Atheists in Florida Will Distribute Godless Literature in Local High Schools This Thursday

***Update***: FFRF reports that some of the books they proposed to distribute were censored by the district:

Last week the district announced formally that many submitted publications, including Sam Harris’ book, “Letter to a Christian Nation” and an essay, “The Truth,” by 19th century freethinker Robert G. Ingersoll, are being censored. Also censored: “Jesus Is Dead” a book by Robert Price, professor of philosophy and religion, “What on Earth is an Atheist,” a book by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, “Why I am Not a Muslim,” a book by Ibn Warraq, and several FFRF “nontracts,” including “Dear Believer,” “Why Jesus?” “What Does the Bible Say about Abortion?” and “An X-Rated Book.”

FFRF called the school district’s censorship of some of freethought publications illegal and is considering its options.

Back in January, World Changers of Florida, Inc. held a Bible distribution at a number of high schools in Orange County. How was that legal? Well, the rules were that the Bibles would just be placed on a table, no student would be forced to take one, and no representatives from the group would be talking with students. Daniel Koster, a student at Wekiva High School, posted about the distribution on this site.

Manned table at Wekiva High School (Daniel Koster)

Now, in response to that giveaway, the Central Florida Freethought Community is hosting one of their own — they will be distributing nontracts from the Freedom From Religion Foundation this Thursday as well as The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine:

Atheist groups plan to give out materials in 11 Orange County high schools Thursday, a reaction to a Bible distribution at the same schools in January.

“We want to close the door to religion in schools, not open it to Freethought,” said David Williamson, organizer of the Central Florida Freethought Community. But “if they’re going to have a religious discussion on campus, we need to be a part of it,” he said.

The targeted high schools are Apopka, Boone, Colonial, Cypress Creek, Edgewater, Evans, Jones, Timber Creek, University, Wekiva and Winter Park.

The materials will be left on a table in a common area for students to take. Volunteers may not interact with the students. The Bible distribution had to follow the same rules.

According to a press release from the Humanists of Florida Association, others are helping the atheists with their effort:

The freethought literature was donated by several individuals and organizations including: the Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists, the Secular Student Alliance, American Humanist Association, the Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Several prominent leaders in the secular movement will be on hand to talk to the media and help distribute materials including: Dan Barker, Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and former evangelical preacher; David Silverman, president of American Atheists; and Teresa MacBain, Executive Director of the Humanists of Florida Association.

Williamson is doing the right thing here — If you can’t beat them, join them. Until the school says no to all religious groups, they have to yes to everyone with a viewpoint about God.

Let’s hope Scientologists and Muslims ask for a distribution soon!

And if any students or parents are upset about the giveaway, they can take it up with the Christian group that primed the pump and allowed this to happen.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    Good for them. It’s being publicized early enough, though, that I would expect fundamentalists to mobilize against it and put pressure on the school. I still wouldn’t be surprised if they came up with some lame excuse to cancel this at the last minute.

  • Kengi

    But…but… “Everyone” was supposed to mean Evangelicals and Baptists!

  • TiltedHorizon

    I’m personally offended by any attempt to sidestep parental governance of belief and faith at High School or below. I am therefore angry with the true sponsors of this event, the “World Changers of Florida, Inc” without whom it would not

    • Guest

      But (s)he IS the only true god!

      • TiltedHorizon

        RAMEN!

  • JA

    You just know everyone will be up in arms the moment a Muslim group attempts this.

    This article also reminded me of this video: Christians get a taste of their own medicine and turn out to be a bunch of hypocrites:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjw6fVYJA1o&feature=related

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Here’s a letter form the person they mention who was shocked by the Buddhist pre-game invocation in Hawaii. http://www.wnd.com/2005/10/32839/

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

      LOL,hadn’t heard about that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-OBrien/100001338658769 John O’Brien

    We should be doing this across the country!

  • Bob Becker

    Here’s a guess: believing students will clear the table of lit in minutes and dump it in the trash.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rodney.barnes.5688 Rodney Barnes

      Definitely a good idea to have someone watch the tables for shenanigans.

  • SJH

    So these groups believe it to be wrong to distribute religious literature but since the Christians are doing it then they should be able to as well. So they have convictions but they can be bent as long as someone else it doing it first. How does this look? Sounds hypocritical to me. The difference between the atheist group and the Christian group is that the Christians (whether they are correct or not) don’t believe anything is wrong with distributing their literature. The atheist groups believe that it is wrong and they are doing it anyway.

