Florida decision to distribute Bibles in schools backfires: Satanists can hand out their stuff, too!

September 17, 2014 • 11:04 am

Ah, there’s a big kerfuffle in Orange County, Florida, and it’s all the fault of those troublemakers at the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF).  You can see the story at many places, like here, here, and here).

The trouble began when the Orange County School District allowed evangelical Christians (“The World Changers of Florida”) to distribute Bibles in public schools.

The inevitable (well, usually inevitable) followed: they were sued. As I recall, the FFRF proposed to distribute atheist literature in the school as well, and they were refused. The FFRF and the Central Florida Freethought Community then took the school district to court, and won: they could distribute atheist literature in the schools. (The stuff they wanted to give out seems pretty tame [see below]: no God is Not Great or The God Delusion, but of course books are expensive.)

Now something even better has happened: the Satanic Temple is elbowing in as well, for if Christians and atheists can distribute literature, so can Satanists. The can of worms is opened, and the annelids are crawling free. Of course this is going to drive the Floridians nuts, for they simply didn’t anticipate this. I could have told them!

At first I thought Satanists must be baby-nomming devil worshippers and promoters of evil, but they seem pretty innocuous. In fact, they seem a lot more beneficent than most other religions. The website of the Satanic Temple says this about their mission:

The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will. Civic-minded, The Satanic Temple has been involved in a number of good works including taking a stand against the controversial and extremist Westboro Baptist Church, working on behalf of children in public school who have been subject to corporal punishment and more.

They’re better than Christians! In fact Satanism seems like humanism.

The Satanists also say this about the distribution of their literature in the schools:

The Satanic Temple’s spokesperson, Lucien [!] Greaves, explains, “We would never seek to establish a precedent of disseminating our religious materials in public schools because we believe our constitutional values are better served by respecting a strong separation of Church and State. However, 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, as opposed to standing idly by while one religious voice dominates the discourse and delivers propaganda to youth.”

Like the Satanists, the FFRF issued a statement saying that the school district forced them to this end, and that they really don’t want any religious literature in the schools. I heartily agree! Keep atheism, religion, Satanism, whatever out of public schools. That’s called “secularism” or “respecting the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

This is from the FFRF’s statement:

FFRF does not believe that satanists or Christians or even atheists should be distributing literature to public school students. We have given Orange County every opportunity to close the distribution forum and repeatedly asked them to do so. Each time, they have refused. FFRF does not endorse the New York based Satanic Temple’s literature any more than we would endorse the bible or think it should be given to students. However, Orange County Public Schools cannot legally prevent the temple from distributing its literature.

One thing should be absolutely clear: Orange County Schools has chosen to allow these groups in. Orange County is allowing Christians, atheists and satanists to distribute literature to students, but it does not have to.

FFRF will only distribute its own materials this January, including pamphlets such as An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity in the Bible.

In case you want to see what the devotees of The Hornéd One are going to hand out, you can download The Satanic Children’s BIG BOOK of Activities for free here. I’ve reproduced the cover and two inside pages:

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 7.29.14 AM

Two page from the Satanist book:

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Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 7.32.29 AM

Something tells me that the distribution of religious literature will stop promptly.

h/t: Stephen Q. Muth, half of Butter’s staff

76 thoughts on “Florida decision to distribute Bibles in schools backfires: Satanists can hand out their stuff, too!

  1. I have to say, that pamphlet has a nice mix of humor and civic-mindedness in it. Between that and their mission statement, it’s hard not to like these guys.

    It’s just a shame that it takes a schtick like satanism to make some people understand the value of separation of church and state.

    1. Sometimes it’s a troll’s job, and it’s kind of understandable why other groups like Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists wouldn’t want to volunteer for it.

  2. Seth Andrews did an awesome interview with the Church of Satan High Priest Peter H. Gilmore. It completely changed my views on the Church.
    Just search for The Church of Satan on The Thinking Atheist YouTube channel (or his podcast #76). Recommended!

