Two Florida School Districts Plan to Distribute Bibles, So Atheist Groups Are Ready to Offer Their Own Literature

The Christian group World Changers of Florida, Inc. is very excited about its upcoming plans to distribute Bibles to high school students:

We are excited to again be able to distribute Bibles in Collier and Orange county high schools. Our members and volunteers from many local churches will place Bibles on tables during the lunch periods for students to pick up. We have given out thousands of Bibles over the last few years and we are working to expand the program to many other school districts.

You might be wondering if that’s legal. Well, it *can* be so long as it’s passive. They’re allowed to leave Bibles for students to pick up as long as they’re not speaking to students, pressuring anyone to take a copy, or even maintaining a presence at the table.

The Bible handout is being allowed after the World Changers sued Collier County School Board for not allowing the passively distribution of bibles. The outcome resulted in the consent decree, which allows the passive distribution of Bibles under certain requirements.

The court order states that anyone must be allowed to distribute materials in a school, with certain exceptions, such as no promotion of drugs, alcohol, pornography and advertisements for products.

By the same measure, though, people of other faiths and no faith should be allowed to do the exact same thing, right…?

Totally.

So if we want to fight back, there are a couple of ways to do it: Request that the school districts also distribute atheist reading material or pressure them to say no to all of these kinds of requests in the future.

Since the districts seem intent on allowing the “passive” distribution, it seems like we only have one option left…

Not a problem.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation just sent the districts letters laying out their options (PDF), but they’re fully ready to send over FFRF nontracts (emphasis theirs):

We encourage you to amend… policies so that only school-sponsored materials may be distributed to students and to halt all distributions, including those scheduled for this week, until such a policy can be adopted. This avoids the difficult First Amendment issues that arise when the school becomes involved in distributing materials for other groups…

If your policy remains unchanged, we are interested in distributing our own materials… if [your district] does not halt all distributions, including the bible distributions scheduled for this week, please contact me immediately so that we may arrange for the distribution of FFRF materials… sometime in the next two weeks.

American Atheists is taking similar action, requesting that books written by the group’s founder be made available to students seeking an alternative to the Bible (emphasis mine):

David Silverman, President of American Atheists said, “Orange County is showing favoritism by allowing the distribution of Bibles in the county high schools. This is an issue of preserving the rights of all students, regardless of their beliefs. “Silverman continues, “We will be moving forward to distribute books written by Madalyn Murray O’Hair on atheism in the same manner. Our request will be presented to the school board asking for a specific date when we can place our books in the schools. We expect equal treatment for us; as well as any and all other religions that want to distribute their literature in the same manner.”

By the way, the winner for most inane comment has to go to “Lily,” a Christian who clearly doesn’t get what the controversy is all about:

So far, there’s no response from the school districts regarding the atheist literature.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • longpete

    “By the way, the winner for most inane comment has to go to “Lily,” a Christian who clearly doesn’t get what the controversy is all about:”

    Not many of them seem to understand anything – other than what their pastor tells them. In fact, I’m not sure they understand that; they just learn by rote.

    • Artor

      I read recently about some choir singers who had been singing Amazing Grace for 30 years, having learned it by heart in their early youth. When they eventually took the time to actually read the lyrics, they were astonished to realize they’d never actually known what it said, despite singing it for decades.

  • RobertoTheChi

    Lily isn’t very bright is she?

    • http://www.sunstonescafe.com/ Paul Sunstone

      Not if by “bright” you mean she stands a chance of competing with a turnip in the brains category. But I’m just sure she has some redeeming quality — such as flossing daily.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Just another reminder that some people use INT for a dump stat.

        • Artor

          LOL!

  • Barbara

    After reading this, thought I’d check if any Christian groups in my area are planning to distribute Bibles to students. Googled “christian group [my zip code]” and the first 4 results were for therapy. Yeah, that sounds about right.

  • A3Kr0n

    I wonder how passive they’d be if someone kept taking bibles, and throwing them in the nearest trash bin?

    • observer

      Aw, don’t do that, that’s just not right. Chuck ‘em in the recycle bin, see if they’ll accuses you of “worshiping” nature.

      • A3Kr0n

        You’re right. How could I be so insensitive. They should be recycled properly.

