If Bible Distribution is Allowed in Schools, Then Atheist Tracts Can be Given Away, Too… Right? May 20, 2009

If Bible Distribution is Allowed in Schools, Then Atheist Tracts Can be Given Away, Too… Right?

A few days ago, we heard about how the Frisco Independent School District in Texas allowed Gideon volunteers to distribute Bibles to schoolchildren.

They don’t preach to them, but they do put out their materials… just in case students happen to walk by…

Frequent commenter on this site TXatheist wrote to a district rep and asked her if atheists could get equal time:

Ms. Wortham,
As a concerned parent I would like to know how we go about getting equal time for distribution of materials related to our religious views. I am a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and think the following tract is objective to religion and to our legal system. Can you direct me on how we get equal time to distribute this pamphlet?

Thank you.

The response looks good:

If you would like to send me a copy of the tract, I would be glad to review it and then discuss distributing it by providing copies for display/pick-up.

Thank you.

Shana Wortham

FISD Communications

It’s not approved just yet, but it seems pretty easy to make it happen. If this works, I hope it just puts an end to the whole situation. Otherwise, other belief systems will follow course and all hell will break loose. (And when that happens, there will be Flying Spaghetti Monster tracts all over the place; mark my words.)

Thanks to TXatheist for taking some action on this!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Reginald Selkirk

    If you would like to send me a copy of the tract, I would be glad to review it and then discuss…

    For what would the tract be “reviewed”? Did the Gideon materials receive identical review?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    TXAtheist: I recommend that you insist on getting everything related to this “review” in writing.

  • TXatheist

    Reginald, good question and if I get a better chance to ask I will. I’m waiting on her response first.

  • This is a good move to get them to deliver the untract. If they refuse, they’re heading for a loosing law suit.

    I don’t see why they need to see the untract in advance though? As noted, they don’t censor all the bllod, violence, rape and genocide out of the Bible, do they?

  • I’m sorry to be in bad humor, Hemant, but it seems in my country it will continue the tradition to make laws against common sense, human rights, or (now) our Supreme Court rulings.

    It’s been 11 State that have passed laws that make abortion illegal and penalized in all cases, even when those laws are against the Supreme Court ruling!

    And it doesn’t matter if you search for it either in spanish or english, there’s barely a mention about it on the news.

    As an example, after only 11 days had passed since the new law was accepted by the State’s congress at Guanajuato, 26 local governments accepted the law.

    In Puebla and Guanajuato there are already attempts by opposition parties to stop these laws, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

    For all I know, the media buzz about influenza seems to have been very useful to some conservative parties to make their own laws without people minding too much.

  • Larry Huffman

    Well…while the question seems to have validity…I think the real answer is that it is merely a bible. Bibles are well known enough to not need a review. I do not think anyone needs to review a bible, unless the people on the school board can all say they have no idea what the bible is.

    And I would want a tract reviewed that was going to be handed out to kids so that it does not contain certain things that are specifically inciteful. Yes, I know the bible has violence and lots of bad messages…but so does a history book. It is about how it is presented when it comes to kids.

    I think TXatheist is correct in waiting (and pushing for if it takes too long) for the review. That will be the key. When they review they will have to give reasons for the refusal (if it is refused…who knows, maybe this school board will get it right and allow it). If it is merely the way certain things are worded…an editting should then get the pamphlet in place. If it is the nature of the message…that is when you pull out the “have you read the bible?” defense…and begin to expose rape, incenst, genocide, and claims of virgins giving birth, support of slavery, support of child abuse, etc. etc. And then, of course, the trump card is that no religion (especially one with such an awful example as the bible) or belief should be able to have exclusive access if access is to be granted in this manner.

    The key is going to be the reasons they give if it is refused. Like I said…they may simply object to how something is aimed at kids…and in a reserved manner, I would agree…but an edit can fix that and satisfy their review.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    District policy says nonschool literature is allowed as long as it doesn’t “attack ethnic, religious, or racial groups.” It also can’t “interfere with school activities or the rights of others.”

    And the Bible met those criteria? Hard to believe. Have you seen what the Bible says about worshippers of Gods other than Yahweh?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Yes, I know the bible has violence and lots of bad messages…but so does a history book.

    The Bible advocates violence based on ethnic and religious differences. A history book may report it. Big difference.

  • Alan E.

    I would like to see what kind of information you will pass out make available. This is along the same lines as the arguments made when trying to teach ID in the classroom. The Flying Spaghetti Monster was brought up as an argument, saying that it should be taught with just as much weight as ID. Being in Texas, he may be familiar with that case, but might need a reminder.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    If you just leave your material, and don’t get to observe, it could end up in a wastebasket before the school kids come by.

