A noble name and a noble cause

Good on Krystal Myers — not only does she spell her name correctly, but she’s a vocal atheist in her high school.

In a recent editorial that Myers, 18, intended for the Lenoir City High School newspaper entitled "No Rights: The Life of an Atheist," she questioned her treatment by the majority.

"Why does atheism have such a bad reputation? Why do we not have the same rights as Christians?" she wrote.

Myers’ editorial also accused school administrators, teachers and coaches of violating the constitution by promoting "pro-Christian" beliefs during school-sponsored events.

Excellent! She’s 18 and already roaring. But then…

Lenoir City school authorities have denied Myers permission to publish her editorial in the Panther Press, the staff supervised student newspaper.

They also say their policies do not violate the constitutional rights of any students.

Schools Director Wayne Miller said it was the decision of the school authorities not to allow publication of Myers’ editorial because of the potential for disruption in the school.

I agree that it doesn’t violate constitutional rights to not publish a pro-atheist opinion piece, but what about that accusation of promoting Christianity in the schools? That is unconstitutional, and maybe they should look into that.

And while it may not be illegal, it’s a little bit unethical to discourage expression of a particular point of view with the vague, blanket accusation of “disruption”. I’d like to know if they look the other way at pro-Christian editorials…or is it OK if it’s only atheists who are “disrupted”?

And finally, it’s really, really stupid. A student opinion piece in a school newspaper? It won’t even get noticed in the insular world of a school. But now that they’ve censored it, Krystal Myers is going to be much more widely known.

If anyone knows her or how to contact her, tell her to send the piece to me, and I’ll publish it here. It’ll get a far wider reading than ever it would in her school. People could also send me pro-Christian editorials, and I’ll toss them in the trash: it’s also not unconstitutional for me to treat those views as total rubbish.


The Digital Cuttlefish had the piece, so here it is in its entirety. I’d like to know what was disruptive about it, other than that it points out where the administration is breaking the law.

No Rights: The Life of an Atheist
By Krystal Myers

The point of view expressed in this article does not necessarily reflect the point of view of the Panther Press, its staff, adviser, or school.

As a current student in Government, I have realized that I feel that my rights as an Atheist are severely limited and unjust when compared to other students who are Christians. Not only are there multiple clubs featuring the Christian faith, but youth ministers are also allowed to come onto school campus and hand candy and other food out to Christians and their friends. However, I feel like if an Atheist did that, people would not be happy about it. This may not be true, but due to pervasive negative feelings towards Atheists in the school, I feel that it would be the case. My question is, “Why? Why does Atheism have such a bad reputation?” And an even better question, “Why do Christians have special rights not allowed to non-believers?”

Before I even begin, I just want to clear up some misconceptions about Atheism. No, we do not worship the “devil.” We do not believe in God, so we also do not believe in Satan. And we may be “godless” but that does not mean that we are without morals. I know, personally, I strive to be the best person I can be, even without religion. In fact, I have been a better person since I have rejected religion. And perhaps the most important misconception is that we want to convert everyone into Atheists and that we hate Christians. For the most part, we just want to be respected for who we are and not be judged.

Now you should know exactly what an Atheist is. Dictionary.com says that an Atheist is, “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.” However, this does not mean that Atheists do not believe in higher causes; we just do not believe in a higher being.

With that being said, I can move on to the real issue. Before I begin, I want you to think about your rights and how your perceived “rights” might be affecting the rights of others.

There are several instances where my rights as a non-believer, and the rights of anyone other than a Christian, have been violated. These instances inspired me to investigate the laws concerning the separation of church and state, and I learned some interesting things. However, first, I would like you to know specifically what my grievances are against the school. First and foremost is the sectarian prayer that occurs at graduation every year. Fortunately, I am not the first one to have thought that this was a problem. In the Supreme Court case, Lee v. Weisman, it was decided that allowing prayer at graduation is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment that says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Special speakers can pray, but the school cannot endorse the prayer or plan for it to happen.

Public prayer also occurs at all of the home football games using the public address system. This has, again, been covered by the Supreme Court case Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe. The Court ruled that school-sponsored prayer is an unconstitutional violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. If a speaker prays, it is fine. However, as soon as the school provides sponsorship, it becomes illegal. Sponsorship can be almost anything, even something as simple as saying that the speaker can pray or choosing a speaker with a known propensity to pray or share his or her religious views.

