TN Atheists Distribute Literature in Elem. School

After the Casey County School District in Tennessee allowed the Gideons to set up a table to hand out Bibles to elementary school students, the Tri-State Freethinkers demanded the same privilege to hand out a pamphlet on humanism for children. And they got it. The table was set up on Friday. Hemant writes:

I’m a huge fan of this sort of response, by the way. It’s a win-win for atheists. Even though we (in general) have no desire to proselytize to children, sometimes you just have to imitate religious groups to give them a taste of their own medicine. Either the public schools give atheists indirect access to children — freaking out religious people who tend to think they’re the only ones allowed to do that — or they refuse atheists that access and risk being on the losing end of a lawsuit.

This is the power of Humanists giving invocations at government meetings, much to the chagrin of Christian politicians, and young atheists speaking about the importance of church-state separation during graduation speeches when the administration says to students (in code) that they’ll look the other way if Christ is brought up in a speech.

I agree, but I think it needs to go even further. We need to get other groups involved in challenging this sort of thing by demanding equal access, whether it is to government property or schools. In particular, we need to get Muslims to do the same thing. Atheists are one thing, but if Muslims set up a table handing out copies of the Quran, the Christians who support this kind of thing will lose their freaking minds over it and a lot of schools would cancel all outside literature distribution so they don’t have to allow it.

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  • Gregory in Seattle

    I am noticing a trend, Ed: stories that normal people would believe to be April Fools jokes, but which are actually true.

    That is a rather clever April Fools joke, actually.

  • matty1

    I’m not sure the way the Quran is used in most Muslim communities would lend itself to this but it’s a good idea.

    I think, though I could be wrong, that Muslims tend not to treat the Quran as a book you own and flip through for guidance but as a communal thing to be taught in religious schools and recited at Friday prayers. Also they almost never use translations and distributing in Arabic may not be a great way to communicate with students in Tennessee.

  • Alverant

    I’m starting to wonder if we (as Atheists) should start pushing the Koran and other non-christian holy texts because it seems to upset christians so much more.

  • dmcclean

    Given that communicating with students in Tennessee isn’t really the point (the point being communicating with the people who think giving out bibles in public school is a good idea), Arabic seems fine.

  • Donnie

    Exactly Ed! We need every single religion, non-religion, and other groups to hand out material to the point that the school is overwelhmed with the shear volume where the only response from the school is to stop literature distribution from everyone. Period. That is the point, in my opinion, with Christmas/Holiday displays. The publicily funded institution cannot discriminate so one only needs to flood the limited public form with so many displays that the owner of the limited public forum must either start deciding which displays to include, opening itself to a lawsuit, or ban outright all displays, or in this case, literature distribution. That way, the school can focus on its purpose – educating children.

    Again, had I won the Billion dollar bracket challenge, I would have bought hundreds of thousands of ‘The Skeptics Annotated Bible’ and I would have started a marketing arm of my foundation to distribute this ‘Bible’ into every hotel, school, public instution where i could. The value would be immense.

    Note: Actually, I would have tried to buy the copyright for the book from Mr. Wells and together marketed the book and provided him more outlets.

    Of course, this is an elementary school, so this Bible would have been more appropriate for distribution:

  • tiredofusernamerules

    This took place in Casey County, Kentucky, not Tennessee.

  • abb3w

    @2, matty1

    Also they almost never use translations and distributing in Arabic may not be a great way to communicate with students in Tennessee.

    My understanding is that they sometimes use side-by-sides — the original Arabic text alongside a vernacular translation — effectively as primers for those who have not learned Arabic.

  • Modusoperandi


  • robertbaden


    Is nothing sacred to you?

  • jba55

    @4 dmcclean : True, the kids aren’t the prime goal but that doesn’t mean they should just piss away a chance for education. Instead of Korans why not pamphlets giving brief, simple explanations of all the different flavors of Islam, how it’s made up of diverse people with different goals, etc. It could be complimented with a similar one for Christianity, you know, for balance.

  • cry4turtles

    No Modus, they gave out books ABOUT nothing!

  • Suido

    There’s the added benefit that a few easy to read pamphlets should be better fodder for young children than bibles. Wins all round.

  • dingojack

    cry4turtles – Meh! Jerry Seinfeld did that already!

    😉 Dingo

  • dingojack

    Roll up, roll up boy and girls – get your copy of the latest opus from our alien overlords –



  • Moggie

    In particular, we need to get Muslims to do the same thing.

    Who’s this “we”?

    “Hello, Muslims? Atheists here. Yes, the people who think your religion is nonsense. We were wondering: would you please hand out Qurans to school kids? Nono, Christian school kids, mostly. What’s that? You’re worried about reprisals? You think few of the kids or their families would read them? Well, that’s disappointing. Frankly, we find your lack of faith… disturbing. We were hoping to use you to piss off the Christians and make a point, what with you being so scary and everything. Hello? Hello? Damn, they hung up. How rude!”

  • typecaster

    Dingo – Or, if delivery from the alien overlords takes too long, you can always get it here

  • busterggi

    Atheists actually have an edge in the giving out literature department – believers may read atheist stuff but they don’t read bibles.

  • dugglebogey

    I live in Tennessee, and while I agree with your sentiment, I wouldn’t do it. The only thing people around here are more fervent about than their religion is their guns. If they think you are messing with their children, you are extremely likely to get shot.

  • Randomfactor

    Apparently several parents kept their kids home.

    When those kids get back to school, there’s NO WAY they’re going to sneak looks at the books their friends got that their parents don’t want them to see…no sirree.

  • eric

    To a lot of commenters – this particular case was about handing out pamphlets, not whole books. So its a non-issue that the Koran is mostly printed in arabic.

    As for atheists handing out pamphlets of other faiths, I’ve got mixed feelings. While one goal is to stop such handouts altogether (and this goal may be well served by handing out Islamic, Hindu, etc. literature), the secondary goal is to educate kids with material we think is valuable and – dare I say it – true. Atheists generally do not think converting a kid from Christianity to Hinduism (or whatever) is a move in the right direction, so we shouldn’t be using any access to school kids we are given to encourage that. If we are given “time on the podium,” so to speak, we should use it constructively to educate. Not to present more but different bad stuff. Now, what I could see as valuable, in-line with humanist thought, and inclusive of other religions is to make up pamphlets promoting comparative religious studies, critical thinking about all faiths, and secularism. Something that tells kids “learn about ALL of these beliefs before you commit to any one of them. Think carefully about what they say and what they claim. And tthink carefully about what it would mean to you if the government endorsed one which you didn’t agree with.”

  • dingojack

    typercaster – or here

    :) Dingo

  • randytoad

    I’m sure someone has pointed this out already, but Casey county is in Kentucky, not Tennessee.