  • Fredrik

    Bibles are well known enough to not need a review. I do not think anyone needs to review a bible

    Fair enough. In any case they should be able to tell us how what they know about the bible made them feel it was acceptable for distribution in school. And if they reject the tract, why it fails in comparison to the bible. If it is merely because it is “anti-religious”, would they accept something pro-religion like say the Qur’an or the Satanic Bible?

  • SASnSA

    I think it’s time to produce a dead-tree edition of the Skeptics Annotated Bible to distribute.

  • Larry Huffman

    I was not really defending the bible guys…I agree with you in principle. I was just trying to look at it from the standpoint of the school board…and how this would have to be done given the way things are…as opposed to how it should be. Of course we all see the bible as being a terrible guide for anyone, especially children. But most people see it the opposite…and so if you ask them to review it, they are going to tell you ‘review it? I read it every day and pattern my life after it.’

    My point was…better to wait and let them make the next move. Let them review without asking them to review the bible. I agree with you Reg and Fred…really I do. But I also think taking that approach would not achieve the desired goal…to get the atheist tract in for distribution…given the probability of the school board members religious faith. I am quite sure they would disagree with us, and equate the violence in the bible to the violence in a history book. At best.

  • Eliza

    If giving out the bible is OK, couldn’t a group give out just one book of the bible to schoolkids? Nothing wrong with that, right?

    How about the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon)?

    Think that would come back to bite the school district in the butt?

  • It is simply assumed that everyone will be thrilled that their children will
    be given bibles. Thumbs up on your Athiest tract. I do feel that if the
    bible is passed out, Athiest and Agnostic viewpoints should be represented.
    If they insist upon bringing religious materials into secular schools, the only
    viable reason I can see would be comparitive religious studies. I’m somehow
    certain that the same people who are not keen to dispense the Athiest
    tracts, would be no more enthusiastic to plan a fair course of study
    covering all of the major religions of the world. They would be shocked to
    find just how much they have in common. Maybe, just maybe a student
    here or there would be intrigued enough to start to question, rather than
    mindlessly following . I know I’m dreaming, if asked most Americans
    would tell you the founding fathers were fundamentalist Christians. My aching head.
    Thanks so much, I love your site!

  • Tom

    Larry Huffman Says:
    Well…while the question seems to have validity…I think the real answer is that it is merely a bible. Bibles are well known enough to not need a review. I do not think anyone needs to review a bible, unless the people on the school board can all say they have no idea what the bible is.

    In point of fact, the bible contains relatively graphic descriptions of murder, incest, and rape. Quite frankly, short of actually printing pornographic photos in the tracts, there’s pretty much nothing an atheist group could do that would not fit into the category of “more suitable to give to children than the bible”. Any school that allowed bibles to be given to children and then wants to make some pretense of ensuring that other materials given to them are appropriate for children is a laughingstock.

    Further, if the school did not examine the bibles in question, how do they know that they did not have pornographic photos printed in them?

    Bluntly, if the school allowed the bibles to be distributed to children without them being “reviewed”, but they’re insisting on “reviewing” atheist materials, then they are already discriminating on the basis of religion. Period. They’re trusting a christian group to give unchecked materials to children, but demanding that atheists must submit their materials for approval.

    Further, it sounds from the previous article like the christian group was permitted into the school to personally hand out bibles, but this article says that the atheist group will only be able to leave tracts for “display/pick-up”. This again would constitute discrimination (if my understanding of the situation is correct), because the christians get to interact with children and put a friendly face on their religion, and are seen as having been welcomed into the school, while atheists are unable to interact with children, are unable to put a friendly face on their beliefs (and lack thereof) so children may inadvertently view them as “unsafe to be allowed near us”, and frankly are unable to actually see that the materials actually reach the hands of children, rather than being thrown out secretly by disapproving school officials – which is a significant concern since the school has already created the appearance of bias – or simply thrown out by an errant child.

    If it was me contacting the school about the matter, I would politely insist on being told exactly what “review” requirements the christian group and their materials were subjected to, and demand that my materials and myself be submitted to precisely the same scruitiny, not one jot more or less, and if the christians were permitted into the school to hand out materials, I would demand to be permitted into the school to hand out materials in precisely the same context. Anything else, and I’d pick up the phone and call the ACLU.

    And I really hope a pastafarian goes in to distribute literature. I can just imagine a bunch of kids would find the FSM hilarious and love the pirate garb, and announce their conversion to pastafarianism just to tweak their parents.

  • Michael Nietzsche

    More Bibles! More Bibles! Makes great toilet paper!!!!

  • Fredrik

    More Bibles! More Bibles! Makes great toilet paper!!!!

