An atheist group plans to distribute pamphlets whose covers depict a Bible sexually assaulting a woman to high schoolers, CNS News reports.
The group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, first attempted to hand out the pamphlet, alongside other books and what they call “nontracts” (“the freethought answer to ubiquitous religious tracts”), in May 2013. The district, Orange County Public Schools, found some of their materials inappropriate, and refused to allow them to be distributed.
The titles they found inappropriate included “An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible,” “What Does The Bible Say About Abortion?” “Jesus is Dead,” “Why I Am Not A Muslim,” and “What On Earth Is An Atheist.” Titles the school district allowed to be handed out included “What’s Wrong with the Ten Commandments?,” “Ten Common Myths About Atheists,” and “Why Women Need Freedom From Religion.”
The district explained its opposition to the above pamphlet thus: “This brochure will cause substantial disruption and is age inappropriate. There is a picture on the cover of a Bible book given human features sticking its hand up the dress of a woman. Additionally, the brochure advertises how to become a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Collier County Consent Decree allows the District to prohibit the distribution of materials which contain solicitations.” Students at the high schools ranged from 14 to 18 years old.
The district objected to “Why I Am Not A Muslim” because of its vulgarity, and description of Muhammad as “no more than the head of a robber community, unwilling to earn an honest living,” would “cause a substantial disruption to those students who practice the Islamic faith.”
The objection FFRF cites most prominently, however, is the objection to a book called Jesus is Dead: “The District’s administration will not permit the distribution of materials which insult the leaders of other religions. The claim that Jesus was not crucified or resurrected is age inappropriate for the maturity levels of many of the students.”
The full list of books and pamphlets not allowed by the district, and its rationales, can be seen beginning on page 22 of this document.
FFRF was motivated to share the godless news after it heard that the Christian group World Changers of Florida had been allowed to set up tables in communal areas, with Bibles available on them for interested students. (RELATED: Atheist Group Got The Navy To Remove All Donated Bibles From Its Lodges)
“The irony is that the bible, a bestseller that’s rarely read, is X-rated, full of violence, obscenity and immoral conduct committed by or blessed by the biblical deity,” said FFRF’s co-president Dan Barker at the time. As FFRF’s own press release notes, the atheist pamphlet distribution was so important to him, despite the censorship, that he traveled all the way from Wisconsin to be present for it. He also called World Changers a “predatory evangelical group” and said that “public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize.”
FFRF distributed its district-approved materials at 11 Orange County schools. Students reacted with hostility to two of them, with one student pouring water over the books and pamphlets.
The next month FFRF filed a lawsuit against the school district, arguing that the Bible is equally, if not more, “objectionable” than the literature they sought to distribute, and that the district’s decision to bar them from distributing some of their materials violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
FFRF “prefer that no dissemination of outside materials, such as Bibles or their own literature, occur in Orange County Public Schools,” the lawsuit stated. “But since Defendants are allowing distributions, all viewpoints must now be granted fair and equal access.”
Rather than deal with the lawsuit, the school district capitulated and allowed FFRF to distribute all its materials. The case was finally dropped a year later.
They plan to distribute the previously censored materials in January, according to CNS News.
When asked about “An X-Rated Book” in particular, FFRF lawyer Andrew Seidel told CNS that the anti-Christian depiction of sexual assault was “pretty tame” compared to the Bible itself.
“I think if you look at the content of that brochure and what is actually in the Bible, and some of the things that are in the Bible in terms of sex and compare that to the cover, the cover is pretty tame compared to anything that is in the Bible,” he said. “I think the bottom line is, you can’t consider any of our materials obscene when compared to the Bible.” (RELATED: Federal Judge Tells Atheist Group, The Ground Zero Cross Stays)
This isn’t the first time FFRF’s tangled with Orange County Public Schools, which, with over 175,000 students, is one of the largest districts in the United States. In September they got OCPS to curtail what FFRF considered “rampant religious activity” within the high school football programs, again by filing a lawsuit which prompted OCPS to assent to their demands, rather than defend itself in court.
“I think we recognize that [the cover] might upset some people,” Seidel continued, “but the Bible upsets many, many non-believers, especially when it’s being pushed in the public schools. So really, all it’s doing is placing believers and people who are in the majority in the position that we in the minority have been in for a very long time, and are in every time the government espouses one religion over another. That’s what we feel like all the time.”