        • Machintelligence

          You can be pretty sure that this is what the “Good Christians” will do to all of the atheist tracts.

        • meekinheritance

          Toilet paper?

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Nuh-uh.

            Rolling papers, and pass those doobs to ALL the students!

            • Artor

              Those onion-skin pages of the pocket New Testaments they hand out are perfect for that. If only the Bible came pre-gummed.
              Heyy… there’s an idea. Anyone know a specialty printer?

  • Alan Williamson

    A group should distribute “The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever” by Christopher Hitchens.

  • SecularPatriot

    Given the relative budgets of religious organizations and secular organizations, we need some sort of cost effective way to reductio ad absurdum their proselytizing.

    Books are expensive, we need tracts explicitly designed to counter this kind of stuff.

  • ortcutt

    I’ve never understood the Christian fetish for distributing Bibles.
    It’s like they think that lack of access to Bibles is the reason that
    people aren’t Christians. Bibles is EVERYWHERE. Your average Christian family probably owns 10 of them.

    • Cecelia Baines

      I take every free bible given to me. They make great bird-cage liner sheets as well as divine fire starter…..

      • http://twitter.com/yjmbobllns Zach, or: YB

        Some make for good rolling papers even.

        • David Q

          I use the ones from my school to fix the wobbly tables in the student center.

        • coyotenose

          Surely ultra-thin paper covered in ink is not good for that.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Depends on the quality of the bible, mostly. But those little Gideon bibles are just the right size! (And you won’t need to call a locksmith…)

    • Helanna

      I don’t know the reason, but it’s probably the same reason a church near my work keeps leaving around little pamphlets talking about how Jesus loves me. Because, you know, the reason I’m not a Christian is because I’ve never even heard of Jesus. Ever.

    • baal

      The bible hand outs are magic and are useful for ritual purity. If you pile enough holy objects around, they emanate goodness. This drives away evil and makes life better for everyone. Get enough bibles handed out and it brings in the hand of god. This means fewer hurricanes and gay rights parades for you (especially if you’re not on the eastern Us coast). Crosses work on vampires right? Same idea.

      The other reason to do it is more psychological. 1. Costly signalling by the hander outers. This is much like witnessing and the negative blowback is often taken as a sign that they are right. 2. Social permissioning – if you see bibles all over the place, you might get the impression that the xtians are in charge or that there will be a price to be paid for disagreeing with them openly. The Tobacco lobby understood social permissioning extremely well and used to saturate bling/frills to the mental and physical spaces that children inhabited. This created an idea that smoking was normal and there is something wrong with you if you spoke out against it.

    • http://twitter.com/tardis_blue Tardis_blue

      This atheist family owns two…

    • RowanVT

      Reading the Bible is WHY I’m an atheist!

      • Georgina

        my point exactly! Keep the books coming.

  • ggsillars

    No rest for the weary, or for the FFRF.

  • C Peterson

    Even in school districts in the Bible Belt, where many students perhaps don’t even have indoor plumbing, I’d guess that reading books on digital devices is becoming common.

    It’s hard for a little tract to compete with a thousand page bible in terms of perceived value. But it’s an expensive proposition to distribute bound copies of the works of Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and others. So how about this: perhaps the authors of some of the best atheist and anti-theist books could offer up some free eBook editions, which could be distributed via coupons or gift cards in pamphlets. This would be a very inexpensive way to counter printed bibles (there would be no direct cost to the authors, and I doubt any lost sales… it might even create followup sales) and has a nice “cool” factor.

    • Tobias27

      C Peterson,
      I am trying to come up with the words to respond to your ignorant and condescending stereotype of people in the bible belt. I live right in the heart of the bible belt and we have electricity and running water and everything. i am wondering how you could have the slightest clue about life in the south and still make such a comment. I guess it just goes to show that we are not the only home of ignorant people. FYI I am an atheist and I am studying for my PhD in political science – right here in the south (yeah, we have schools and universities, too)

      • C Peterson

        Well, I’ve spent enough time in the South to know that many areas are economically deprived, which is largely a consequence of the deep ignorance of so many people there, as well as the pathological sort of conservatism that is all too common. That these areas are so mired in sick religions in not unrelated.