However, it is not just the speakers who we have to fear at Lenoir City High School. We also have to fear some of the teachers and what they might say about their own religious beliefs. On at least two separate occasions, teachers have made their religious preferences known to basically the whole school.

One teacher has made her religious preferences known by wearing t-shirt depicting the crucifix while performing her duties as a public employee. Also, Kristi Brackett, a senior at Lenoir City High School, has said that the teacher, “strongly encouraged us to join [a religious club] and be on the group’s leadership team.” Yet again, this violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. When asked if this was true, the teacher replied, “As a teacher I would never use my power of influence to force my beliefs or the beliefs of [a religious club] on any student in the school.” Regardless, the religious t-shirts are still inappropriate in the school setting. Teachers are prohibited from making their religious preferences known; the Constitution requires them to be neutral when acting in their capacity as a public school teacher.

Not only are religious preferences shown through shirts, but also through a “Quote of the Day” that some teachers write on the boards in their classrooms. One teacher has Bible verses occasionally as the teacher’s “Quote of the Day” for students. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment has been violated, yet again with no regard for non-believers.

But perhaps I would have more hope in our school and the possibility of change on the horizon if our own school board did not open their meetings with prayer. A person who wished to remain anonymous that has been present at school board meetings says, “They do have prayers. They pray to ‘Our Heavenly Father’ and end with ‘In Jesus’ Name We Pray.’” Not only is this a violation of Supreme Court law, but also a violation of the board’s own policy that prohibits prayer at school-sponsored events. The whole foundation of how our school is conducted is established by obvious Christians. Somehow, this is unsurprising. If our School Board chooses to ignore the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Supreme Court, then it is no surprise that teachers choose to do the same.

I know that I will keep trying to gain my rights as an Atheist and as an American citizen, but I also need your help in educating other people to realize the injustice done to all minority groups. The Christian faith cannot rule the United States. It is unconstitutional. Religion and government are supposed to be separate. If we let this slide, what other amendments to the Constitution will be ignored? I leave you to decide what you will or will not do, but just remember that non-believers are not what you originally thought we were; we are human beings just like you.

Comments

  1. dhvanitmehta says

    Wow, there is an awful amount of irony in this situation.

    Good on Krystal. It’s a well-written article that shouldn’t have been found objectionable by anyone.

  2. carlie says

    “school board meetings begin with a prayer”, but they think that’s ok because “usually there are no students there”. Something tells me they’re in for a smackdown.

  3. Cuttlefish says

    The school has approximately 1500 students. My own tiny site has given her story nearly that many views since 10:30 this morning–which means that PZ’s mention has already done more than that in the past ten minutes.

    Disruption? Nah, it’s just a new world.

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Thanks for bringing this to PZ’s attention Cuttlefish. Work like this needs a broad forum.

  5. Moggie says

    youth ministers are also allowed to come onto school campus and hand candy and other food out to Christians and their friends.

    Kids, don’t accept candy from strange men.

  6. Gregory Greenwood says

    Her piece is cogent, coherent and not in the least ‘disruptive’ to anyone. The school board have tipped their hand – they are silencing Krystal Myers as a vocal atheist because they can – their unethical actions have validated her position, and Cuttlefish and PZ have ensured that the Streisand Effect is in full swing. The board hoped to stop a few hundred school pupils reading about their unconstitutional actions, but now a far wider constituency is aware of what is going on.

    It seems that the Lenoir City school authorities are about to get their own lesson in how the modern internet works.

  7. says

    That piece is well written, well reasoned and not the least disruptive. Well, it’s not disruptive to anyone who has no objection to thinking. Cue the Christian Rage and Official Persecution Complex.

    Well done, Ms. Myers! You have a lot of support.

  8. stan says

    A student opinion piece in a school newspaper? It won’t even get noticed in the insular world of a school.

    That’s a bit unfair, and it’s also inaccurate. I was on the newspaper staff in my high school, and a friend (also on the staff) wrote an opinion piece denouncing the student smokers. He was punched in the face for that.

    We also had a policy whereby any write-in opinion piece from any student was always published (assuming it wasn’t libelous or vulgar) — if for no other reason than to encourage student participation.

    Students do pay attention to their papers, though mileage will obviously vary.

