OKLAHOMA CITY (RNS) Less than two weeks after a third-grade teacher in Duncan, Okla., distributed Gideon Bibles to her students, the Church of Ahriman, a Satanist church in Oklahoma City, has asked permission to distribute Satanist literature at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.
Adam Daniels, the church’s leader, said he wanted to give students a copy of “Ahrimani Enlightenment,” a primer and workbook normally given to new members of the church.
In a letter to the Duncan school district, some 80 miles south of Oklahoma City, Daniels assured administrators that his book is “no where (sic) near as graphic as the Christian Bible.”
Daniels said he has yet to hear back, but he believes equal access laws mean that his church has the right to distribute literature if other religious organizations are permitted to do so.
Last year, another Satanic group fought to put a statue of Baphomet in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol building. But in October, after someone plowed a car into the Ten Commandments statue on the statehouse lawn, the Satanic Temple backed down and decided it won't seek to erect the monument because it doesn't want it to stand alone.
Meanwhile, the American Humanist Association threatened to sue the Duncan school district after the teacher, Erica Mackey, distributed the Bibles in her class.
David Niose, the legal director for the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said equal access laws would allow for distribution of all religious literature under the right circumstances, but the Duncan case was a violation of the Constitution, not an issue of equal access.
“The Duncan case featured an elementary teacher distributing Bibles to her class, and teachers are not allowed to proselytize their students,” Niose said. “The school may not endorse any particular religion, so teachers may not distribute religious materials to their students during class.”
The rules are slightly different for religious clubs, but even in those cases, Niose said, teachers and school administrators should not be proselytizing.
A reply from the school district’s attorney said, in part, “All teachers and administrators in the District are being advised that they are not permitted to distribute Bibles or other religious materials to students in class or during class time.”
The April 10 letter included an assurance that teachers and administrators had been admonished not to “encourage or discourage the individual religious beliefs” of students in the district.
Niose said the legal center was satisfied with the district’s response.
YS/MG END HORTON