Florida tract wars: fighting fire with fire
America’s Freedom From Religion Foundation stands accused of ‘ramping up their proselytizing’ in Florida schools with a series of anti-religious tracts, including the ‘distasteful’ leaflet pictured above.
A report in the Examiner is couched in terms that makes clear that the author, Linsey Bald is appalled that the FFFR has:
Released a number of anti-Bible tracts that depict the Word of God as nothing more than an X-rated book that’s full of salacious accounts of immorality, violence and obscenity. The distasteful leaflet, which the group plans distribute to teenagers attending Florida schools, shows a picture of a tongue-wagging Bible getting an upskirt grope of a fleeing girl.
CNS News reported last month:
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group, is planning to hand out in several Florida public high schools a pamphlet that features an illustration on its cover depicting a humanized Bible sexually assaulting a young woman.
The FFRF describes their antidotes to to silly Bible tracts, like those produced by Chick Publications, as:
Non-tracts: the freethought answer to ubiquitous religious tracts.
The group, clucked Bald:
Has published a number of religious rebuking messages, including other offensive handbills with titles like ‘Confused? Bible Contradictions’, ‘Cookie Cutter Christs’, ‘Heathen’s Greetings’ – a discussion of pagan Christmas roots, and ‘What’s Wrong with the Ten Commandments?’.
Last year the FFRF had attempted to distribute their “non-tracts” to schools in the Orange County district, but were initially prevented from doing so after the board found the reading material and cover pictures “wholly inappropriate”.
While some tracts were allowed among the schools with 14- to 18–year-olds, An X-Rated Bible was not.
Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said at the time.
This brochure may not be distributed … it will cause substantial disruption and is age-inappropriate. There is a picture on the cover of a Bible book given human features sticking its hand up the dress of a woman.
The FFRF responded with a lawsuit against the Orange County School Board, claiming that the “district had unlawfully discriminated against it and violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights” by prohibiting their tracts whilst allowed an evangelical Christian group to distribute Bibles.
The school board hastily withdrew the ban, and the case was dropped.
The now-permitted materials include a pamphlet that the district had previously prohibited. It argues that:
Jesus did not promote equality and social justice, was not compassionate, was not reliable and was not a good example.
Other FFRF “non-tracts” which discuss what the Bible says about abortion and “assert that God is hateful, arrogant, sexist and cruel”, will now be allowed. As will Robert Price’s Jesus Is Dead, which the district banned earlier because:
The claim that Jesus was not crucified or resurrected is age-inappropriate for the maturity levels of many of the students in high school.
The FFRF described this as:
An odd claim given that the district allowed the violence-filled Bible.
FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, who worked closely on the case with litigating attorney Steven Brady, noted that the forum is now open to all comers.
Satanists can distribute their literature, Muslims can distribute the Quran and atheists can distribute books that criticize religion.
The Central Florida Freethought Community Leader David Williamson added:
We intend to give out a lot more literature to educate students about atheism and the importance of keeping religion out of public schools. We are even designing new materials specifically for students and families in Orange County.
The irony is that kids can get a Bible anywhere. It’s the country’s most widely available book. But where could a Christian kid get a copy of Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation so easily?
I think the bottom line is, you can’t consider any of our materials obscene when compared to the Bible. They [the OCPS] cannot approve the Bible, which is full of all the things that are in the pamphlet, and then say that our materials are somehow obscene.