On the third page of a new coloring book, children are asked to solve seven word jumbles. One spells “justice,” another “freedom.” Later in the packet, children can connect dots to create an inverted pentagram.
“These bullies are mad and afraid of things they don’t understand. Help Damian use inclusive language to diffuse the situation," the book prompts its readers.
These puzzles come inside the “Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities,” published by the Satanic Temple, a New York-based religious group that says it encourages “practical common sense and justice.”
The group has submitted the coloring book and other materials to Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla., for review, to be distributed on National Religious Freedom Day. Their effort, and another by The Freedom From Religion Foundation to distribute a controversial atheist pamphlet, follows the distribution of Bibles at Orange County schools on National Religious Freedom Day in 2013.
The district’s policy on distribution of religious materials states, “literature of a denominational, partisan, or sectarian nature shall not be distributed by school officials in any school.”
But in 2013, a Christian group got approval from the school district to distribute copies of the Bible. Afterward, the Freedom From Religion Foundation also submitted material for review. When some of these materials were not accepted, the atheist group sued the district, says Kathy Marsh, the district’s senior manager for public relations.
Afterward the district green-lighted materials that had been previously banned.
Lucien Greaves, the Satanic Temple’s co-founder and spokesperson, says he would not have submitted the materials if the Bibles had not been distributed first.
“It’s important to have more than one voice in an institution of public education,” he says. “...It’s more educational, more of a comparative religion setup.”
This principle has guided the Satanic Temple's actions in the past. Earlier this year, the group submitted an artist’s rendering for a satanic sculpture in Oklahoma City that would “complement and contrast” a monument of the Ten Commandments.
The design featured Satan sitting in a pentagram-adorned throne with smiling children next to him.
"The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation," Mr. Greaves said in a statement.
In the case of Orange County schools, Greaves says he hopes the school board will think “a little bit harder” before allowing outside religious groups to distribute information.
“They’re going to have a difficult time judging belief or filtering perspectives,” he says.
Ms. Marsh said she did not know when the district might determine whether the “Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities,” is appropriate, but the board is in the process of reviewing the submission.
“I don’t see any grounds in which they could deny it,” Greaves says, noting there is nothing violent or pornographic in the materials. But if The Satanic Temple’s request is denied, he plans to sue the Orange County School District.