Delta County School District Gives Thumbs-Up to Handing Out Atheist and Satanic Literature to Students

Brochure to be distributed to Delta County High School students on April 1

Brochure to be distributed to Delta County High School students on April 1

The Delta County School District (DCSD) has approved the distribution of atheistic, secular and Satanic literature to middle and high school students throughout Delta County on April 1, 2016, and will carry out the literature distribution on behalf of the groups who have applied to do it.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers (WCAF) and the Satanic Temple have all applied to distribute literature to challenge the school district’s “open forum” policy which gives access to any group to distribute non-curricular literature to students, as long as it conforms to policy guidelines. The material can’t, for example, advocate criminal behavior, violence or drug use, or be pornographic. The School District points to this policy as permitting Gideon Bibles to be distributed to students on school grounds during class hours.

On-Campus Bible Distribution Violates School Policy

In December, 2015, a Delta Middle School (DMS) student reported that her teacher took her social studies class to the school library to work on a project. After entering the library, the teacher pointed to a pile Gideon Bibles on a table by the only entrance/exit to the room and told the students they could take a bible because “They’re free.”

Students who did not to take the bibles were harassed by the students who did. One student who didn’t take a bible — an atheist who recognized the situation violated her right to be free from religious coercion in school — texted a photo of the bible giveaway to her mom. One of the atheist girl’s other teachers ridiculed her over her beliefs in front of her class and the incident resulted in the school transferring the atheist student to a different class, even though she herself did nothing wrong. In the following days, one student told another student who is an atheist, that “atheists should just die” and she “should go kill herself.” The two students got into a physical altercation and both got temporary suspensions from school.

Not Enough Trouble Yet for Delta County Schools?

The Satanic Temple's Children's BIG BOOK of Activities, to be distributed to Delta County Schools by the school district on April 1

The Satanic Temple’s Children’s BIG BOOK of Activities, to be distributed to Delta County Schools by the school district on April 1

The December bible distribution violated Delta County School District Policy KCH-R, “Distribution/Posting of Non-Curricular Materials,” (pdf) in several ways:

— The policy states non-curricular literature can only be distributed to students 1/2 hour before school, during regularly scheduled lunch periods and/or for 15 minutes after school. “Distribution at any other times of the school day,” the policy says, “are to be considered disruptive of normal school activities.” The students were in the library during their regular class hours.

— The policy also says outside literature “may not be distributed in the classroom of any building when being occupied by a regularly-scheduled class,” and the library was the students’ classroom that day.

— The policy prohibits students from distributing or coercing other students to take the bibles, and students harassed other students, pressuring them to take bibles.

The policy also allows the school district to ban any groups that violate the policy in any way.

A parent, the mother of the atheist girl who took the photo of the bibles in the library, contacted DMS principal Jennifer Lohrberg and school Superintendent Caryn Gibson to complain about the violations of Policy KCH-R, but both administrators insisted nothing was amiss and all was done in accordance with school policy and applicable laws.

The parent then contacted WCAF for help. WCAF contacted the school superintendent on the parent and students’ behalf, again pointing out the violations of Policy KCH-R. Again the superintendent claimed all was fine and nothing was wrong, and said the bible giveaway was done in accordance with all applicable policies and the school district “respects the separation of church and state.”

After this second refusal by the school district to acknowledge reality, WCAF and the parent together contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group based in Wisconsin that advocates for separation of church and state, for help.

School District Finally Admits Reality

FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel intervened and contacted DCSD attorney Aaron Clay about the violations.

It was only then that the school district finally admitted (pdf) the DMS bible giveaway had indeed violated District policy.

After getting this admission, FFRF asked the District to ban the Gideons from further literature distribution as provided for in their policy, but the District refused, saying the errors were the fault of school personnel, not the Gideons. FFRF pointed out the divisiveness of the bible giveaways and the harassment of the students it led to, and asked the District to change its policy to prohibit distribution of all religious literature, but the school district refused and is fighting to preserve the Gideons’ ability to proselytize in Delta public schools.

To challenge DCSD’s “open forum” policy and their continued distribution of bibles, all three nonprofit groups submitted literature to the District for distribution. Under district policy, they must accept any literature regardless of its point of view, as long as it conforms to policy. If the district refuses to distribute the atheist and Satanic literature, FFRF will sue them for equal treatment under the policy.

Similar Situation in Florida

WCAF's Middle School brochure about atheism, reassuring children it's entirely acceptable to not believe in God

WCAF’s Middle School brochure about atheism, reassuring children it’s entirely acceptable to not believe in God

FFRF has gone through this before.

In 2013, FFRF asked the Orange County, Florida school district to change its open forum policy and stop distributing religious literature to students, but the district refused. FFRF then submitted its own literature, and that of the Satanic Temple, for distribution. The school district refused to accept the groups’ literature and FFRF sued the district for equal access. Two years and $86,000 in legal fees later, the Orange County School District finally backed down and agreed to ban distribution of religious literature to students. That was all FFRF wanted in the first place.

So far, DCSD has failed to address the associated issue of harassment and bullying of students going on in their district because of the bible giveaways and other proselytizing incidents uncovered in the course of this matter, and because DCSD wants so badly to preserve the ability of Christians to proselytize in their public schools, they are now faced with having to distribute literature many believe to be odious.