    You quote the cliche, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” This may sound good enough for atheist reasoning but Christianity teaches (though admittedly many do not follow) that you do what is right regardless of what others are doing. What do you think is the better philosophy? Which one is the better goal to aspire to?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      What would you do if Muslims were handing out material in front of your school?

      Do you think there might be a difference between “joining” something for your own benefit (say, stealing because you see someone else get away with it) and doing something with full intention of shedding light on the hypocrisy of it?

      • SJH

        I wouldn’t care if Muslims handed out lit.

        There is no difference. If you think it is wrong then stick to your beliefs. That is what convictions are.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          One of my convictions is making the world a better place. If you think ignoring wrongs makes you a better person, go for it.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Further,

            A young man in Morocco, Imad Iddine Habib, is in hiding because he has spoken out against Islam. He just posted

            Hey Everyone,

            I would like to thank everyone who supported me, asked about me by any mean!
            Those whom I didn’t reply didn’t add me as a friend, as I am blocked, I couldn’t reply at them!
            Thank you All, you made me so proud of being part of this big and united family of rational and free thinkers!

            Whatever my fate will be in the next hours, the next days, the next weeks; killed, beaten, jailed, or anything else, I am not sorry for what I have done since I became an activist few years ago, I have shared with many people here thoughts and ideas, and so many awesome memories.

            Both police and people are looking for me, I have nowhere to go, my life is at high risk… However, I am Happy, because I am not the only one fighting for a better world, I hope I will be the last man persecuted because of Dogmatisms, Religions, or Myths.

            Whatever I’ll be, KEEP FIGHTING, I love you all.

            PS: There is no god but Minnie Mouse.

            - Imad Iddine Habib.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

            Surely you ignore the vast majority of wrongs. Plus you haven’t addressed his point. He doesn’t think it is wrong. he thinks the atheists think it is inherently wrong and is validly pointing out the hypocrisy if that is true. He and apparently some of the atheists here are unaware that wrongs are based on ethical standards. Standards like proportionality, mens rea, etc. One of the standards for telling if an ethical rule is valid is if it provides a level playing field. A rule that allows Mohammad more than four wives yet restricts others is not ethical because it violates this standard, regardless of whether having multiple wives is right or wrong. If atheist think the rule allowing religious literature only for Christians is wrong only because it is a double standard then SJH’s argument fails.

    • Xuncu

      “but Christianity teaches (though admittedly many do not follow) that you do what is right regardless of what others are doing”

      Correction:
      Christianity teaches (and all versions follow) that what they do is inherently right, regardless of anything else at all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rodney.barnes.5688 Rodney Barnes

      *Repost* The idea is to show those that expect special rights actually have none. Equality is a very scary idea in the eyes of most xtian fundamentalists because it forces them to see that they’re not special. Or perhaps, that they’re just as special as everyone else.

    • Edmond

      There is no hypocrisy. That was covered by the group’s organizer when he said “if they’re going to have a religious discussion on campus, we need to be a part of it”. As long as passing out Bibles is legally allowed, and there’s no recourse for stopping it, then this is the next best option.

    • http://twitter.com/Freemage69 Freemage

      It would, indeed, be preferable to not have either side proselytizing to students on the school grounds–much like it would be preferable for, say, people to not walk down the street speaking into bullhorns all the time.

      However, if the rule is being applied unevenly, then forcing them to allow all groups the same right is the best option. Either they must demonstrate their hypocrisy openly (and it seems they may have done so, judging by Hemant’s update), or they will be forced to accommodate the secular students as well. We’ve seen the pattern enough in the past that we know there’s good odds that, if they don’t end up getting dragged to court over this, they’ll drop the ‘open distribution’ policy entirely–ie, accept the secularist position of no proselytizing at all.

