The school district in Orange County, Florida is feeling the heat as it considers whether to allow distribution of a Satanic coloring book and fact sheets in schools. The Satanic Temple submitted the literature after the district allowed a Christian group to distribute Bibles to students earlier this year.
Following the first Bible distribution by World Changers of Florida in January, a local chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation submitted atheist books and pamphlets that they wished to offer students as well. The Orange County district, which includes Orlando and the surrounding area, initially banned about half the FFRF materials but later allowed them after a lawsuit was filed. Then the Satanic Temple upped the ante by submitting its publication The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities for distribution in elementary schools. The book contains standard coloring-book fare such as a word jumble and a connect-the-dots activity–which forms a pentagram when completed.
Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves said the group would prefer that no religious materials from outside groups be distributed in schools at all, but as long as the practice is allowed it wants to make sure that all viewpoints are welcome. The Satanic Temple has carried out similar actions elsewhere, most notably in Oklahoma where it is fighting to place a statue of Baphomet alongside a monument to the 10 Commandments on the state capitol grounds. The Temple was denied a holiday display in the Florida state capitol rotunda last year, but is trying again this year.
Orange County Public Schools, for its part, may now reconsider the policy that allowed distribution of religious materials in the first place. After some news sources erroneously reported in September that the coloring book was already available in schools, district officials and board members were deluged with thousands of irate emails from across the country. In early October, before the book had even been submitted for consideration, board chair Bill Sublette urged his colleagues “to put in place a policy that would ban the distribution of all religious materials by outside groups on school campuses, even if it would lead to a lawsuit.” Last week he told the Orlando Sentinel that “[w]e definitely, definitely will not be distributing those materials until we have a work session on that issue.”
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.