Orange County, Fla. (CBS TAMPA) — The Satanic Temple responded to a Florida school board and judge decision allowing the dissemination of religious materials in public schools by distributing its own Satanic literature to Orange County classrooms.
“In response to a recent School Board decision in Orange County, Florida that allows for the dissemination of religious materials in public schools, The Satanic Temple will be distributing educational religious material to students,” reads a statement from the group.
The Satanic Temple (TST) describes itself as a group that, “facilitates the communication and mobilization of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty.”
Earlier this month, a judge dismissed a Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) lawsuit against the Orange County School District seeking to overturn a school board decision allowing for the dissemination of religious materials in public schools – a move viewed as a blatant breach of the separation between church and state. The ruling also left open the option that if Christian groups can disseminate literature – atheist groups will have the same right.
But before the dispute could be taken to court, the school board agreed to allow an atheist group to distribute all of its pamphlets after first rejecting literature with titles such as “Jesus is dead” and “Why I am not a Muslim” because they would cause too much disruption, WFTV reported.
The group is still appealing the case because “there’s no policy right now to ensure the school board won’t discriminate against minority opinions” in similar cases.
“The Satanic Temple seeks to ensure that pluralism is respected whenever the Church/State division is breached,” reads a press release from the group.
The provided activity books flooding the Orange County Schools include that of the pamphlet entitled, The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities, which features activities based around the exploits of the cartoon character “Damian.”
A word scramble activity directions reads, “These bullies are mad and afraid of things they don’t understand. Help Damian use inclusive language to defuse the situation.” Another connect-the-dots description reads: “Damian is showing his class the way to make an inverted pentagram. Connect the dots to make one yourself.”
A drawing exercise asks, “What’s Cerberus dreaming about?” with a thought balloon drawn above the mythological hellhound.
The word search and word jumble ask the participant to find words such as “friendship, compassion, acceptance, empathy, reason and freedom.”
Satanic Temple’s spokesperson Lucien Greaves explained the situation in a Sept. 15 statement.
“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 our youth.”
Nationally, The Satanic Temple has made headlines with a planned Black Mass on Harvard University’s campus in addition to a successful petition to the state of Oklahoma to allow it to erect a goat-headed Baphomet statue next to a display of the Ten Commandments.