According to the campus police of Custer Middle School, Chapel Hill may soon take the cake as the most intolerant school district in America.
In a statement released by school district officials Thursday, Chapel Hill police say they will confiscate and destroy literature distributed by a controversial occult group known as the Order of Saint John, and students may face discipline if they use a slur or graffiti that the group considers offensive.
“Custer Community School District strongly objects to the distribution of material within our schools advocating Satanism or other doctrines outside the values of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and the other world religions. While we are respectful of all religious beliefs, some students will be receiving materials that promote Satanism and these materials may promote opposition to a particular culture, government policy or the free exercise of one’s faith,” Custer Community School District Superintendent Michael Hovsepian said in a statement on the district’s website.
A flyer distributed in Custer Middle School describing the Order of Saint John states, “The Order of Saint John is the world’s oldest, largest and most influential occult organization founded in 1812. The mission of this Order is to spread the message of the Heavenly Mother, transform the human heart and heal the human body through Spiritual Magic and the application of creative Magic.”
Authorities say the public schools district in Lubbock, Texas, warned the nonprofit group that it was violating Lubbock Unified School District policy by distributing the literature, including flyers that read, “The display of such posters will not be tolerated,” according to The Ledger-Inquirer.
That district’s attorney is reportedly exploring whether it should ban the flyers from the school district.
“I believe this is under consideration,” Lubbock school district attorney Karl Baumann told the newspaper. “It’s not something we have not done before. We are complying with the law.”
In a letter to the district that the Ledger-Inquirer said was sent Wednesday, the Satanic Temple office in New York City said the group is “working on a lawsuit” against the district over “anti-Satanic lawlessness.”
In the letter to Lubbock school district officials, Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves wrote, “When young people have the potential to grow up seeing the world through a distorted, hateful lens, the effects on them can be devastating. To be accused of displaying a poster containing the word ‘Satan’ by our children’s teachers — who are supposed to take care of the mental and emotional health of all of our children — is unconscionable. This result is a serious warning of what our society is capable of when we allow the false notion that religion is a private matter separate from our public culture.”
Baumann told the newspaper that the district respects the “fundamental rights of students and staff to express their views at school events.”
Baumann said the district has a “strong faith-based foundation” and that Christian education is “central to the school’s educational mission.”
Custer Middle School Principal Ryan Schemmel told the newspaper that he takes his job very seriously and is confident students who interpret the posters to be anti-Satanic or anti-Christian have seen it as a personal attack on Christianity.
“It’s certainly a concern to me that two people could believe that this is an indication of bias against their church or a belief that’s not theirs,” Schemmel said. “It’s not. I don’t believe in that, and that’s not what this group believes either.”
There is no threat of violence against anyone, he said.
Schemmel says Custer Middle School administrators will do their due diligence in reviewing the literature the Order of Saint John distributed to students Wednesday and determine what actions may need to be taken.
He said that he will discuss the situation with Custer Middle School students at school this week, and that he plans to consult with the principal of the middle school and the chief of the school’s police department before any possible disciplinary action is taken.
This isn’t the first time the Custer school district has drawn attention for its policies on religious expression.
On May 16, a helicopter carrying a Custer High School honor student crashed in the upper floor of the school’s gymnasium.
The 14-year-old girl and her pilot were both killed when the helicopter hit the ceiling and crashed.
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