    As to the school’s claim of disruption, that’s clearly ridiculous. My paper allowed me to write an opinion piece on censorship, an opinion piece accusing the school of improper asbestos removal during construction (researched and factual, but the advisor thought it best to put it in the opinion pages), and I and one of our co-editors wrote a point-counterpoint piece on the pros and cons of running an ad for a gay/lesbian helpline. I was a fundagelical at the time, and wrote the ‘con’ part, replete with every stupid Christian claim regarding homosexuality that one can currently hear any given night from any of the GOP candidates…

    Anyway, the point of [the opinion pages of] a student newspaper just is to provide students with a safe and supervised medium in which they can express their opinions. Denying her this is asinine.

  9. kevinalexander says

    Brave girl. I’m sure that there are a lot more atheists in her school than she realizes. It costs exactly nothing to say that you believe in god while it can be very costly to admit that you don’t. Especially in high school it’s just so much easier to go along to get along

    One small quibble. If someone who knows her could remind her that capitalizing the a in atheist just feeds the ignoramuses belief that we are some kind of organization or evil religion or something.

  10. Duckbilled Platypus says

    One small quibble. If someone who knows her could remind her that capitalizing the a in atheist just feeds the ignoramuses belief that we are some kind of organization or evil religion or something.

    Since the common ignoramus has troubles figuring out the correct order of e and i when spelling “atheist”, I doubt they’ll spend time to ponder a capital.

  11. says

    This isn’t surprising. It is Tennessee. I grew up on the other end of the state and there was a big hubub when they were forced to stop praying at football games back in the late 90′s. They even made up T-shirts with ridiculous slogans like “We don’t play until we pray” and the like. Even when I was trying to be a “christian” I thought it was a bit ridiculous.

  12. Randomfactor says

    Well, considering how batshit insane many Christians are, maybe disruption IS a valid concern.

  13. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Jessica Alquist showed that disruption is a valid concern. However Oliver Wendell Holmes showed that disruption should not be a reason for censorship:

    I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country. Only the emergency that makes it immediately dangerous to leave the correction of evil counsels to time warrants making any exception to the sweeping command, ‘Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.’

  14. says

    Randomfactor:

    maybe disruption IS a valid concern.

    Sure, it’s a valid concern, however, why should it actually matter? In this case, it’s not so much a fear of disruption as it is a case of sheltering Christians. Why should they merit protection from opinions they may not like?

  15. rabblerouser says

    I Googled “Lenoir City High School” a few minutes ago. The story has been picked up by about a dozen newspapers from the midwest to Texas. Looks like the disruption has begun.

  16. McCthulhu, now with Techroline and Retsyn says

    The best part for Krystal is that her hefty scholarship is probably only a few days away, thanks to PZ getting her mass publicity. Good for her for writing a pretty good article standing up to xtian sense of entitlement.

  17. McCthulhu, now with Techroline and Retsyn says

    Apologies to Cuttlefish…honors your way for getting the scoop.

  18. jj7212 says

    There’s a fine line between fighting against your school and just wanting to make it better because, well, it’s your school! It looks like the school’s dirty laundry is getting aired to the public when it could have just stayed ‘in house’ at the school through the newspaper. The article should never have been censored. Bad call from the school staff… now they’re gonna get it.

    However, I think most of us get wrapped up in our ‘rights’ as atheists, which I’m suppotive of, but what really matters to most of us personally is to just be socially accepted and understood as individuals who don’t want to be bullied by other people’s superstitious dogma. I’m sure that Krystal Myers has social issues that she worries about everyday just like all of us did in high school. I hope that she can get her message across with as little ‘social punishment’ as possible from her christian friends. I hope that the christians in her community learn something about respect for others and support her in the end. That should be the desired outcome, but we’ll wait and see…

  19. azportsider says

    Well done, Ms Myers! I see the American Talibanistas have even made your point for you, by their ham-handed censorship. You’ve got ‘em on the run now!

  20. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    A nice article by Krystal, exposing religious privilege at the schools where she lives. Privileges that the school administrators wish to deny happens. But, nowadays it is getting harder to keep such expose’s censored and stifled, and they are seeing a far wider public than they ever would if the school paper published it originally. So the attempt to keep things quiet backfires again. Maybe they will finally learn…*snicker*

  21. atheistpowerlifter says

    I was moved by her piece. When I attended elementary school/ junior high (in the 70′s, early 80′s) we were forced to recite the Lords prayer daily before class. I sincerely doubt – in my small maritime community – that there were any Hindus or Muslims in my class, let alone atheists, but doubt they would have cared.