        That said, the intent was to be condescending, since until more people in the Bible Belt fully realize that they are the laughingstock of the civilized world, and often pictured as toothless yokels, things aren’t going to improve. It is beneficial to reinforce this not totally inaccurate stereotype.

        • Nehemiah

          Ever been to Detroit, Gary, south Chicago?

          • C Peterson

            The problems in those areas is not primarily linked to religious beliefs, and the religious beliefs in those areas doesn’t spill out into major political problems holding back the social and economic advancement of the U.S.

            So I don’t really see how this is relevant.

      • perfectarc

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kb62fpsyhC4

        I don’t know where you live in the South but in general Southern states with Republican governors lead the nation in poverty, illiteracy, teenage pregnancy, divorce and other social woes.Religion, in any incarnation, is evil and divisive. Good luck with your educational pursuits, certainly can’t fault a person for that. But the subjects of the annexed video live in the bronze age.

  • Cecelia Baines

    This is off topic, but sorta germane…..

    I want to take all the toilet paper out of a bathroom. Then take all paper towels, towels, tissues etc out as well. I mean, clean this sucker OUT. Then, I want to put a roll of Jesus toilet-paper in the room. You know, the gag paper with a face of Jesus on each square.

    Then, I want to leave a sign over the paper holder saying “For all Christians – You Now Have a REAL Dilemma On Your Hands”

    Then I want to see who comes out of the bathroom walking funny and who does not.

    :)

    • Glasofruix

      I’d relly like to participate in that, unfortunately hardcore xtians are a rare species around here…

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Three’s also the feeling that if kids can’t get free bibles in school, that they’ll never ‘find God’. Like that’s the ONLY way to hear about Christianity in the USA today. Again, I think it’s a media campaign much like the creationist ‘wedge’ strategy. Anything to promote the idea that Christianity is under attack, means that anything done to promote Christianity (even into government) is ‘only fair’.

  • JVick

    I think we should go into every Christian church in Collier and Orange counties and hand out science books.

  • Bdole

    I just hope against hope that the kids actually read those Bibles. It’s omportant to instill values in this materialistic world. The Bible contains wisdom on every topic:

    Child-rearing: Genesis 19:8; II Kings 6:28-29; Deuteronomy 21:18-21
    How to treat the handicapable: Leviticus 21:16-23
    International relations: Deuteronomy 20:10-19
    How to find that special someone: Deuteronomy: 11-14; Numbers 31:15-18

    The list of valuable advice just goes on and on and on…practically every page is filled with it.

    • Matto the Hun

      That’s brilliant actually. The atheist pamphlets/tracks, could include a Bible passage directory pointing out what you just mentioned and other greatest hits.

      • newavocation

        My all time favorite has to be Ezekiel 23:19-21, I’d like to see them recite this one at a board meeting!

        19 Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. 20 There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. 21 So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.

        • Sue Blue

          Hey, wait a minute! I thought that distributing pornography was explicitly forbidden! Maybe someone could point out these lewd and licentious Bible verses to the school boards and ask them why they’re contradicting their own policies against promoting porn.

      • Artor

        This would be a good one to print & distribute too. I bet more students would read it at least.
        http://www.fredvanlente.com/cthulhutract/

    • perfectarc

      Very useful and practical information in a bronze-age world.

  • SD

    How much you wanna bet that if we put books out next to the bible, the majority of high schoolers would pick up ours instead?

    • coyotenose

      Thing is, a few of them will steal and destroy all the secular literature. Sense of entitlement mixed with hatred of outsiders, dontcha know.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Anyone with contacts at the Dawkins Foundation? Copies of “The Magic Of Reality” would seem an excellent thing to make available to students. For that matter, “The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide” might be another good title.

  • loopsyel

    The best way to counter this is to give them a copy of everything. We know what knowledge of religion will lead to. Shoot, just make available a few pages with the highlights of the worlds top 20 religions, and set them right next to the bibles.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I expect the FL Satanists who are in support of Rick Scott’s new ‘religious freedom’ bill will be loving this too. http://abcnews.go.com/US/satanists-plan-rally-support-florida-gov-rick-scott/story?id=18219915

  • Aimaria

    I live in Seminole County, but I would be more than happy to help with distribution of atheist literature if the Bible handout goes forward. Anone know where I would go or who i would need to get in touch with??

