebook.com/CFLFreethought

  3. 3
    tacitus

    Which has led to a spate of sensationalistic headlines such as:

    “Atheists to Distribute ‘An X-Rated Book’ to Public School Kids to Combat Christians’ Bible Give Away”

    which makes it sound as though atheists are distributing porn to school kids. Of course the full title of the book is “An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity in the Bible,” (which no doubt is only slightly less objectionable to conservative Christians).

    But it’s amazing how many idiots read the headlines without taxing their brains and reading the first couple of paragraphs of the articles.

  4. 4
    eric

    Copy edit: I believe that last paragraph is yours, Ed, and should not be in the block quote.

  5. 5
    Worldtraveller

    Gregory, that’s probably why they only hand out the new testament. There’s less violence, murder, slavery, etc. in the NT. When I was in high school, I had a friend who tried for years to convert me. He told me to read the NT, and skip the OT, because it was ‘boring’. Of course, being the suspicious sort, I immediately assumed the good stuff was in the OT. Once I got past all the genealogy stuff, turns out, I was right.

    Good in this case meaning ‘stuff that my friend couldn’t explain away’.

  6. 6
    Worldtraveller

    David Williamson@2: Have you confirmed that the xian groups had to have their material reviewed, and they were given background checks? I would assume the background checks were done, but I bet the material review was conveniently skipped. If the school district also skipped out doing the background checks (which can cost some $$$), then they could be in big trouble. Also, if the freethought groups are being asked to pay for their own background checks, be sure to check that the xians were too. Fair, level, playing field is all that’s asked.

    Cheers.

  7. 7
    jnorris

    Since the Christians have already distributed their BS the school system can safely end the program for now without getting voted out of office by the churches.

  8. 8
    David Williamson

    We haven’t confirmed either the checks or the review, but I agree with you. I suspect they did not subject the Bible to review, but I fully expect them to censor our excerpts (which are the only parts kids really want to read anyway). We are not being charged for background checks.

    Thanks to AA, AHA, FFRF, SSA, and Humanists of Florida for their continuing support. Everyone please share our page so others know that a response is appropriate and possible.

  9. 9
    hitchens2965

    It is important to note that World Changers (the bible pushers in this case) make it very clear they wish to teach creationism in schools. This action is simply a Trojan Horse and all the followers of this blog need to help push back on this absurdity.

  10. 10
    burninghiram

    Does no one at the school district get education news!!!!!

    http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/01/18/pagan-mom-challenges-bibles-in-north-carolina-school/
    Okay the fox link was first and you can google as well as I, but I get things like this on an education news feed and they go in a file in my office, it keeps me from stepping in it.

    20 years in education and I still have not figured out why people invite lawsuits to waste money, if it dont work for one school board it aint gonna work for the next, its just wasting time and money.

  11. 11
    Crudely Wrott

    The comments (well, a lot of them, probably most of them) that follow the linked article are heartening.

    I think that there is a “revival” of rationality going on underfoot. I keep finding rational, skeptical and fair-minded people speaking up in diverse forums all around the InnerTubes. I’m not sure if it is the anonymity or the ubiquity afforded by our relatively new means of communication and amateur editorship that accomplishes this but for now I consider it a good thing. At least people who actually think, and by that I mean think their own thoughts rather than parroting hand me down dogma, are actually making their voices heard. Much to the dismay (twirls mustache and laughs like Snidely Whiplash) of conventional dogmatists.

    Like I said, I’m heartened.

  12. 12
    David Williamson

    There won’t be any lawsuit if they let everyone in and do not discriminate based on viewpoint. They basically have two options–let everyone in or let no one in. We would like for them to let no one in.

  13. 13
    greg1466

    Funny that Christians are the only group that can’t figure that out.

  14. 14
    d.c.wilson

    The amazing thing is, no matter how many times the issue of open for all or open for none comes up, these Christian groups area always surprised that there’s no special exception for them.

  15. 15
    Deen

    @d.c.wilson: what’s more amazing to me is that whenever their school chooses the “allow none” option, they’ll always claim that secularists have banned their proselytizing. It never seems to occur to them to blame the school board for not going with the “allow all” option.

    It does show their priorities, though: shielding kids from the “wrong” information is so much more important to them than exposing kids to their own.

  16. 16
    netamigo

    I thought the issue of permitting religious groups to use public schools for proselytizing was decided long ago. When I was a child, the Gideons came every year to my school and distributed Bibles to the students. However, I though we have court cases which have outlawed the practice.

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