Atheists distribute literature at Orange County high schools

Distribution comes after controversial free handout of Bibles in January

By Lisa Bell - Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. - Students at 11 Orange County high schools on Thursday will be able to pick up free literature from atheist organizations.

The distribution comes after a controversial free handout of Bibles in January.

The 11 high schools where the literature will be passively distributed include: Apopka, Boone, Colonial, Cyprus Creek, Edgewater, Evans, Jones, Timber Creek, University, Wekiva and Winter Park.

Eleven separate brochures and booklets, including some entitled, "What is Wrong with the Ten Commandments?" and "Why Women Need Freedom From Religion," as well as Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason" will be available.

The materials will be placed on one unmanned table in an area where students normally congregate between classes or during lunch.

Atheist organizations, including the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Central Florida Freethought Community, asked to passively distribute the materials after the group World Changers of Florida passively distributed Bibles at the same schools in January.

World Changers of Florida sued Collier County for the right to distribute the holy book.

Hoping to avoid a similar costly lawsuit, Orange County school leaders say they're allowing the distributions.

"Every time a Bible is distributed in public schools, that opens the doors for atheists," said David Silverman, President of American Atheists. "Really none of this should be allowed in public schools. Equality is an all or nothing concept so if they're distributing Bibles they have to allow everyone else."

However, Orange County may still face some legal action. Silverman said the county rejected some of the Atheists' literature and they are now considering legal action against the district.

"The only thing I can tell you about that because we're considering litigation is that some of our materials were censored," said Williamson.

The school board said it's allowing the materials to avoid lawsuits.

"In an effort to avoid costly litigation in Orange County, and in interpreting the applicable laws and legal decisions, our legal office has advised the Superintendent and the School Board that the distribution of such materials is acceptable but subject to specific guidelines," according to a statement from OCPS.

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