Hemant shines the spotlight on Sara Sheppard, a brave young lady from Katy, Texas whose economics teacher used his classroom to proselytize his students and criticize atheists. She told her story in an essay that she submitted to the Freedom From Religion Foundation in a scholarship contest.
As the semester went by I realized that his passion for passing on his knowledge was not focused on economics but focused on religion, prayer, and spirituality. Instead of teaching economics he would teach us that certain historical people were among the greatest because of their spiritual enlightenment. He also expressed to the students that it was human nature to have a spiritual and religious component, therefore making atheists unnatural and against human nature. This teacher went so far with this idea to even compare atheism to smoking and how the body originally rejects smoking just like “the mind rejects the concept of atheism.” This was the first time he said the word atheism in the classroom and it was the breaking point for me. At that moment my voice felt so powerful and unstoppable even though my brain was demanding to silence the neuron’s signals going towards my voice. After questioning his capability of saying those statements in a public school classroom he shrugged it off with no reasonable reply. Still he would not stop.
On the board the next week he drew arrows pointing up like a mountain while describing the positive effect prayer does to the state of mind. I knew something had to be done but I had no idea where to start, still I was new to the atheism movement and only came out recently in the preceding November. Because of his loud personality I was scared to speak up again, plus I felt like I was alone – that everyone else agreed with him.
She posted about it in the Houston Atheists Facebook group and was referred to the FFRF, which wrote a letter to the school about it and got it stopped. She had recorded him saying many of these things and in this video, she quotes some of the things he said:
Sara reports that the teacher told one of her friends that she “took away his right to talk about Jesus.” But there is no such right in that context. When you’re a teacher in a public school classroom, you are representing the government. You do not have the right to proselytize as the government. I don’t know why this is so difficult to grasp.