    My well meaning parents sent me to “advanced sunday school bible study” (our denomination was Salvation Army Church) when I was 11 in the hope that religion would “take”. In my third class the “teacher” was telling us about our 6000 year old planet. It just so happened that week in geography class – for some reason – we had been discussing the dinosaurs and how they had lived millions and millions of years ago. Naturally I raised my hand, innocently asking about the apparent discrepancy in the timelines…her response was to reprimand me and sit me in the corner, admonishing me to “not ask silly questions”.

    Well my path to atheism then started, so I should thank her.

    Looking back, I wish I had the intelligence and courage of young Ms. Myers – I would have spoken out more.

  22. 4004bc says

    Did someone say “Streisand effect”?

    Nicely written, and for someone on the far side of the planet, just a little chilling. Evangelism is like a fungal growth, more light and fresh air please…

  23. echidna says

    Some of the comments at the article reveal people who think that Krystal’s editorial was about atheism, when it really isn’t. It’s about school practices, and the constitutionality thereof. It’s hard to imagine what the school considers “disruptive” about it – the acknowledgement of the existence of atheists? The possibility that some of the school’s practices may be illegal?

  24. says

    It’s a good piece, and deserves better than to be suppressed, as now it isn’t.

    I hope she is comfortable with the publicity, and doesn’t get the crap that Jessica has had to cope with.

    David B

  25. komponist says

    I had a vague inkling that I recognized the name Lenoir City, but even before I had that feeling, I said to myself, “This has to be in Tennessee.” And I was right. I grew up in that enlightened state (I later had the honor of meeting John Scopes when I was working in public broadcasting in Philadelphia, after I had fled to civilization), and I have to say, as I’ve said in previous posts, that I’m not surprised at anything coming out of there. Good luck, Krystal. Take my advice and get the hell out of there ASAP!

  26. Hairhead says

    My letter to the principal of the school will start something like this:

    Dear Sir,

    Have you ever put your hand into a wood chipper? It would be bad enough, though not deadly, to lose your hand; the problem with a wood chipper is that it often drags the rest of the body in with it.

    You have now demonstrated, in public, your lack of Christianity, your hypocrisy, your cowardice, your bullying, and, not incidentally, the complete truth of Ms. Myers’ article.

    She will be rewarded for her honesty and her courage, and you, your colleagues, your school, and your religion will be AT MINIMUM ruthlessly mocked. You will (and have already) become an object of contempt and derision, and deservedly so.

    If you are at all self-aware, reasonably intelligence, and devoted to your professional survival, you would change your position.

    In public.

    Now.

    Yours, etc.

  27. Hairhead says

    Fuck me, spell check PLUS irony at alert! (misspelled “intelligent”.

    Type slower, dammit!

  28. atheistpowerlifter says

    @ echidna

    I agree with you about her article being more about school policy than atheism. I jumped the gun there too. Good point.

    And I am not sure about official church doctrine, but the “leaders” at my Salvation Army were definitley YEC. When I became an adult I came to learn that the teachers in the Sunday school program – at my church anyway – were mostly volunteers…and largely housewives looking for a role in the church and appointed to the sunday school classes.

    A lot of their twisted morality was projected onto our impressional minds I guess…we heard a lot about “immoral sexual practices”. I wasn’t surprised last year when the SA came out officially against homosexual marriage.

    Cheers

  29. says

    OK, so it’s not Pulitzer prize material, but it’s better than what I wrote at that age. It’s relevant, both to the school itself and to the class she’s taking. She corrects common misunderstandings, cites supreme court decisions and relates the subject back to her personal experience and the local community.

    This is exactly the kind of thing every (good) teacher wants from a student: Application of learning to real life concerns.

    This isn’t about disruption of the school. This is about the fact that they’re breaking the law and they’re trying to prevent publication of a piece that points this out. It’s not just that they’re unaware that what they’re doing is wrong. They know it’s illegal and they want to continue doing it.