    Watch out for those gilded edges!

  • TXatheist

    24 hours later no reply so I sent a courtesy reminder to ask on the status of getting this distributed….standing by 🙂

  • TXatheist

    First snag and I’d like suggestions. I don’t actually have this tract in my possession. But after reading the comments I’m wondering if she asked to review the gideon bible?

    Her reply:Mr. Johnson, I saw the email link, but I would need to physically see the tract first and then have your request regarding when, where and other details regarding you leaving for display/pick up.
    Thank you.

    Shana Wortham
    FISD Communications

  • Richard Wade

    First snag and I’d like suggestions.

    Provide everything she requests.

    TXatheist, I have admired you for a long time and I ask the following questions with complete respect:

    You meant what you said, right? You weren’t bluffing just to make a point, counting on the school district to ignore or reject your request? You actually intend to have the FFRF nontracts distributed, right?

    The issue of whether the Gideon Bible was reviewed by the district is beside the point. Just follow through with what she has requested.

  • TXatheist

    Richard, thank you for the sign of respect and yes. AS long as you asked I’m glad to back it up with examples. When the Pope came to town I went and demonstrated with a sign outside a catholic church and there were only 3 of us at first. I regularly counterprotest the pro-life folks at planned parenthoods and I’m usually outnumbered 5 to 1 and sometimes 30 to one(just once). Heck, I drove all the way from Round Rock to Fort Worth just to meet the legendary Hemant Mehta. So there will be no bluffing.

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you for your affirming response, TX. I must confess that getting physically involved in such things as you have described gives me pause. I don’t pretend to be as brave as people like you, but from the safety of my secret mountain lair I can at least offer some tangible support. If acquiring the materials has a burdensome cost, contact me through Hemant, and I will donate toward the project.

    I too once drove a long way to meet His Friendliness. Only half the distance you drove, but through deadly, man-eating traffic.

  • TXatheist

    No problem on cost but thanks. I finally took the plunge one day after I heard about how bad they hassle women going to planned parenthood and I’ve never had pause since. And honestly and humbly I’ve never been intimidated…I can’t explain that…I’m just not.

  • TXatheist

    I don’t know if this latest question is good or bad…”is what is on line what it is, just in a tract format?”

    Shana Wortham

    FISD Communications

  • TXatheist

    More input please 1) I can drop it and the ACLU can insist they not do it again 2) I can go and stand there with pamphlets which means they are being fair and the ACLU can’t complain 3)OTHER : Here is her reply “The Gideons did a one day, display/pick up last week.”

    Shana Wortham

    FISD Communications

    From: TXatheist

    I would like to be directly next to or across from the Gideon distribution so please inform me of that occurrence and I will be able to confirm.
    Thank you,

  • KoolTeach

    I have been reading all of thes comments and frankly, when was the last time any of you were in a class room full of students. You are asserting that we teachers only give focus to Christian beliefs. I happen to teach middle school and my curriculum teaches Christianity, Catholism, Judeaism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and Confucianism; as well as many polytheistic religious models such as the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. They are afforded the respect they deserve and are taught from a historical perspective as well as an overview of the base beliefs of each religion. The Bible is a history book, the events to which the Bible refers, in most cases have been documented independently in other historical documents. Some of the books of the Bible are written much like a diary. Throughout history scholars have accepted diaries of little known or even unknown persons to further the understanding of history. They do not discredit someones experiences simply because they do not agree with them. If you recall the history of the implementation of the public school system it was designed to teach youth to read- the Bible. Most of the early curriculum was designed around the teachings of the Bible. In the last 25-30 years the ACLU has effectively taken away any mention of morals, duty, honor, obedience and humility out ot the public school, and as a result we have a generation of students who demonstrate a lack of morals, particularly sexual morality, bisexuality is rampant, mainly because they have been told that it is okay, they have been told that there is no morality except what they make, these same students do not understand concepts of duty to family, self and country, they are dishonorable, lying for gain, cheating, and disrespect of elders, and each other. I am not sure that very many know the words obey, rules and consequences. We have high drop out rates across the country, high teen pregnancy, gangs and violence. You as an atheist now want to go in and further promote to these students who already do not believe in anything including themselves; which is why the suicide rate for students between the ages of 12-18 has risen dramatically, that there is no god and that they are right to believe in nothing. 80 percent of our population believes in a god, maybe not the Christian God, but they believe, and you want the right to go into a school where parents struggle to teach their children morality and values. I repect your right to not believe, but for some reason every time an atheist does not get thier way they sue. Leave my Pledege of Alligience alone and keep your non belief away from my children, and my students. We all need something to belief in.

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