Starting April 1, Delta County School District plans to offer literature from atheist and Satanic organizations.
A district policy allows for the display of pamphlets about programs not related to school such as Boy Scouts or a 4-H. The district is now under fire for that policy because it also allows for Bibles and Satanic coloring books.
The rule permits any material to be made available to their students, as long as it doesn’t cross certain lines. Gideon's International recently set out free Bibles for students to take home. Anne Landman, the founder and of Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers, says she heard about an atheist student who was harassed when they didn’t take a Bible.
Landman was unable to get religious material pulled from the district’s policy so she enlisted the help of the Freedom From Religion Foundation to fight fire with fire.
“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.
She says the end goal isn’t to convert students but to end distribution of all religious materials in the schools. "The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities", for example, emphasizes patience and friendship but the fact that it’s from the Satanic Temple forces the issue.
“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 says there’s a lot of discussion in the district about this. He points out that no material is allowed to be handed out, only made available.
They’ve also been consulting their legal counsel about changing the policy. He doesn’t want to ban all material because it would prevent rural students from finding out about afterschool programs and sports teams. They’re still unsure if they can legally make a rule against just religious material.
"That’s the hard part,” says Clay. “We’re trying to find a workaround but we just don’t know at this point."
A similar situation happened in Orange County, Florida in 2014. That school district banned just religious materials. For the Delta County School District, Clay says the materials will be allowed barring any changes to policy.