    This post was hard to write. I had to keep going back to edit out some rather violent imagery. I had trouble phrasing myself because I felt like saying things that would most likely be considered as encouraging criminal behavior.

    I’m just so fucking tired of this shit. It’s not an admirable reaction, but at this point, I just really want to hurt them.

  30. Terska says

    My son will not be in his high school choir next year. Their repertoire is nothing but modern Christian music. They will throw in one Hanukkah piece at the winter concert but the rest is like a church concert. I wouldn’t mind so much if the music was at least classical music. They don’t even sing the Hallelujah Chorus at the end. The director has made a tradition of Oh Holy Night. It’s not even a challenging arrangement. They should just wander around town caroling.

  31. says

    Cuttlefish, thanks for the update. It’s a shame she doesn’t have more local support, it can get very rough on someone being vocal about their atheism, especially in a small a/o insular town.

  32. Cuttlefish says

    Especially with parents who disagree. I respect the hell out of them for supporting her despite disagreeing, but having loving parents who disagree with her atheism cannot be easy for Krystal. Well, with regard to this issue, I mean.

  33. marcus says

    “Disruption” is the result of idiots trying to defend indefensible positions with arrogance and ignorance. If these fools simply complied with the law and honored the Constitution most of the disruption would cease to exist. The anger and hurt feelings of the other students could become an impetus to teach tolerance and empathy.

  34. madscientist says

    Apparently only the religious may complain about persecution – and then only if they’re an unpersecuted majority.

  35. bromion says

    The article certainly is disruptive — in the GOOD sense of the word. Like a “disruptive technology,” it shakes up the preconceptions of those who read it. That’s good; that’s what editorials are supposed to do! Why read an editorial if it won’t make you think?

    Now, in terms of disruption to school functioning — I think they’re getting plenty of that now.

  36. bromion says

    I do have to wonder, though, if they would also deny a Christian editorial that was critical of school policy in the same way. If they would, then I don’t think they’re being unfair regarding this article’s publication. At the same time, it’s kinda silly to deny any article that’s critical of important school policies.

  37. Rick says

    I defense of the Lenoir City High School and its board, I completely understand their inclusion and expression of religious belief at school.
    A satellite image reveals the reason.
    http://g.co/maps/fg9rn

    The school lies directly adjacent to a cross. Its a sign that any believer would recognize. Not that there are any around here.

  38. smalltowngirl says

    Unfortunately, I was raised and currently live about thirty miles from Lenoir City in a tiny, rural town. I have three children attending the local school and have visited many neighboring schools attending workshops, performances, and sporting events. My town’s school and every other school I have visited promotes Christianity shamelessly and without regard to the potential consequences. The vast majority of the citizens here are Christians, and school officials assume no one will challenge this disregard of the law. Our school officials pray using the public address system at all sporting events, the coaches lead the team in prayer on the field, every school event is opened with prayer, and our Christmas concerts are used as an evangelistic opportunity. My children have even brought Christian coloring pages home from school, that were colored at school along with a Bible lesson. We have Christian banners posted everywhere and chick tracts are given out regularly. Teachers and school officials talk openly about Christianity and push it on students at every opportunity. This area is ripe for the picking for anyone with the courage to fight. I am an open atheist here. However, I don’t push the issue because my children and family would be terrorized. People who fight this system are endangering their physical safety here. I am not exaggerating, and I will relish the day I abandon this den of stupidity. Krystal Myers has my regards.

  39. doktorzoom says

    Rick, what “large cross” are you talking about? The highway intersection, maybe?

    Sorry if I’m missing some brilliant satire here. Your comment reminds me of a letter to the editor I saw year ago that appeared to argue, in all seriousness, that telephone poles were a testament to Christianity’s benevolent influence across America.

  40. kosk11348 says

    smalltowngirl, do you own a videocamera? If teachers are leading students in prayers at football games, just record it. It won’t look weird if you film the whole game. Then send it with a note about what’s going on to the ACLU. You could even send it anonymously if you’re worried.

  41. sonofrojblake says

    First of all, another supportive voice praising Ms. Myers. Well done, young lady. I hope you can cope with the publicity.

    “One teacher has Bible verses occasionally as the teacher’s “Quote of the Day” for students. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment has been violated”

    This one section made me wince a bit. Really? A “quote of the day” can’t occasionally [sic] come from the Bible, or the law is broken? Can’t one even refer to it as a culturally and historically significant work of literature? Even Richard Dawkins acknowledges that much.