    • Dallas22

      I don’t think we as freethinkers believe that logic & what the literature that is being distributed is wrong. We want logic & science to be the norm… but it’s not, yet we respect the laws. This christian group is finding a loophole and in all reality, violating the First Amendment. Since they “showed us the way” with this loophole, all we are doing is following suit. The law should be followed & there should be no bibles or Atheistic literature being passed out at a public school but since they are allowed to do so, so will we, until it either it ALL gets shutdown or we happily continue to promote logic and freethought to the youth along with the christian group trying to give kids a book that they could find in any motel room

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      See, passing out religious (or explicitly non-religious) literature is wrong. We want a strong separation of church and state. However, seeing as that line is being eroded, the worst thing we could do is stand by and do nothing. This is a strategic move to get that line redrawn firmly- if Christians aren’t ok with atheist or Muslim literature, then they can ban all of it. If they’re ok with true diversity of opinion, well, we’re not thrilled by it but at least aren’t being completely excluded.

      You know how I shut down a project to get student-led prayer back at my school? I told the leaders that I would happily lead prayers. I would lead Jewish ones. I would lead agnostic ones that began “To all the gods and goddesses that may or may not exist …” I would lead people in praises to Satan. And the fundamentalist Southern Baptist students looked at me in horror and said that maybe we should keep the policy of no prayers over the intercom in the mornings. I smiled and agreed. That strategic decision that I made, to defeat a horrible plan by “joining” them, is what the FFRF is doing.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

        What is your criteria for it being wrong? SJH is correct that by certain criteria it is possible the atheists doing this were also wrong. Your rationalization fails because it could be used to justify raping Christian women if it was made legal to rape atheist women. No the worst thing to do is to become as evil as those who persecute you.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          My criteria for it being wrong? The First Amendment. Religion has no place in government. Explicitly religious or non-religious material in schools violates constitutional principles that help keep our heterogeneous nation patched together by creating in-groups and out-groups and saying that the state recognizes some groups but not others as legitimate on the basis of religion. Legally, if the school allows all literature, it’s not the ideal position but it’s not illegal. They might have only meant Christian literature, but so long as others can do their thing, nobody can stop them even if it’s a bad thing to happen. Usually, the tactic of the poison pill ‘support’ works, which is why people still use it.

          Also, slippery slope fallacy fail. Obviously some things are more wrong than others. Passing out literature isn’t inherently harmful to people; rape is. Thus, passing out literature to make a point is a legitimate tactic, but raping someone never is. Further, that sort of thing would never happen- we’re talking about much more subtle religious privilege than making some things crimes only against certain religious subgroups. I mean, hell, could you pick a more offensive example? Rape is always wrong, always. The fact that you picked it “at random” to compare to passing out literature just means that 1) you’re trying to play on emotions without actually engaging in the arguments at hand and 2) you don’t actually understand the magnitude of what you’re suggesting. Rape is NOT a theoretical, it’s not a thought experiment, and it’s sure as fuck not something you just grab when talking about a law that’ll never happen. It trivializes rape and the struggle to get it taken seriously when you put in a context of pure stupidity and irrationality.

          I’m not putting this well. I’ll just leave it at your argument is monstrously offensive, even if I’m having trouble articulating why I find it so, because it demeans the crime of rape as being so trivial that it could ever be legalized.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Macker/518709704 Brian Macker

      Having the government endorse one religion (or a few) is “establishment of religion”. So your choice is then all or none. Taking advantage of the having of all ideas available is not necessarily wrong. It was the dogmatic and close-minded expression of those approved by government which was wrong, and especially when that government taxes everyone regardless of religion.

  • A3Kr0n

    Isn’t this the same thing we bitch about when religious people do it? How is this a good thing?

    • http://www.facebook.com/rodney.barnes.5688 Rodney Barnes

      The idea is to show those that expect special rights actually have none. Equality is a very scary idea in the eyes of most xtian fundamentalists because it forces them to see that they’re not special. Or perhaps, that they’re just as special as everyone else.

    • Revyloution

      Did you read the article? Both Hemant and the Central Florida Freethought Community both answered that question.

    • stop2wonder

      In a case like this, the lawy says you basically have two choices:

      You can deal with the logistical nightmare of allowing all beliefs equal time and representation

      or

      You can simply ban all of it.

      We prefer the the latter way but sometimes a religious group is so hard headed that the only way to show how idiotic their position is is to do it the former.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    That photo is strangely and selectively blurry. They must have all been nodding their heads vigorously.

  • Robster

    I love the way fundgelicals use names that sound super impressive but in reality mean exactly the opposite of what they say. “World Changers of Florida, Inc” won’t be changing the world, the news about the baby jesus was not good, neither is the bible. They must have big rooms full of men in white coats dreaming up names for their stuff to make it cound credible or at least interesting.


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