The Delta County School District in Colorado has announced plans to make literature from atheist and Satanic organizations available to students in public middle and high schools.
The decision to provide these materials alongside Bibles and pamphlets pertaining to after-school activities comes as the result of an argument that has gone on for months over whether religious readings should be available for students.
The issue began in December of last year when a middle school student told her mother that it had been suggested to her to take a free copy of the Gideon Bible during a school trip to the library. Anne Landman, of the Western Colorado Atheist and Freethinkers, heard of the situation and began an investigation, finding that the policy at the school allowed religious materials to be made available to students.
Landman was unable to succeed in requiring the school to remove the Bibles, so she looked to the Freedom From Religion Foundation to help her cause. “FFRF, [WCAF] and the Satanic Temple all submitted literature to the school board. They have approved all of the literature for distribution, and that is scheduled to begin April 1,” says Landman.
While she does not want to convert students, she said she would like to end the distribution of religious materials at schools. For example, “The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities” does emphasize patience and friendship, but it is issued from the Satanic Temple.
“The school cannot discriminate against various points of view,” she says. “If it’s going to distribute Christian literature, it has to also permit the distribution from every other point of view: atheism, Satanism, Buddhism. They have to take all comers.”
Assistant Superintendent Kurt Clay said the issue has been discussed at length within the district. He added that materials are not allowed to be physically handed out to students and that they can only be made available.
Clay went on to say that the district has discussed a policy change with their legal counsel, although he does not want all materials to be banned as it would result in rural students being unable to find information pertaining to after school programs and sports teams. It is still unclear if a ruling pertaining to only religious materials can be legally made, reports Jake Ryan for KVNF.
The issue over controversial materials being made available to students has caused quite a stir on social media, with groups such as the Western Colorado Atheists and Free Thinkers saying they have received threats over Facebook from angry community members. In addition, a group calling itself the Delta County School Revival is forming with plans to counter-distribute religious material on April 1.
Meanwhile, WCAFT is promising students free pizza if they agree to sit down and discuss atheism.
In 2014, the Satanic Temple helped to distribute information pertaining to atheism to students in Florida after discovering other religious materials were being made available to them. That case resulted with a ban on all religious materials in schools.