My Book About Young Atheists Was Handed Out at Kentucky High Schools Yesterday

Earlier this year, Gideons International requested and received permission to leave Bibles at a Kentucky public elementary school in Casey County so that interested children could pick them up.

In response, the Tri-State Freethinkers group decided they also wanted to play the game by leaving books promoting Humanism at the same school. The district had no choice but to allow them to do it.

Since the Gideons group has reach beyond just that district, the Freethinkers made similar requests elsewhere — and they received permission from the Boone County school system to give away copies of a book that I wrote: The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide.

Yesterday, on the last day of classes, the book was distributed at a few different high schools in the district (much to the chagrin of Christians like Ken Ham):

Boone County High School junior Nathan Sudenga accepted a copy of “A Young Atheists Survival Guide.”

“I want to hear what they have to say,” he said. “I’m open-minded.”

Boone County senior Justin Fuller said he made it a point to take a book to take a stand for his beliefs.

“I’ve been an atheist for a while,” he said. “I feel that people sometimes make fun of that. This shows atheists that you don’t have to be afraid. I think people should be able to do what they want; believe what they believe. Be who you are.”

Sounds like the distribution had the intended effect.

My favorite dissenting comment may be this one from the “Boone County Neighborhood Group” on Facebook:

I have been to every school board meeting for the last six months or more. I never recall hearing the school board vote to allow groups to hand out Bibles or atheist literature at the school. Yet, this morning the channel 9 news is reporting that both will be passed out today, because the school board voted to allow it. I understand the Equal Access Act of 1984. I think it is time to revisit that and make it the No Access Act of 2014. No one should have access to my child without my permission. Religion, sex education, dental hygiene, all of that should be taught at home. How about the schools get back to the basics of just teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic and stop putting our kids in the middle of social controversies that make the news.

I agree! This distribution shouldn’t have been necessary — but it was a perfect response to the Gideons’ Bible giveaway.

(Also, I’m not sure why “dental hygiene” is on the list of things schools shouldn’t be teaching kids…)

The ideal outcome would be that school boards across the state decide to ban all third party book distributions altogether. But that means having the courage to say no to Bible giveaways. Not an easy thing to do in Kentucky.

By the way, the Gideons never appeared at any of the high school locations yesterday. (They had previously planned to do their own giveaway.) Why not? According to their own guidelines:

If any method of distribution has the potential to create media publicity, the distribution must be cancelled or postponed.

The Tri-State Freethinkers also said in a statement that if the Gideons do not make a distribution request next year, they, too, will refrain from doing so.

(Portions of this post were published earlier. Top image via Tri-State Freethinkers)

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.


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