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I have a FB friend involved in a planned handout. If you click on my avatar, and go to my full profile, you can get to my FB page or G+ page. Feel free to message me and I’ll try to put you in touch. I’ll also point my friend to your comment so maybe he can put some contact info here.

      • Aimaria

        That would be awesome!! I would love to help out in any way that I can. As soon as I can get to my laptop, I’ll figure out how to get to your FB page. Lol. :D

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          January 16, 2013
          FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

          Contact: David Williamson, 941/840-1808, david@cflfreethought.org

          LOCAL FREETHINKERS ORGANIZE TO DISTRIBUTE ATHEIST AND AGNOSTIC LITERATURE ON PUBLIC SCHOOL CAMPUSES

          Orange County, FL—The Central Florida Freethought Community, a chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has obtained consent this week from the Orange County (FL) School Board to distribute materials about atheism, agnosticism, and secular humanism to students in public schools. This permission comes after the School Board allowed a group of Christians to distribute Bibles to students on campus during school hours for Religious Freedom Day on January 16.

          David Williamson, of the Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC), said, “This group of Biblical Literalists has somehow convinced the School Board that our public schools should be a religious battleground of sorts. This is unacceptable to freethinkers and persons of all religious traditions, including many Christians. But because the school board insists on opening the schools up to Christian proselytizers, we think it’s important that students receive materials countering their religious propaganda.”

          Books, pamphlets, and brochures from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists, and the Secular Student Alliance are on their way today to Central Florida and distribution will begin as soon as the promised written permission is received from the School Board and volunteers are cleared to come on campus. Some items being considered for distribution are “An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity in the Bible,” “Ten Common Myths About Atheists,” as well as literature about starting student led secular organizations on campus and books by atheists Dan Barker and Madalyn Murray O’Hair among others.

          Persons interested in assisting with the distribution, believers and non-believers alike, should contact:

          David Williamson
          941/840-1808
          david@cflfreethought.org

          Central Florida Freethought Community is a secular organization focused on protecting the separation of state and church.

          David Williamson

          941-840-1808
          PO Box 621123, Oviedo, FL 32762
          Email david@cflfreethought.org
          Web http://www.cflfreethought.org
          CFFCcflfreethought.org
          A secular organization focused on protecting the separation of state and church.

  • Richard

    I’m all for distributing secularist literature in schools (if distributing bibles is allowed), but are books by Madalyn Murray O’Hair really the best choice? Seems like in all my time in the atheist, I’ve never heard or seen anyone recommend anything written by her – and my impression is that she was a little bit of a nut.

    • Sue Blue

      Why not books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, just for a start? We’ve got so many current and excellent atheist authors that would appeal to teenagers simply because their names are more likely to be well- known.

  • BTP

    I’d pick one up. Maybe go to the bathroom, read some of it have a laugh and then use out as toilet paper

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.charboneau Brian Charboneau

    I am the sponsor for our secular group at our school in Orange County and we already have plans to set up a table with atheist materials right next to the bible table.

  • roberthughmclean

    When I was at primary school back in the 60′s at a church run school, each semester would end with a big pile of dusty unopened bibles lanquishing down the back of the garage. Each new year dad would drag ‘em out for the bonfire. That way, they had something useful to offer. Rice paper makes a very fine ash.

  • Georgina

    Everyone should own, or at least read a bible, koran, torah, Bhagavad Gita, book of Sutras, maybe even a watchtower and a Hubbard Self-Analysis.

    Since 80% of the world live their lives according to these books, it behoves us to understand where they are coming from and where they are going.

    Tip: If you are given a free bible, pass it on to a catholic and tell them to read it. Few of the catholics I know have ever read the books and a shocked when you quote from it!

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’d put Book of Mormon in the top three if you live in the USA. The Gita is a nice read, and short, but not nearly as important for one’s religious inoculation in the US I don’t think. (I have yet to read the Koran or BoM myself- they’re on my kindle, but so is a lot of other stuff I’m more interested in)

  • Nehemiah

    Welcome to the event. We wondered when you’d take notice. Mark your calendar for January 16, 2014, which will be the next Religious Freedom Day Proclamation. We plan to distribute free Bibles again that day.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X