Satanists prepare 'educational material' for Florida schools

Religion
by Emily Scheie
Posted 9/29/14, 02:53 pm

On Religious Freedom Day in January, faith-based groups have been giving Bibles to public school students in Florida. In response, atheists and agnostics distributed their literature as well, and now The Satanic Temple says it will do the same.

An activity book prompting kids to color a “study filled with satanic literature” and to connect the dots making an inverted pentagram is one of the items listed under “religious literature for schools” on the group’s website.

The Satanic Temple does not “promote a belief in a personal Satan” but sees Satan as a symbol of “the Eternal Rebel,” according to its website. It made the news earlier this year for its effort to establish a satanic statue next to the Ten Commandments at the Oklahoma State Capitol. This month, it announced its latest effort to counter Christianity in the public forum with supposedly kid-friendly materials.

“We would never seek to establish a precedent of disseminating our religious materials in public schools,” said Lucien Greaves, The Satanic Temple’s spokesperson, in a statement. “However, if a public school board is going to allow religious pamphlets and full Bibles to be distributed to students—as is the case in Orange County, Florida—we think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that these students are given access to a variety of differing religious opinions.”

In 2010, a district judge issued a consent decree allowing World Changers of Florida to make Bibles available to students in Collier County through a public forum on Religious Freedom Day. The district had banned the distribution, but Liberty Counsel, a public interest law firm founded by Liberty University Vice President Mat Staver, represented World Changers in a lawsuit, and the district reversed its ban.

Orange County looked to the Collier County consent decree in its decision permitting World Changers to distribute Bibles in its schools as well. When the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Wisconsin-based association of atheists and agnostics, partnered with other secular groups to distribute literature in the same Orange County schools, the school board only permitted some of the proposed material. The FFRF claimed discrimination and filed a lawsuit last June, but the judge dismissed the case when the Orange County School District agreed to allow the previously prohibited literature, according to a FFRF press release.

“FFRF does not believe that Satanists or Christians or even atheists should be distributing literature to public school students,” the press release claimed. But FFRF said as long as the schools allow the distributions, it will distribute its “nonreligious materials” as well.

The Satanic Temple’s announcement says it also disagrees with the school board allowing religious materials in schools but will distribute its literature “to ensure that pluralism is respected whenever the Church/State division is breached.”

Staver maintains people making Bibles available to students does not violate separation of church and state, pointing out that the New England Primer was full of Scripture. He also believes Christians should not back out of public schools in hopes the secularists and Satanists will back out too. “If we do that, we just walk away from that forum and we give it over to secularism,” he told me. “It’s just like any spiritual or other warfare. If you abandon the field, the adversary is going to take it over.”

The Satanic Temple is trying to disrupt the forum instead of use it for its intended purpose, Stayer said, adding the forum is open to anyone who wants to use it for religious expression: “I think at the end of the day truth will win out.”

Emily Scheie

Emily is a World Journalism Institute intern.

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