Literature to be distributed to Delta County middle and high schools on April 1 by the school district includes:

  • “It’s Okay to Not Believe in God,” (pdf) by Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers
  • The Satanic Big Book of Children’s Activities,” by the Satanic Temple
  • “Top 10 Public School State/Church Violations and How to Stop Them,” by FFRF
  • An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible,” by FFRF
  • “What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?” by FFRF (to go only to high schools)
  • “Cookie Cutter Christs: Origins of the Jesus Myth,” by FFRF
  • “Why Jesus?” by FFRF
  • “Ten Common Myths About Atheists and other Freethinkers,” by FFRF
  • “What’s Wrong with the Ten Commandmentw?” by FFRF
  • “What They Said About Religion” (a book of quotes by famous and historic figures), by FFRF
  • “Dear Believer,” by FFRF

  21 comments for “Delta County School District Gives Thumbs-Up to Handing Out Atheist and Satanic Literature to Students

  1. The general tone and content of these comments illustrates the sad truth about American involvement in any of the above: Atheism, Christianity or Satanism.
    The history of the world is writ around the battle between good and evil. How do we know which is witch? (couldn’t avoid the pun!).
    The Christian bible cannot be understood privately by the reader and also it does not promise ‘salvation’ by faith alone (cf., epistle of James) although many claim it is so. It is a living tradition that needs passing down personally by the community (church);
    The Atheist cannot be understood except by having been one and sorely disappointed in life by the seeming absence of a ‘God’ and the presence of so much suffering in the world;
    and Satanism cannot be understood without feeling for oneself, the pull of ‘this world’s’ pleasures and delights and believing there certainly couldn’t be such a mean God who would deny us such access.
    The Christians have a lot to answer for in not giving a much deeper answer to others about any truth the faith may hold.
    An Eastern priest said to me years ago, “Western civilization is Christianity gone crazy” and a related thought by a monk and Saint of this last century, “many know about God, but few know Him”. (Not Roman Catholic, Catholicism is a Western ‘denomination’)
    So I tipped my hand in this reply, that I have a bias toward an ancient tradition in Christian faith. There is much to be discovered by us Westerners about the sources of good and evil, life and death. What to say? None of us can listen well any longer.
    Children will come into contact with all types of ideas and literature some day, so we simply need to give them a good foundation to evaluate it all; but not ban everything. Have conversations about all these things with them. We are all human.

  2. Picture: “Illegal dumping in the North Desert, Grand Junction’s open space”

    As compared to illegal dumping in the Delta Middle School students’ brains, Grand Junction’s other open space?

  3. Delta Mom: I suggest you take a couple of the pamphlets when you take your children to school, it’ll help when your children come out to you as atheist, especially the ones about the myths of freethinkers. Thought I agree with most of what you corrected One Fly on, except where you said his ‘only goal’ is to piss people off, but that’s not what One Fly said. He said it would piss people off, and to an extent that’s a good thing. Getting passionate about what you believe in is part of what makes this country great. Don’t worry about idiots like One Fly, for every jerk freethinker that posts on a thread, there are two that aren’t willing to argue online.

    One Fly: You’re right, it’s going to piss people off, but do you need to chastise people online like that? As a fellow freethinker, do you think we’ll warm people to the values of living in the now, and not wasting time preparing for an unproven afterlife? Just chill out, apologize next time someone calls you out and clarify your point. After debating for years, I’ve come to understand that it feels so much better to watch a religious internet commented see that they misjudged an atheist and try and attack other aspects of your life. They just keep failing, over and over, just keep apologizing. It’s the best!

    Love the article, I’ll be back for more!

    • I did even better than intended.

      All of a sudden this thread is not about the post’s content but my snark.

      It’s the internets people and sorry getting you feeling all butt hurt.

      What can’t you fathom about this post put up by this very sharp blogger named Anne Landman who is keeping people aware of religion being snuck in the back door of schools in violation of their own policies.

      Thank you for that as I am one who wants to know things like that – – – – I mean it has everything to do with that pesky thing called thing “separation of church and state”.

      What goes around comes around a lot of times. Please whine some more for me – pretty please.

  4. this article was obviously written by someone with a very biased viewpoint. The whole thing is exaggerated to paint Christians in the worst possible light & Atheists in the best, not to mention, multiple inaccuracies. What do I expect though??? Not much more these days where every wacko can get their moment of fame on some blog & get their name recognition on FB! There will be no literature distribution according to the policy of the Delta County School Board, only materials placed in the library like others from Boy & Girl Scouts, FFA & and those ‘devilish’ Gideon’s who are out to twist young minds into wholesome living, etc. for anyone to pick up if they choose. I am sure most kids will make a good choice, better than the dingle-berries that follow your blog I am sure!

    • Wholesome living from the BIBLE? You do realize that the Bible is extremely OBSCENE and unfit for children? Lot’s daughters? Jephthah’s sacrifice? The flood story which is a tale of repulsive genocide? Multiple genocides in the Old Testament? The rape of the Virgin Mary by a Space Ghost who was both Father and Son in an act that can best be described as paranormal incest since Jesus was his own father? The use of sexual slavery in the OT which is APPROVED by GAWWWWD? Gross.

  5. This is going to piss a lot of people off and fine by me. Religious crazy’s only want to play by their rule because – – – – well jeebus.

    Good on these groups for sticking up for my rights too.

    • It’s hard to take anyone seriously who can’t even apply proper English: It’s ‘crazies’ not “crazy’s”. Go educate yourself, One Fly, the good people of Delta County can educate our own. Furthermore, if your only goal is to “piss people off” then there’s something seriously wrong with your outlook on life. These ‘freethinkers’ think they’re so smart, yet their belief in nothing is still a belief in something. It’s almost laughable. Have fun worshiping Satan, One Fly.

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