Sep 23, 2014

Satanists connect the dots

A Satanist group known for challenging Christians' privileged access to the public sphere has announced it will distribute the The Satanic Children's Big Book of Activities in Florida public schools.

The schools have allowed Christian groups to distribute Bibles and other religious literature, but claimed this wasn't illegal because any group could do the same.

"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," said Lucian Greaves, leader of the New York-based Satanic Temple.

The Florida school district has allowed non-Christian literature to be distributed, but not without vetting the material first. 

A local Freethought group distributed tracts and books at the schools, but they were prohibited from distributing some books. 

In a fight with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the school district agreed to allow all groups equal access to the schools. This opened the doors to the Satanists. 

In a statement, the FFRF reiterates the point that it would like all religious literature equally banned from public schools. It's illegal, however, to accept some groups and reject others.

Public schools should not be allowing the distribution of bibles, atheist materials or any other religious or nonreligious material. Religion is best left to the private sphere. We do not want the Satanic Temple preying on students any more than we want evangelical Christians preying on students. We again urge Orange County to close the distribution forum and religious battleground it has willingly opened. Orange County Schools should keep its public schools secular.
A coalition of atheists and agnostic advocating for the separation of church and state, FFRF is planning to distribute literature at the Florida schools too. They plan to pass out An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible in January.

Whether or not the Satanist group will be there alongside the FFRF and the Christians distributing Bibles is not clear. The New York Satanists -- known mostly for their application to erect a Baphomet-with-children statue in Oklahoma City -- does political theater. They are not interested in proselytizing as much as they're interested in trolling conservative Christians. 

Greaves described the group's mission in an interview, saying "We play upon people's irrational fears in a way that hopefully causes them to reevaluate what they think they know."

The school district has not actually received a request to distribute Satanic materials yet, according to a spokesperson interviewed by the New York Daily News. 

The spokesperson added: "We reserve the right to review the material before we decide what is distributed."