Atheist and satanic literature to be made available to middle and high school students
A school district in Colorado will make available literature from atheist and satanic groups to children of middle school and high school age. The administration claims it is only following policy requiring the distribution of "non curricula" literature.
The controversy arose when a Colorado atheist group reacted to the school district distributing Bibles in December of last year. The Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers, working with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, say they want to offer students "an alternative way of thinking."
Not surprisingly, parents are up in arms. But the district claims its hands are tied by the First Amendment.
The Delta County School District says that their policy reads that they cannot discriminate against any groups or organizations when it comes to non-curricular materials. The only exceptions are if the material promotes hostility or violence, commercial purposes by advertising a product, interferes with the schools, promotes candidacy in an election or is obscene or pornographic, according to a press release by the Delta School District.
Kurt Clay, with the Delta School District says if they are going to make literature for things such as Boy Scouts, 4H or other organizations available, they have to allow all types of information to be available to students.
In December, Gideon bibles were distributed to Delta County students. The Western Colorado Atheist and Freethinkers say the distribution of those bibles prompted their desire to distribute atheist and satanic material as well.
"This is the other side of that,” explained Kurt Clay, the Assistant Superintendent. “The policy says we cannot discriminate what is handed out, we just have to follow the process.”
The process means that atheist literature will not be handed out to students, but rather placed on a table in a school’s library. This will allow students to pick it up the materials only if they wish to.
Ann Landman with the Western Colorado Atheist and Freethinkers says the issue here, is Freedom of Speech.
"Students are not only getting a lesson about the federal laws and our constitution, but also a different point of view that you can find around the world,” Landman explained.
Words will not bewitch anyone, so the idea that the literature will corrupt our youth is far-fetched. Of bigger concern is that the literature will raise questions in the minds of students that parents and teachers may not be equipped to answer. Middle school students especially may be too young to grasp the flawed logic of satanism or the selective evidence used by atheists to explain their beliefs.
But why not satanism? Why not atheism? The potential is there to start a healthy discussion with parents, teachers, and religious about why we believe what we believe. In the abstract, the literature could prove to be a valuable teaching tool.
But life rarely occurs in the abstract. The fact is, teachers and parents don't want to discuss these things. That's why a change in policy is probably best for everyone. The district is mulling such a change that would prevent distribution of all religious literature. Perhaps not an optimum solution, but necessary for all concerned.