GRAND PRAIRIE, Tex. Aug. 24--An atheist group is countering a Texas school district's decision to allow book covers carrying religious messages into the schools. The atheists sought and received district approval to distribute their own book covers.

Superintendent David Barbosa said he gave the Metroplex Atheists permission to distribute the covers under the same school board policy that was used in approving a Christian group's request to distribute book covers bearing the Ten Commandments.

The atheist book covers include quotations from U.S. presidents stressing separation of church and state. They also contain a quotation from missing atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair. The covers will be distributed beginning this week, said Shelly Hattan of Metroplex Atheists.

"Wherever there's a Ten Commandment book cover, we'll put ours," she said. School board president Norris "Stretch" Rideaux said he doesn't approve of the atheist book covers, but it appears the covers meet criteria set in board policy for non-school publications, such as not being obscene or sexually inappropriate.

"Personally, I don't approve of having atheist book covers in our schools, but I have to accept it because it's in our policy," Rideaux said.

Fort Worth lawyer Frank Colosi, who serves on the American Civil Liberties Union state committee, said under the district's policy virtually anyone would be allowed to place book covers in the schools, including political groups.

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