The Satanic Temple is about to hand out free coloring books to students at Delta Middle School in Colorado. Why? Because Christian Bibles (courtesy of The Gideons) are being handed out to students for free already and the school administration refused to put a stop to the practice.
According to a report by Anne Landman's Blog, the Colorado school has been violating its own policy on literature distribution for quite some time, allowing Bibles to be given out to students. Indeed, a teacher reportedly instructed students that the free Bibles were available and told them that they could "pick one up as they left" the school library.
The school district's policy states that non-curricular materials are not to be "distributed in any classroom of any building then being occupied by a regularly scheduled class." Before the Bibles were offered to students, they had been attending a regularly scheduled class in the library. The district's policy also restricts distribution of non-curricular materials to a half-hour before school, during lunch periods, or a 15-minute period after school. The Bibles were distributed during class periods, not lunch.
The issue came to the attention of the media, reports Patheos, when a student who didn't take a Bible felt pressured by a fellow student to do so, ultimately resulting in her feeling confronted and ashamed for her lack of Christian beliefs. That student told her mother, and ultimately the issue came to the attention of The Satanic Temple.
When the issue was brought to the attention of the school principal, Jennifer Lohrberg denied that the school had done anything wrong or that any violation of district policy had taken place. Getting nowhere with the school principal and leading up to the intervention by The Satanic Temple, the parent contacted the Delta County School District Assistant Superintendent, who also denied any wrong had been done. The Assistant Superintendent told the bullied student's parent to bring the issue up to the School Board. Eventually, the concerned parent contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The FFRF reportedly contacted the school district repeatedly with requests asking for the Bible distributions to come to an end. The district refused to comply, insisting they'd done nothing wrong and would continue with the Bible giveaways. It was then that The Satanic Temple became involved with the situation. The FFRF contacted The Satanic Temple, and the road to the distribution of The Satanic Temple coloring book began. The FFRF requested that the Satanic coloring book (as well as other pro-atheism literature) be distributed to students at the school in a manner similar to the already-available Christian Bibles. The FFRF sent a letter to the district on March 3.
"The School District is not required to maintain this open forum and is free to close it rather than allow FFRF to distribute materials. 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."
This isn't the first time that The Satanic Temple has responded to the distribution of religious literature with Satanic literature of their own. Schools in Florida handed out Bibles to "interested" students back in 2013. When The Satanic Temple responded with a plan to distribute Satanic coloring books, the schools tried to stop them. As Patheos reported, taxpayers paid about $90,000 in legal fees fighting The Satanic Temple, but ultimately The Satanic Temple won and distributed it's coloring books.
With that precedent fresh in mind, the Delta County, Colorado, officials realized that if they allowed the Bibles to be distributed, they also have to allow The Satanic Temple to distribute its coloring books and other literature, such as pamphlets with such titles as "It's Okay to Not Believe in God!"
Keep in mind, FFRF would prefer that public schools not be used to hand out religious paraphernalia of any kind, but the district refused to stop allowing the Bibles to be distributed and agreed to allow The Satanic Temple's coloring books and literature as well.
Not surprisingly, parents in the district are absolutely furious, according to a report from local media affiliate WNDU. District administrators have responded to parental concerns about The Satanic Temple's literature, saying that to continue to distribute Christian-affiliated religious material while refusing the Satanists is a form of discrimination.
"This is the other side of that. The policy says we cannot discriminate what is handed out, we just have to follow the process."
However, as with the Christian bibles, The Satanic Temple coloring books will not be "handed out" to students but rather placed on a table in the library where they will be available for the interested students who choose to pick them up.
There's been no comment from the district as to how they might handle bullying situations that arise if interested students are seen by their classmates picking up The Satanic Temple's literature. If reports are to be believed, the district did not respond well to the bullying of non-Christian students who refused to grab Bibles along with their peers.
Lucien Greaves, the spokesman for The Satanic Temple, responded to the upcoming distribution of Satanic coloring books in a press release.
"I think it's lovely that Delta County Public Schools is helping us to help provide students with a such a poignant lesson in First Amendment Constitutional Law and the principle of pluralism, not to mention Comparative Religion. Those lessons couldn't possibly be any more relevant today."
The Satanic Temple's coloring books will be distributed on April 1.
[Image via MuseZack/Twitter/The Satanic Temple]