FFRF, Satanic Temple plan to distribute materials in Park County, Colo., schools

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and Satanic Temple are planning to distribute materials to students in a Colorado school district if officials don’t prevent the Gideons from targeting students with bibles.

A concerned Edith Teter Elementary School parent reported that on May 5, their young child came home with a bible. The complainant reported that an outside adult was permitted to stand on school property and hand out bibles to students. Their child believed that they had to take a bible and that the bibles were being distributed by the school, a reasonable assumption for a 7-year-old to make when being offered something in their public school during the school day.

Only after the outside group was allowed to use the elementary school to spread their religious beliefs and distribute bibles to students, Park County School District Superintendent Cindy Bear notified parents that it is district policy to allow outside adults to target students during the school day. The notification explained that “district policy allows for organizations to offer noncurricular materials to students with no pressure to accept as long as the materials meet the requirements stated in policy.” It also informed parents that it is their burden to address any questions about religion from students that arose due to the district’s decision. “Should your child have questions about these materials please communicate your beliefs with them,” the memo stated.

FFRF says the board must change its policy and cease allowing the distribution of bibles or other religious propaganda to students while they are in school or on school property. If the district continues to allow the Gideons to distribute religious material, FFRF will be working with the Satanic Temple to distribute materials to students next school year.

“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer outside adults access to students in order to indoctrinate them and distribute religious materials,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to Park County Board of Education President Sheila Waite.

The district may not allow its schools to be used as recruiting grounds for religion, FFRF emphasizes. It is well-settled law that public schools may not show favoritism towards nor coerce belief or participation in religion or allow such distributions. By allowing the distribution of bibles to students, the district displays blatant favoritism for religion over nonreligion and Christianity above all other faiths. This also needlessly alienates all students and families who do not subscribe to Christianity. A sizeable 37 percent of the American population is non-Christian, including the almost 30 percent that is nonreligious at the national level. In Colorado, at least 34 percent of the population is religiously unaffiliated. A third of Generation Z (those born after 1996) have no religion, with a recent survey revealing that almost half of Gen Z qualify as “Nones” (religiously unaffiliated).

The district may not maintain its policy whereby any private organization may take advantage of school resources to further its personal goals. FFRF has sought to distribute its own literature in schools with overly broad distribution policies — and aims to do so in the Park County School District if it maintains this open forum.

“Public schools exist to educate, not indoctrinate into religion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It is disgusting to see this evangelical group of grown men targeting other peoples’ extremely young children in this manner. Such distributions must stop.”

Gaylor adds that parents work hard to teach children not to take things from strangers, and that handing out materials on school property as children leave dangerously distracts them from following traffic safety rules.

You can read the full FFRF letter here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,300 members and a chapter in Colorado. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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