Florida School Board Bans Bibles to Prevent Satanic Group From Giving Books to Students

Photo of Satanic Temple display proposal to the Florida Department of Management Services featuring Satan descending into hell, uploaded Dec. 18, 2013.
Photo of Satanic Temple display proposal to the Florida Department of Management Services featuring Satan descending into hell, uploaded Dec. 18, 2013. | (Photo: The Satanic Temple Facebook)

The school board of Orange County, Florida voted on Tuesday to ban the distribution of Bibles and all other religious materials at its public schools in order to prevent The Satanic Temple organization from handing out Satanic coloring books to students.

WFTV reported that board members voted 7-1 to amend school policy and ban all religious materials. The move is in response to The Satanic Temple attempting to offer coloring books and fact sheets to students in the Fall of 2014, after another group, World Changers of Florida, had offered Bibles.

The Liberty Counsel, which is representing the Christian group, argued that the school blocking the distribution of religious material is unconstitutional, and it may decide to sue.

"If my client is turned away because my client is a religious organization, then I think we'll have grounds to sue the school board based on an unconstitutional policy," said Roger Gannam of the Liberty Counsel.

Orange County School Board Chairman Bill Sublette said, however, that the school is ready to deal with any legal cases.

"This board has been fully briefed on the legal issues," Sublette said.

The local Satanic Temple chapter argued that the message it is promoting is one of "tolerance and personal liberty," and accused the school board of not wanting anyone but Christian groups to distribute religious material.

Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves said in a message back in September on the group's website: "We would never seek to establish a precedent of disseminating our religious materials in public schools because we believe our constitutional values are better served by respecting a strong separation of Church and State."

He added: "However, if a public school board is going to allow religious pamphlets and full Bibles to be distributed to students — as is the case in Orange County, Florida — we think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that these students are given access to a variety of differing religious opinions, as opposed to standing idly by while one religious voice dominates the discourse and delivers propaganda to youth."

The Orlando Sentinel noted that the board members had debated whether to ban materials from all outside groups and protect the school from lawsuits.

"It is not the School Board's job to promote religion of any kind," said Warren Geltch of Orlando.

Some student, such as Conway Middle School seventh-grader Rhiannon Dodson, said that the policy should not have been changed.

"Don't bar kids from learning and growing," she said.

The Satanic Temple in Florida has been looking to gain presence in the state, and in December won for the first time the right to put up a holiday display at the Florida Capitol. The display, which had been rejected in all previous years, featured a biblical scene found in Isaiah 14:12 of Satan descending into hell.

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