    1. I haven’t a clue what this is all about, but this part is worrying, from the Wiki entry on the Satanic Bible:

      Ayn Rand’s influence on LaVeyan Satanism is very apparent in the Nine Satanic Statements, to the point where some, including Nikolas Schreck, assert that the Statements are simply unacknowledged paraphrase of Rand’s thoughts….Much of the first book of The Satanic Bible is taken from parts of Redbeard’s Might Is Right, edited to remove the racism, anti-Semitism, and misogyny present in the original version. It challenges both the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, advocating instead a tooth-for-tooth philosophy. LaVey, through Redbeard, strongly advocates social Darwinism, saying, “Death to the weakling, wealth to the strong!”

        1. The Satanic Temple.
          The Church of Satan.
          The Peoples Front Of Judea.
          The Judean Peoples Front.

          The -ism schism begins.

          History history repeats.

          1. I’m afraid that someday I’ll wake up and see that the Pastafarians have split into two, and that the Marinarans are waging jihad against the Alfredoists…

      1. Ralph, you need to not conflate the various satanic groups. The Satanic Temple specifically is more of a humanist activist group with excellent skills at humor and execution of things like trustor their coloring book. Other satanic groups are all over the map.

      2. It’s not clear this lot are affiliated with LaVey’s Church of Satan – LaVey’s name is mentioned nowhere on the site. Though I’m sure they get along very well.

        LaVey’s Satanism was pretty much an early 1960s version of the Church of the SubGenius. It’s a huge troll of the stereotypically homogeneous suburban white culture of the time.

        Satanism, in this sense, does tend to libertarianism and a gratuitous dose of gender-essentialism. But community outreach like this does, I think, demonstrate that their hearts are approximately in the right place for most practical purposes.

          1. On the other hand, back when I was a fundamentalist (70s – 90s) we constantly invoked the existence of the Satanists as “true” Satanists, who worshipped the devil, and were trying to seduce kids into their religion. We (I?) had no idea that it might be satirical in nature.

      3. Agree with other posters that you’re conflating very different groups, but even if you weren’t, have you read the bible? Stoning disobedient children. Rules on how much money you should sell a raped woman to her rapist for. LaVey’s crazy ethics, taken seriously, is no more worrisome than the OT’s ethics taken seriously.

        1. Huh?

          I was Googling to discover what this group is all about, and I’ve acknowledged my mistake in thinking they were the same thing as the Church of Satan.

          I’m not quite sure how you got to “have you read the bible” from there.

          1. Read the time stamps – my comment was an hour earlier than your acknowledgement.

            My ‘have your read the bible’ comment is a response to your “this part is worrying.” Your comment implies that you find it worrisome that LaVey/Randian religious ideas, in particular, are promoted to kids at school. I don’t wish any religion promoted at schools, but I find the Randian stuff no more disturbing – no more worrying – than the OT stuff.

            1. Ah, I see where you’re coming from. But no, I was just trying to understand what this group is all about. Clearly not sacrificing goats or babies to Lucifer, and (thankfully) also apparently not promoting Ayn Rand or social Darwinism, it seems.

              1. Well fortunately (I guess), Santeria and other religions and sects that really do engage in regular animal sacrifice – rather than the ones that just have a nasty reputation for it, like satanism – aren’t heavy into proselytization.

    2. Also

      “Gilmore lists a number of people who influenced LaVey’s writings: Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche, H. L. Mencken, the members of the carnival with whom LaVey had supposedly worked in his youth, P. T. Barnum, Mark Twain, John Milton, and Lord Byron.”

      An eclectic list, to say the least…

  3. Does anyone here have any contact with Bobby Henderson- “high priest” of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster”? He’ll want in on this “gold rush” of sharing nonsense beliefs. As we all know, if the door is open to proselytizing, he’ll want everyone to be “touched by his Noodly Appendage.”

    1. Well, the important thing to remember is that there’s a dog guarding the entrance to the underworld, keeping the dead from escaping. The 3 heads thing was just crazy superstition.

    2. Funnily enough, there is a one-headed equivalent in Norse mythology called Garm, who’s described at times to be the perfect hound Although Cerberus is technically not a bad dog either, I’ve seen versions of classical Cerberus that make him out to be much freakier than just having three heads.

      Overall, though, it beats me what Cerberus is doing in a religion based on the Abrahamic monotheism traditions to begin with.

            1. Oh good, lots of dogs to play with when I go to hell. I like the Greek/Roman idea – you all just go to Hades unless you really, really did something great and then you get to go to the Elysium fields.

