Parents of children attending three Kentucky public schools have reportedly expressed concern after an atheist group arrived on the campuses to distribute free books regarding secularism.
Some parents of Casey County, Ky., kept their children home last Friday when the Tri-State Freethinkers atheist group set up a secularist book display at three local public elementary schools, including Liberty, Walnut, and Jones Park. The atheist group was able to set up the displays after the American Civil Liberties Union contacted the Casey County School District, arguing that because administrators allowed the Christian group Gideons International to set up a Christian-themed book display, they should also allow the atheist group to do so.
Tri-State Freethinkers followed the same rules as Gideons International when setting up their display, including setting up an unmanned table with secular literature before school hours. Members of the atheist group were not allowed to be on campus while school was in session and had to dismantle their table after school had ended. The book distributed to students on Friday was Humanism, What's That?: A Book for Curious Kids.
As local media reports, some parents were concerned about the atheist group's display. One mother, Carmen Foster, told the local WKYT-TV news station that she was contemplating keeping her kids at home Friday so they may avoid the atheist book table. However, Foster told the news station that ultimately she understands that she cannot forever shield her children from the realities of the world.
"I work hard every day of my life as a mother to teach my kids what we believe. If I don't have enough confidence to send them out in the world, then how strong am I with what I'm teaching them," Foster explained. "Whether we like it or not, our kids are going to go out in to this world. They are going to come across these situations. This is a good opportunity to teach them how to handle it."
The Danville Advocate-Messenger reported that some parents did in fact gather in one of the school's parking lots on Thursday evening to confront Tri-State Freethinkers as they set up their table. One woman, who refused to be identified, told the local media outlet that she and a small number of other parents had gathered to "defend God and His glory." The parents also demanded to see where the books were going to be displayed.
Boyd Harris, principal of Liberty Elementary, told the Advocate-Messenger that his school did see a lower attendance on Friday, speculating that there was a connection. "Our attendance was probably not as good as it normally is … We feel like there may be some connection there."
Atheist groups in other parts of the country have also sought to distribute their books at public schools and other government-operated entities after learning Christian groups had done the same. Last year, the Central Florida Freethought Community was able to distribute atheist literature at 11 schools in Orange County, Fla., after the World Changers of Florida had done so.
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