    That one tiny point aside, fully 100% behind the rest of it.

  42. says

    “I agree that it doesn’t violate constitutional rights to not publish a pro-atheist opinion piece”

    Are school papers in the U.S. not considered real media? I know the German school papers are also not 100% free in what they write, but they do, on paper at least, have freedom of the press.

    I’d consider not letting such a student article through censorship and a violation of a free press.

  43. avh1 says

    Congratulations to Krystal, this is a very well written piece. It’s already better than most of the dreck I read in newspapers. With regard to the school board, what can you say other than privileged idiots?

    And also how could you publish a newspaper, student or otherwise without risking ‘potential’ disruption?

  44. DLC says

    School newspapers do not have unlimited freedom of the press, because the school is considered the “editorial board” and can make executive decisions as to what’s published. Much like Rupert Murdoch’s “news” organizations, they print the party line, full stop.

  45. bromion says

    School newspapers are somewhat different than normal newspapers in that the people with ultimate authority are not the members of the editorial board (students), but the administration. This, however, isn’t much different than a newspaper owned by a bigger company, where executives can overrule editorial decisions, as well. The difference there is that those actions are typically after the fact, not before a story runs.

    Students in the US have all sorts of limited rights. For example, their lockers are not considered a private space, so no warrant is needed to search them. The otherwise protected right of freedom of dress is also curtailed at a school. Etc.

  46. bromion says

    It’s also extra complicated because public schools are rightly considered government institutions. That’s why the Establishment Clause applies to them (private schools can be as religious as they want). So if the school is the publisher, and the school is the government, then the government is the publisher. This makes the situation even more messed up than it already is.

  47. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This one section made me wince a bit. Really? A “quote of the day” can’t occasionally [sic] come from the Bible, or the law is broken?

    If the bible is the only holy book used, yes. All holy books or none must be used. Otherwise, the establishment clause kicks in.

  48. echidna says

    Whether the editorial is published or not by the school is less important than how they deal with the constitutional violations that Krystal describes. I understand the the school hasn’t recognised that prayer over the loudspeakers is a school endorsement of Christianity.

  49. What a Maroon says

    But don’t they teach evolution? I mean, come on, the atheists are favored by that.

    Reality is notoriously atheistic. So to the extent that schools teach reality, they’re clearly favoring atheism.

  50. says

    Comment #53:
    Our school officials pray using the public address system at all sporting events, the coaches lead the team in prayer on the field, every school event is opened with prayer, and our Christmas concerts are used as an evangelistic opportunity. My children have even brought Christian coloring pages home from school, that were colored at school along with a Bible lesson. We have Christian banners posted everywhere and chick tracts are given out regularly. Teachers and school officials talk openly about Christianity and push it on students at every opportunity. This area is ripe for the picking for anyone with the courage to fight. I am an open atheist here. However, I don’t push the issue because my children and family would be terrorized. People who fight this system are endangering their physical safety here.

    I never saw so many violations of the Establishment Clause in one paragraph before. These Christian assholes who belong in prison are thugs so they are not challenged. This must be what Iran is like.

  51. Terska says

    My son in 6th grade was told in world history that the plagues of Egypt were real history and his teacher told the class about atheists, “we shun those people”.

    This is in NE Ohio, not Alabama!

  52. says

    Teachers are prohibited from making their religious preferences known; the Constitution requires them to be neutral when acting in their capacity as a public school teacher.

    Is that actually the case? The creationists supporting Freshwater tried to claim he was being ‘persecuted’ just for having a Bible on his desk. And from what I understand, that alone wouldn’t be a problem.

    Of course, Freshwater burned crosses into students’ arms, had Bible-quoting ‘motivational’ posters all over his class, and – most importantly – taught creationism in his science classroom.

    But simply making it known that he was a Christian, as I understand it, wouldn’t be a Constitutional violation.

  53. says

    If the bible is the only holy book used, yes. All holy books or none must be used. Otherwise, the establishment clause kicks in.

    I’m not sure about that. An argument could be made that the bible has a greater historical relevance for Americans than, say, the bhagavad gita. That would provide a secular justification for using the bible as a source over other holy books.

  54. says

    I’m disappointed she’s not pursuing it, but if her parents don’t share her views, I can understand why.