      1. Isn’t Cerberus related to the Greek word for spotted?

        As in, the three-headed hound that guards the afterlife is named Spot.

        1. Not to my knowledge, but when I learned Latin in high school using the Cambridge Latin course books, the family dog was named, “Cerberus” which would be tantamount to calling your dog “Fido” or “Spot”. In other words, it would be a popular dog name.

          I have no idea if real Ancient Romans called their dogs Cerberus, or if the real Caecilius had such a dog, but it made for a good story in the book.

    1. What’s especially hilarious is how the imagery for Satan and Jesus are so often conflated — the Morning Star, the Lord of Light, and so on. I don’t have the history chops to know, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if there were some explicit equations of the two figures in some of the ancient heresies.

      b&

  4. Flying Spaghetti Monster believers (Pastafarians) should hand out sticks of spaghetti. Boiled spaghetti (al dente or otherwise) might be a bit too limp to handle.

    1. Oh yeah. Like on the order of (250,0002,500,000) : 1 less of a killer..

      Hey Jerry! Just giving you a shout out for this excellent coverage of this story (weaving the timeline of the background history). I was absolutely howling at the Cerberus page (which I had not seen until now).

      Terri (the other half of Butter’s staff) has let me know that this tactic has all the hallmarks of something that is much more likely to have immediate effects, as the message is “action-based”, rather than an appeal to logic, reason, etc. Clearly the nice folks at the Satanic Temple get the plot, and were in a unique position to do something perceived as earth-shattering by their… uh… cerebrally-challenged targets. The result works on multiple levels for multiple audiences. A perfect way to prime the pump for a “diffusion of innovations”. In this case, the “innovation” is getting recalcitrant cretins to figure out why Church-State separation is so goddamn important in any society worth living in – believer or no.

      What I think makes it so educational for said cretins is the whole experience of dealing with a flooded marketplace of pamphlets and confusion that can instantly erupt when this apparently fragile wall comes down. Now they get to watch their nightmare unfold.

      Of course, some Chrispy’s double-down at this point, raging “SEE?!?! THIS IS WHY WE NEED A CHRISTIAN NATION!!” — but you know the folks in the trenches are getting an action-oriented lesson in physical space. Kind-of like the poor saps were just chucked in the deep end – sink or swim. Stuff like this is potentially the fuel of more widely-learned lessons.

      Thanks for taking the time to do such a bang-up job of covering this. That was above and beyond the call of duty. Now get back to work. 😉

      1. BTW, it occurs to me that any kindergarten teacher knows about “action-oriented” learning. At least I was taught that in teacher school long ago. Makes sense to learn ’em good when you can. Give them something to do. A shared activity. Perhaps after that, they will all get tired, and then comes nappy time.

  5. I read The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey probably twenty years ago when I started college, just out of curiosity. It was harmless enough. They are humanists who like to mock religion. The lengths to which they go is just too silly for me, but to each his own. On this stance they are correct, of course.

  6. Obviously, the Bible-thumpers hoped that their particular holy book was going to be the only one allowed (since their book is clearly the “correct” one). One can only hope that the Muslims show up next with the Koran! I can’t wait to hear the yelling and screaming.

    1. I think it’s that they live in such a bubble that they can’t conceive of a situation where another religion would make their books available because they never think about any other religions other than their own.

  7. I do try to restrain my tendency to be a grammar pedant, really I do. But…

    The acute accent makes Hornéd sound more like hornayd, which appeals to the juvenile still lurking beneath the surface.

    The grave accent is what is needed. Hornèd One.

  8. There’s only one way to settle this. Invite Lucifer and Christ or Yahweh or GoB (whichever wishes to show up) for a debate hosted by Orange County Schools. Bonus points to whichever one shows up and proves their existence first.

  9. While I appreciate the sentiment, I have to wonder about the tactics of the FFRF passing out atheist literature in response to the christians passing out their literature. Doesn’t that play into the hands of the their (pathetic and asinine, but nevertheless widespread) argument that “atheism is also a religion”?

    Just wondering if it would be better to counter with the literature of other religions; I think islamic or hindu writings would be just as effective in pissing off the fundies as would satanist literature. Or even catholic stuff! How ’bout some of the classic catholic anti-masturbation literature?

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