Back in September, the Satanic Temple announced its intention to hand out pamphlets on its tenets to Florida schoolchildren in response to an Orange County School Board decision that allowed a Christian group to hand out Bibles and pamphlets of its own.
But the outcry over the idea of a group that calls itself the "Satanic Temple" handing out materials to kids is forcing the School Board to revisit its policy of allowing any kind of religious material to be handed out.
The School Board met Thursday to discuss its policy.
The Satanic Temple materials, which include a coloring and activity booklet for children titled "The Satanic Children's Big Book of Activities," were to be handed out after an atheist group won a court decision to allow it to hand out materials, just as the Christian group was allowed to.
But the School Board has been under heavy scrutiny ever since and could eliminate the practice altogether. This was the Satanic Temple's aim all along.
"We don't argue the merits of any one voice in a school environment," Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Grieves told New Times. "We think it's in the best interests for everyone, especially the kids, that the district not have religious materials of any kind distributed in schools."
But, Grieves says, the fact that the School Board is rethinking its policy shows its intention the whole time. "It strongly implies they never intended to have a plurality of voices," he says.
The entire episode stems from the School Board's allowing the Christian group World Changers of Florida to hand out Bibles on three occasions.
An atheist group then submitted a request to hand out its own materials but was shot down because of a fear of "causing a distraction." The atheist group then sued the School Board, but a judge threw out the lawsuit after the School Board relented and allowed the group to hand out its material.
That's when the Satanic Temple stepped in with its own set of materials, including a coloring and activity book. One of the sections of the booklet features a drawing of children and bullies in a word-jumble.
"These bullies are mad and afraid of things they don't understand," the booklet reads. "Help Damian use inclusive language to defuse the situation."
The possible policy change by the School Board is being met with resistance from World Changers, who call it "an attack on Christians."
"They seem to be moving against the interests of a large part of the community," World Changers Vice President Greg Harper told the Orlando Sentinel. "The Bible will open somebody's heart, somebody's mind, and cause them to pursue answers."
Harper added that World Changers is looking to distribute Bibles a fourth time on January 16 in at least 18 district high schools.
A district spokesperson said that so far they've received a request to hand out religious materials only from the Satanic Temple.
Meanwhile, the board won't be voting on the matter until at least February.
"There has to be an understanding that they probably have a student body that is generally aware of Christian teachings," Grieves said to New Times about the overall policy.
"Kids know about the Bible. They probably go to church on Sundays with their parents. But our material juxtaposed to that offers differing religious opinions, not just the view that's dominating the discourse."
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