As classes closed for the summer break on June 3, a group of non-believers, including the Tri-State Freethinkers, Alliance of Secular Students and another affiliate group, showed up outside the Boone County Schools to distribute Hemant Mehta’s The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide to students. Even though the group of freethinkers along with Gideons International had sought permission from the school’s administration to hand out atheism-related text and religious reading material respectively, to students so they could read through their vacations, the latter surprisingly failed to show up while the former successfully went ahead with its plans.
WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi
After the schools had allowed Gideons International to hand out copies of the Bible to students on their premises, a group of atheist parents complained to the American Civil Liberties Union that the Equal Access Act of 1984 had been violated. They demanded that non-religious literature also be distributed to those interested.
“We live in a nation of laws, we live in a nation in which everyone, no matter from where they come or what they believe or what they do not believe has equal protection and equal access… We're here because rather than allowing for students to seek out the information they want about religion or lack thereof, the Gideons brought it to the kids,” said Jamila Bey, one of the Freethinkers.
Boone County Schools allowed both groups to set up tables on the public sidewalk off premises so they could distribute reading material to interested students. Bey and three other volunteers stationed a table with copies of The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide and many students expressed their interests in borrowing the same, saying they were often handed out reading material by Christian organizations.
The congregation of freethinkers said the money for Tuesday’s book distribution came from private donors and they were planning to hand out 200 copies of the text. The group that claims to have more than 300 members, said that it is not out to degrade or defeat religion but to keep it out of a closed government environment where it can be given a privileged status.
Photo Credit: WLWT News 5