We live in a nation with increasing religious diversity. In every single in the USA, the portion of the population that follows Christianity is in decline, while the nonreligious portion of the population is increasing. In most places, non-Christian religion is taking up a bigger share of the population as well.
Still, in some places, Christians in positions of authority still try to act as if it’s their natural right to use the power of government to elevate their beliefs above everybody else’s. Orange County, Florida, the home of the city of Orlando, is one of those places.
The Orange County Public Schools has established a double standard for the distribution of books about religion in its high schools. Christianity is given a first class position in the high schools in Orlando. Christians are allowed to distribute their Bible to public school students there. Non-Christians, however, have been banned by the Orange County Public Schools from distributing their own books about religion.
One group, the Central Florida Freethought Community, tried. The organization attempted to gain permission to distribute its own books: Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris, The Truth, by Robert Ingersoll, Why I am Not a Muslim, by Ibn Warraq, Jesus is Dead, by Robert Price, and others. The Orange County Public Schools refused to grant permission. The Orange County Public Schools said that these books would cause “disruption”, ignoring the fact that disagreements about the Christian Bible have engulfed nearly the entire continent of Europe in war.
The Orange County Public Schools wrote to the Central Florida Freethought Community that the “claim that Jesus was not crucified or resurrected is age inappropriate”. How the assertion that a person was not executed in a long, gruesome manner is inappropriate for teenagers, the school district didn’t explain. However, the Central Florida Freethought Community has noted that, in approving the Christian Bible, the Orange County Public Schools has agreed that a book that writes extensively about crucifixion is age-appropriate. What’s the psychological theory behind that conclusion?
The legal complaint by CFFC explains that the group doesn’t ultimately want to place books in public schools that promote freethought ideas about religion. “Our public schools exist to educate, not to serve as conduits for advertisers, proselytizers, and special interest groups seeking to propagandize a captive audience of young students. Plaintiffs prefer that no dissemination of outside materials, such as Bibles or their own literature, occur in Orange County Public Schools. But since Defendants are allowing distributions, all viewpoints must now be granted fair and equal access,” it states.
Until the Orange County Public Schools either allows all points of view about religion to have equal access to high school students or institutes a ban for the distribution of materials about religion in high schools by outside groups, students in the Orlando area will be receiving a remarkable lesson in hypocrisy.