Students in Delta County high schools and middle schools will get some new reading material on April 1., including the Satanic Coloring Book. And that's no joke: The Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers are working with the Freedom From Religion Foundation to provide the kids with everything from guides to atheism to coloring books provided by The Satanic Temple.
Back in December, free Gideon Bibles were handed out to Delta kids, and parents concerned that their children felt shamed or bullied because they didn't want the Bibles contacted the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers, says Aleksandr Koleakov, a spokesman for the group that has about 300 members, including some Christians, in the wider Grand Junction, Delta and Fruita community. Members of the WCAF contacted the school district to protest the Bible giveaway and ask to hand out their own materials, but didn't get anywhere.
So they contacted the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and early this month a FFRF staff attorney sent a letter to school district officials noting that "public schools have previously attempted to deny FFRF permission to distribute literature ... That resulted in a lawsuit that cost the [Orange] County Public Schools [in Florida] nearly $90,000 and they ended up approving all the literature for distribution anyway."
"The school district originally didn't want to give us the time of day," Koleakov says. But after the FFRF contacted the district, "now they are willing to, if not stop these illegal exercises, then make it an equal-opportunity thing."
And so the WCAF started collecting materials to give to the schools. The Satanic Coloring Book is a particularly popular item in such cases, but Koleakov says they also plan to offer pamphlets describing atheism. "This isn't about us infringing on the rights of parents, " he notes. "It's about them infringing on the rights of children of non-Christian parents."
According to the school district's policy, Delta County cannot discriminate against any groups or organizations that want to distribute non-curricular materials, unless those materials promote hostility or violence, advertise a product, promote candidacy in an election, or are obscene or pornographic, the Delta School District confirms (see the full policy below).
"This is an existing school policy," Koleakov points out. "What makes this special is we're not a Christian group. The only ones using this policy up until this point, they've been Christian groups."
As word spilled out of the planned distribution, though, Koleakov's group began getting death threats. "Things like 'We're going to send you to hell,' or 'We're going to keep our guns loaded,'" Koleakov reports. "They use their Second Amendment rights to prevent us from using our First Amendment rights."
Because of the threats, on April 1 the group will be taking the materials directly to the school district offices; Delta officials will distribute them to the schools — and WCAF members will be following up to make sure everything arrives. And the action won't end there: On April 14, the group will hold an "Ask an Atheist" program, to dispel some of the myths about atheism.
"This is a teaching experience for students as well, " Koleakov notes. "They need to understand that the First Amendment does not just protect religious speech. It gives you freedom of religion, but it also gives you freedom from religion."