Atheist groups to distribute materials in Orange County schools

Classroom

Photo Credit IndyPostEd.com

Thursday promises to be an unusual day for high school students in Orange County, Fla.

The school district, led by moderate Republican and board Chairman Bill Sublette, has agreed to allow atheist groups on high school campuses to distribute material on atheism, agnosticism and secular humanism.

Representatives from the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Central Florida Freethought Community will be “passively” distributing the following articles and papers to students, according to WKMG Local 6:

  • The Age of Reason
  • What They Said About Religion
  • Ten Common Myths About Atheists
  • What is Wrong with the Ten Commandments?
  • What is an Atheist
  • Nontheistic Students in Your School
  • Humanist of the Year Award
  • Don’t Believe in God? You may be a Humanist
  • Why Women Need Freedom From Religion
  • What is a Freethinker?
  • Secular Student Alliance” brochure

Passive distribution means the materials will be left on an unmanned table in a common area for students to take during non-instructional time. The groups’ representatives may not interact with the students, and can only replenish materials if they run out, the TV report said.

In a letter to principals, the school district’s lawyers said the handouts were approved to avoid a lawsuit, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Thursday’s distribution comes after the school district allowed the religious group, World Changers of Florida, to distribute free Bibles in January. The organization was allowed to “passively” hand out the holy books after successfully suing the Collier County School District for blocking a previous distribution attempt.

What a circus environment students in Orange County must endure.

Misguided and weak-kneed leadership by Sublette and the Orange County School Board are nothing new, as we saw in December, when they worked with Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group, to create a special protected category for “gender identity or expression” for students and employees.

In Gainesville, one of a handful of Florida cities and counties that recognize such a classification, defines gender identity as:

“An inner sense of being a specific gender, or the expression of a gender identity by verbal statement, appearance, or mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.”

All in all, the secular progressive intrusion in education makes one long for the days when the purpose of schools was to teach, not to drive a political agenda.

Tom Tillison

Tom Tillison

Tom is a grassroots activist who distinguished himself as one of the top conservative bloggers in Florida before joining BizPac Review.
Tom Tillison

Comments

21 thoughts on “Atheist groups to distribute materials in Orange County schools

  1. Doug Hanks says:

    Quid pro quo. Both sides got to do something and expensive lawsuits were avoided. Looks like a winning solution.

  2. Doug Hanks says:

    Welcome to Gilchrist County. Please tie up your horse and leave your musket at the door before entering the saloon.

  3. Libertarian Joe says:

    It's not faith, it's an evidence based observation. I observe that the likelihood of there being a god is minimal due to lack of evidence. I've also made the same assertion regarding unicorns. Is my aunicornism a faith?

    I agree with everything else you said though. School is no place for religious or anti-religious proselytizing.

  4. abb3w says:

    Err… that is the problem. At this school district, the settlement agreement from the last lawsuit, Baptists CAN pass out religious pamphlets on school grounds — at least, presuming they're affiliated with a Baptist church that has formally incorporated as a non-profit. It was a religious group that sued to open the access, to allow Bible distribution. With the door to a forum having been opened, the Atheists figured since they can't close it to everyone, they might as well join in.

    (I'll just note the "both have faith" is a false equivalence of the irreligious accepting a premise as inference from priors to the direct taking of a primary premise without priors. That's kind of a side discussion.)

  5. abb3w says:

    That's an oversimplification of the relationship between religiosity and intelligence. Religious disaffiliation correlates much more directly to having lower tendency to authoritarian submission, which is more common among but not limited to the more intelligent.

  6. Eric Malkin says:

    I love listening to the debate over weather there is or isn't a "supreme being" what utter nonsense if you believe great if not great do not waste my time arguing over a subject that can not be proved or disproved ENOUGH ALREADY

  7. Jimmyd says:

    the whole basis for religion is a big scam…ask any of these religious wackos how they explain dinosaurs or neanderthal caveman. case closed

  8. If I wanted to hand out a track,then there are attacks.Am told;We are to be a separation of church &state.Why s it that almos everybody today can have a voice,but christiansSorry!but I can't be tolerant of anything/everything today.I go by what my bible tells me is truth.Not whatever the world gives an opinion of.Liz

    1. abb3w says:

      Of course people can tell you there's Separation of Church and State; there's also Freedom of Speech. Your Freedom of Speech and of Religious Exercise is not considered to be infringed if other people use their Freedom of Speech to argue that you shouldn't, or that you're a despicable failure as a human being for doing so; such "attacks" are perfectly Constitutional. It's only a rights violation when you're forbidden, backed by government authority — and not always even then.

      The present precise case law as I(AmNotALawyer) understand is because of that Separation, the schools can't discriminate between religious, irreligious, and nonreligious speech. Schools don't have to create any such limited public forum — and perhaps from the interest of further perfecting such Separation, tend to elect not to do so. Since most districts don't allow outside access, unless you're in this district, you may be out of luck. However, once allowing any such outside distribution — by say, the local YMCA for distributing notices of their summer camp — the forum is there, subject to the usual rules on such limited forums. It may take a lawsuit to get the school to allow equal access, and it won't help you enlarge the forum.

      Government also may impose reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on limited public forums (as opposed to traditional public forums — the sidewalk next the school is likely fair game for anything not creating a fire hazard or other direct public safety menace). One such allowed limitation on manner would be restricting distribution to placing the literature on unattended tables for students to pick up, as done here. Similarly, they can likely limit it to 501(c)3 groups, and not allow unaffiliated individuals. (You might have a shot at fighting that in court, but I'd bet against prevailing.) They also can require the standard background check for outsider access — compelling state interest in student safety overriding your right to free exercise for a sex offender.

      What the school absolutely can't do is allow you to distribute religious pamphlets, and then do anything to keep out atheists wanting to hand out anti-religious pamphlets — or vice versa. (They also will be challenged to keep out Pastafarians wanting to distribute silly ones.)

      Different rules apply if you're a student at the school who wants to distribute pamphlets to schoolmates.

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