    But I’m more disappointed that the school didn’t see it as a learning opportunity, where they could demonstrate the importance of the first amendment and the plurality of ideas. Then again, since they’re Christians, I’m not surprised they did take the opportunity to learn something.

  55. noastronomer says

    “I’d like to know what was disruptive about it, other than that it points out where the administration is breaking the law.”

    Was that sarcasm?

    Pointing out that the administration, any administration, is breaking the law is disruptive. The most important job of the administration, any administration, is to prevent criticism of the administration.

    Mike.

  56. truthspeaker says

    echidna says:
    23 February 2012 at 6:46 pm

    It’s hard to imagine what the school considers “disruptive” about it – the acknowledgement of the existence of atheists? The possibility that some of the school’s practices may be illegal?

    Maybe the simple fact that she criticized school administrators and the school board. Some school administrators hate to be criticized by students, and think they have the right to silence such criticism.

  57. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’m not sure about that. An argument could be made that the bible has a greater historical relevance for Americans than, say, the bhagavad gita.

    Nope, that doesn’t matter. They need to use a number of holy books or no holy books. Period, end of story. Which religious books don’t matter. If any one of them is favored to exclusivity, or almost exclusivity, it is establishment. SCOTUS decisions are consistent on that point. It isn’t that hard of a point either. But Xains can be very obtuse about it, and find all sorts of sophistry like you offered to ignore the problem.

  58. truthspeaker says

    Momo Elektra says:
    24 February 2012 at 3:05 am

    “I agree that it doesn’t violate constitutional rights to not publish a pro-atheist opinion piece”

    Are school papers in the U.S. not considered real media? I know the German school papers are also not 100% free in what they write, but they do, on paper at least, have freedom of the press.

    I’d consider not letting such a student article through censorship and a violation of a free press.

    They are real media, which means the publisher – in this case the school – can kill any article for any reason. Just as the publishers of the New York Times legally can (and do) kill stories that their advertisers don’t like, the school can determine what gets published in the paper and doesn’t have to give a reason.

    By the same token, if Ms. Myers published the editorial herself, by printing it out at home and making 1500 copies at her own expense, the school could not legally prevent her from distributing them in school (as long as it wasn’t during class time). I’m sure they would still try, and she would have to go through the hassle of taking them to court, but she would win.

  59. Thomathy, now angrier and feminister says

    To those who are saying that it’s nice that her parents are supportive even though they disagree with her, stop right there.

    How supportive could they possibly be if they disagree? And on what exact issue do they disagree? With her atheism?

    I’ll draw a parallel here between having parents supportive of their child’s homosexuality, but disagreeing with it. It’s not ‘nice’. It’s not ‘nice’, because if you stop to think about it for a second ‘support’ and ‘disagreement’ can easily be mutually exclusive positions. She may well have the support of her parents for being outspoken, but I wonder if they actually support her in her atheism. If not, their support isn’t worth as much as some might think.

    I have a serious respect for Kystal Myers, standing out and speaking out, because what she’s done is hard and the ensuing situation is certainly more difficult than if she had managed to get published in her school’s paper. She’s done well in an environment hostile to her views.

  60. psocoptera says

    # 70 Teska – that just makes my blood boil. A sixth grade teacher openly encouraging bigotry is horrendous. I hope you can move soon. I keep thinking that I would demand that teacher be censured or fired, but I think it would depend on whether I thought my kid could handle the blowback.

  61. says

    “They are real media, which means the publisher – in this case the school – can kill any article for any reason. ”

    Interesting. IIRC the publisher(s) in the case of German school papers are the students (who work on it).

    We had one case where the school director tried (successfully) to impose his will on us on one issue, and we could probably have won the case (but didn’t try for fear of future trouble) because school staff is not supposed to influence the content of the paper that way.

  62. karamea says

    @72:

    That would provide a secular justification for using the bible as a source over other holy books.

    As a source for what, though?

    There’s a big difference between “discuss the religious imagery used in the Journey of the Magi” and “here is a random bible verse”. The situation described is not about the bible being used as a source in class where relevant.

    Given that a lot of bible quotes are pretty exclusionary (you shall have no other gods before me), it’s fairly obvious how this could make things uncomfortable for anyone not-a-Christian.

