The Freedom From Religion Foundation wants the go-ahead to distribute its literature in Colorado public schools to counter the Religious Right.
In spite of repeated FFRF requests, the Delta County School District has refused to have the Gideons stop distributing bibles in the local public schools. So FFRF and its allied organizations are asking permission to hand out freethought materials there. These include brochures and booklets such as "Top 10 Public School State-Church Violations and How to Stop Them" and "What's Wrong With The Ten Commandments?"
It is unconstitutional for public school districts to permit the Gideon's International to distribute bibles as part of the public school day, FFRF contends. Even when distribution of religious material to students in school is done passively — from a table or some other fixed location — courts have ruled that that distribution may be unconstitutional.
But since the Delta County School District has told FFRF that it will give the Gideons continued access, the organization is taking it to the next level.
"The School District is not required to maintain this open forum and is free to close it rather than allow FFRF to distribute materials," FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote in a March 3 letter to the district. "We do not think schools should be a battleground for religious ideas. But when schools allow the Gideons to prey on children, their message of eternal damnation for any who don't believe in their God must be countered."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a state/church watchdog organization with chapters all over the country and 23,000 nonreligious members nationally, including more than 600 in Colorado, with chapters in Denver and Colorado Springs.
FFRF is stressing to the Delta County School District that previous attempts to deny FFRF admittance in such instances have failed. When the Orange County Public Schools in Florida attempted to restrict FFRF access after permitting bible distribution, the organization filed a lawsuit that cost the school district nearly $90,000, and the district had to approve all FFRF literature for distribution. Shortly after, Orange County closed the literature distribution forum—what FFRF had been asking for (and what FFRF has been asking Delta County Schools for) from the beginning.
"Public schools should not be venues for religious folks to attempt to brainwash young minds," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "But once religious groups are welcomed, then atheists and others with competing viewpoints mist be allowed in, too."