“Our attendance was probably not as good as it normally is,” Liberty Elementary Principal Boyd Harris was quoted as saying. “We feel like there may be some connection there.”
The books were delivered by the Tri-County Freethinkers on March 28, after the group successfully petitioned county officials for the right to distribute their material in a manner similar to a Christian group, the Gideons.
However, the Advocate-Messenger reported that a group of local parents entered Jones Park Elementary demanding to see where copies of the Freethinkers’ book, Humanism, What’s That?: A Book for Curious Kids would be displayed. Some parents and children also reportedly followed group members Torey Glassmeyer and Jim G. Helton as they delivered the books.
“We’re here to defend God and his glory,” one anonymous woman was quoted as saying.
Helton told the Advocate-Messenger that he was not surprised by the heightened scrutiny from residents, saying it has also led others to come to them anonymously out of fear of reprisal.
“With the Gideons it’s like playing Whack-a-Mole,” He was quoted as saying. “They come in and they get shut down. It will be interesting to see what the school’s response will be next year. When people complained about the Gideons coming in, they blew it off.”
County Superintendent Marion Sowders said the attention surrounding the Freethinkers’ display led to rumors overplaying their involvement during the one-day display.
“We’ve heard rumors about assemblies or people coming to speak to the students, and that’s absolutely not true,” Sowders was quoted as saying. “Legal counsel has advised us every step of the way about how to handle it. Students were not told about it in school but we don’t know what their parents have told them.”
Like the Gideons, the Freethinkers were not allowed on campus while the books were displayed during the day.
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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