  63. Musca Domestica says

    Ray Ingles

    Teachers are prohibited from making their religious preferences known; the Constitution requires them to be neutral when acting in their capacity as a public school teacher.

    Is that actually the case?

    I was also wondering about this, re: the t-shirt part. Are they allowed to wear crucifixes as jewelry? And what about Muslim and Jewish religious garments? Would a t-shirt merely revealing their religious affiliation be different?

  64. truthspeaker says

    Momo Elektra says:
    24 February 2012 at 11:53 am

    “They are real media, which means the publisher – in this case the school – can kill any article for any reason. ”

    Interesting. IIRC the publisher(s) in the case of German school papers are the students (who work on it).

    Here in the states, the owner is whoever pays the bills – in newspapers and everything else.

  65. jblilie says

    I am ashamed to say that Lenoir City is named for my ancestors: The Le Noirs who were French Huguenots who fled France for the British colonies in North America to avoid … wait for it … religious persecution!

    Sheesh!

  66. dassem says

    Here in Knoxville I caught a bit of this story on the local radio station. Until about lunchtime tomorrow, you can listen to an interview with Krystal at:
    http://www.987newstalk.com/goout.asp?u=http://rope.woki-fm.fimc.net/hhh/hhh715.mp3
    The interview continues at the same link but ending: hhh730.mp3
    A bit of background is that the interviewer is a local Christian Conservative broadcaster, but he is usually a bit less annoying than that sounds. She does well! I think they have callers later in the same program (online it’s broken into 15 minute segments) and in comparison, from what I heard, most of them did not seem that bright.
    This is my first post on here, so I have no idea if the link will work for you.

  67. says

    Glen Davidson @9:
    when i first read that, it seemed like you meant that natural selection favors atheism *rofl* though, actually, we do avoid the selective pressures of holy wars and suicide bombings and whatnot, sooo… :P

  68. rationalmind says

    @dassem
    Thanks for posting that. There is actually a third clip ( and more).
    I stopped listening after they started taking other contributions.
    I am in the UK and we have the same thing with our phone-in programmes. People who like to be on-air but whose IQ can be measured by looking at their shoe size. :-)

    However, Krystal Myers sounds like a very intelligent young woman, and will undoubtedly go far.

    We actually have compulsory religious education in our schools but prayers at sporting events etc. would not happen because they would sound very weird to our culture. Most christians aren’t devout as Richard Dawkins has helped show recently.

  69. McCthulhu, now with Techroline and Retsyn says

    It frightens me to read so many people’s anecdotes about public schools ignoring constitutional law and basking in the privilege of xtian arrogance. Should it fall on the shoulders of teenage girls everywhere to carry the burden of pointing out the law to the local bumpkins? Afterwards, adults are being terrorized into quiet submission by a localized religious caste system for protecting their kids. It begins to sound like a Malaysia Lite, now with 90% less neural processing. People with the courage to speak out really need much more support than a few lines on the internet can give.

    I remember in my grade 4 class in rural Alberta, it would have been ’76 or ’77, a very religious science teacher (there’s your contradiction du jour) was my homeroom teacher and made us stand up, sing the national anthem and then made us recite the lord’s prayer every single weekday morning. This died out a few months after a single Hindu student’s parents complained that the teacher’s remedy for their original complaint was to make him stand outside the classroom while the rest of us were brainwashed. There wasn’t any community backlash, the school did the right thing (albeit delayed), and no news was made of it.

    That it has gotten to the point in some locations now that police have to be called in just says to me that the religulous are having some sort of panicky fight or flight reaction to so many more people finally calling them on their entitlement bullshit. Bullying schoolgirls and threatening their parents just shows what kind of cowards and assholes a religion creates. Never is their religion attacked, only that unctuous public proselytizing. That they can’t recognize the difference just underscores the delusion that is created along with the other mind rot.

  70. dassem says

    @rationalmind: Great! I am glad that other people were able to hear it.
    Thanks for the correction. I’ve now listened to around 8:30 so far.
    The other thing I got wrong is that the program is only on air from Mon-Fri, so I suspect that the link might work over the whole weekend.
    I am from the UK originally, so I remember things like prayers and hymns in assembly, and religious education classes. Actually, I quite liked the stories, in much the same way as I loved Greek or Norse legends, Starwars, and Thundercats.