ORLANDO – An atheist activist group is suing one of the country’s largest public school districts after officials allowed some materials to be distributed, but prohibited items of a more controversial and explicit nature.
As previously reported, the Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC) learned in January that a Christian ministry was distributing Bibles in Orange County high schools on “Religious Freedom Day.” According to a press release from Liberty Counsel, the Bibles were simply placed on tables in school lobbies and cafeterias, where interested students could take them if they so desired. Orange County is the nation’s 12th largest school district.
When CFFC learned of the Bible distribution, they—along with support from the nationwide Freedom From Religion Foundation—countered with a plan to supply atheistic and anti-Christian literature to the same students. This plan was strategically executed in May on the National Day of Prayer.
“Why Women Need Freedom From Religion,” “Ten Common Myths about Atheists,” and “What is Wrong with the Ten Commandments?” were some of the publications made available to students by the atheists. However, Orange County school officials prohibited the atheists from distributing other more controversial books and pamphlets, such as “Why Jesus?” “An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity in the Bible,” and “Jesus Is Dead.”
Several of the prohibited books and booklets contain statements that were overtly anti-Christian. For instance, “Why Jesus?” examines “the disturbing side of [Jesus’] character,” and “Jesus Is Dead” suggests that Jesus not only never rose from the dead, but he never lived in the first place.
In a letter to CFFC, school officials carefully outlined why they rejected several of the secular publications, citing inappropriate references to sexuality, gruesome surgical operations, prostitution, and other offensive language. The district pointed out how one book alone, titled Letter to a Christian Nation, includes overt references to sex, back-alley abortions, cannibalism, as well as the statements that God is the “most prolific abortionist of all” and that killing a fly “should present one with greater moral difficulty than killing a human blastocyst.”
However, now CFFC has announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the school district in response to the “censorship” of some of the materials. The 75-page lawsuit claims that the school district (the “Defendants”) severely violated the atheists’ (the “Plaintiffs”) constitutional rights.
“Defendants’ violation of Plaintiffs’ right to free speech has caused, and will continue to cause Plaintiffs to suffer undue and actual hardship and irreparable injury,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law to correct the continuing deprivations of its most cherished constitutional liberties. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ continuing violations of Plaintiffs’ rights, Plaintiffs have suffered in the past, and will continue to suffer in the future, direct and consequential damages, including but not limited to, the loss of the ability to exercise their constitutional rights.”
One of the primary claims in the lawsuit is that the Bible includes mentions of violence, murder, torture, and cannibalism. Since the secular publications are no worse, the atheists argue, they should be permitted.
However, Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel suggested to local news affiliate WFTV that the atheists’ real goal is not to promote balance or fairness in public schools. Rather, it is to attack Biblical faith.
“They really don’t want to distribute literature, they want to denigrate someone else’s faith,” he stated. “Their ultimate goal is to shut down the entire forum, that’s why they’re doing this.”