It’s bad enough we have a gay bullying epidemic going on in this country. It looks like life isn’t much easier for atheist students.
Damon Fowler is a high school student in Bastrop, Louisiana. I’ll let him tell his story (emphasis mine):
My graduation from high school is this Friday. I live in the Bible Belt of the United States. The school was going to perform a prayer at graduation, but due to me sending the superintendent an email stating it was against Louisiana state law and that I would be forced to contact the ACLU if they ignored me, they ceased it. The school backed down, but that’s when the shitstorm rolled in. Everyone is trying to get it back in the ceremony now. I’m not worried about it, but everyone hates me… kind of worried about attending graduation now. It’s attracted more hostility than I thought.
My reasoning behind it is that it’s emotionally stressing on anyone who isn’t Christian. No one else wanted to stand up for their constitutional right of having freedom of and FROM religion. I was also hoping to encourage other atheists to come out and be heard. I’m one of maybe three atheists in this town that I currently know of. One of the others is afraid to come out of the (atheist) closet.
Though I’ve caused my classmates to hate me, I feel like I’ve done the right thing. Regardless of their thoughts on it, basically saying I am ruining their fun and their lives, I feel like I’ve helped someone out there. I didn’t do this for me or just atheists, but anyone who doesn’t believe in their god that prayer to Yahweh may affect.
Moral of the story: though the opposition may be great, majority doesn’t necessarily mean right. Thank you for reading. Wish me luck at graduation.
EDIT: Well, it hit the fan a couple hours ago. They’ve already assembled a group of supporters at a local church and called in the newspaper. I’ve had to deactivate my Facebook account and I can’t reason with any of them. They refuse to listen. The whole town hates me, aside from a few closet atheists that are silently supporting, which I don’t blame them looking at what I’ve incited here. Thanks for the support though.
My brother has been cut off from all communication by my mother. He is not allowed to speak to me and I live 6 hours drive away from him. There’s nothing I can do. My sister is supposed to go pick him up tomorrow and he will no longer be living in that town or with my parents. He’s coming to Texas with me.
[…]My sister called my brother and was able to conference me in without my mother knowing. My brother is overwhelmed by all the support that I told him about. He literally didn’t know what to say and was not expecting this to happen. He is extremely grateful for all your support and he says “Thank you.” He will be on the internet tonight to respond personally.
As far as his spirits are concerned, he sounded scared. Really scared, actually. He sounded as if he was about to cry on the phone with me, although I’m not sure if it was because of all the support here or because he’s scared. He has gotten death threats already and threats of bodily harm if he shows up to graduation. We’re still assessing if it is safe enough for him to be there.
Because a student tried to make his school enforce the law, he is getting death threats. Death threats because one less sentence will be said at a high school graduation. Death threats because some people can’t pray to their imaginary friend on their own, and feel compelled to force everyone to. Wow.
His brother also adds what this probably means for Damon’s future:
As a personal note, I have disowned my family over this. No one will ever keep me from my brother, not even my mother. The moment any family starts acting like this, they aren’t any family of mine.
If I told you the story of how this all started, you’d think it was something out of fiction. I think it’s a story that my brother needs to tell, though. This is his time.
Sadly, because of this, my brother is probably going to be cut off financially from my parents and I will be taking up the slack of making sure he gets through college. I don’t mind this, it’s just a matter of fact. We’ve got a long hard road, yet.
Want an example of this community’s ignorance about the law and bias against atheists? Just look at what one of the teachers had to say:
“[In the past, non-religious students] respected the majority of their classmates and didn’t say anything,” [Bastrop High School staff member Mitzi] Quinn said. “We’ve never had this come up before. Never…And what’s even more sad is this is a student who really hasn’t contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates.”
Hopefully the rest of the administration isn’t as ignorant about the law as Mitzi Quinn (who, I should add, has a perfect storybook villainess name). This has nothing to do with who’s in the majority. Non-Christians shouldn’t have to sit down and shut up in a public school. And regardless of your opinion, it is against the law the have school sponsored prayer at high school graduations.
Not to mention snide remarks about a student’s contribution is completely unprofessional, and frankly, immature. You’re supposed to be teaching children, not acting like one.
To make sure the administration realizes what the law is, you can find a list of their emails here and here. And spread the news – wouldn’t it be nice if the nation saw this is how this community treats it’s non-Christians?