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Orange County school board bans religious, political materials distribution

Board under fire from multiple religious organizations over distribution at schools

Local 6 News at 5:00p
Local 6 News at 5:00p

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A long battle of the right to distribute religious text may finally be at an end.

Orange County Public Schools came under fire from multiple religious organizations after allowing Bibles to be handed out at school.

"Basically, the law states that if we allow one group to distribute materials, we have to allow all groups to distribute materials," said John Palmerini, associate general council for OCPS.

The school board voted 7-1 to approve a policy Tuesday night that now bans passive distribution of religious, political, denominational, sectarian and partisan materials.

[READ: OCPS revised board policy: Distribution-posting of promotional materials]

OCPS allowed for Bibles to be distributed in 2012, and shortly thereafter in 2013, an atheist organization called the Freedom from Religion Foundation sued for the right to have its religious materials to be distributed as well.

"We spend tens of thousands of dollars defending ourselves against these lawsuits," Palmerini said.

In September 2014, the Satanic Temple joined the fight to have its materials handed out as well.

"We think that it's only fair that if they have Bibles being passively distributed in the school system, other religions should have an equal opportunity to distribute as well," said Tabitha Burns, chapter head of the Satanic Temple of Tampa and Orlando.

"We want to avoid litigation on this subject," Palmerini said early Tuesday. "We just want to eliminate the entire subject of controversy."

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