Lenoir City HS Refuses To Publish Atheist Student Editorial

“We would let you print your letter
But we think it would be better
If it didn’t point out places where our policies are wrong;
We’re not happy with your saying
School board meetings start with praying
And there’s indirect coercion—can’t we all just get along?”

First amendment violation
Seems a hobby in this nation
When the Christians in majority think they can set the rules
They so often act unfairly
And it’s pointed out so rarely
But it seems as clear as Krystal, there’s a problem in the schools.

With authorities denying
Publication, they are trying
To prevent a conflagration, and disruption, so they say;
Though their motives may be noble
There’s this “internet” that’s global
And the schools are going to learn that it’s a brave new world today.

Rant follows:

Krystal Myers is an honors student, captain of the swim team and editor of her high school newspaper.

She’s also an atheist in a predominantly Christian student body.

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.

Now that Lenoir City High School administrators have refused its publication, the whole world can read it here. It reads, to me, like a fairly typical high school student editorial, pointing out things that the school is doing that need improvement.

Except that this time, two things are different. The writer is an atheist, and the things that need improvement happen to be constitutional violations.

The school is refusing to publish the letter because it would cause a disruption in school. And of course, they are right. As we’ve seen in Cranston, reminding a Christian majority that their privileged actions are unconstitutional cannot be expected to result in a simple “my bad; I’ll change.” Comments on the Knoxville News Sentinel story are already a bit of a whirlwind. As I write, some calmer voices are showing up, but we have already had the litany of prominent atheists (classic example: Jeffrey Dahmer) brought up to show how all atheists are evil.

But now the school has some decisions to make. After Cranston and elsewhere, they cannot be ignorant of their policies and practices. Let us hope, for their sake, that they change before they are forced to spend a lot of money on lawyers. Krystal Myers seems a bright and motivated person, and as Cranston found out, those can be a particular force of nature.


  1. Timberwoof says

    An atheist student is denied the right to publish an article about how atheists are denied their rights.


    Ah, yes, here we go: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/student-speech

    In its landmark 1969 ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines, the Supreme Court found that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The ACLU argued the case on behalf of Mary Beth Tinker, defending her right to wear a black armband at school to protest the Vietnam War.

    Somebody’s in trouble.

  2. Mimmoth says

    Unfortunately the article doesn’t contain the text of Krystal’s editorial, just a couple of quotes.

    Which is a pity, as I would like to read the whole thing.

  3. Gregory says

    @Timberwolf #2 – Freedom of speech does not come with a guaranteed venue from which to speak. However….

    Some schools engage in prior restraint, where everything that is published in the student newspaper must be approved before publication. If Lenoir City High School is such a school, there is not much that Ms. Myers can do, as she is not (technically) being singled out. Making a case would require demonstrating a pattern of routinely denying atheist letters: refusal to print this one letter does not, by itself, constitute a pattern.

    Most schools, however, do not engage in prior restraint, or do so only in a very limited capacity. If her high school does not, and the administration banned the letter anyway, then she has a very solid case for being singled out, and I hope the courts get involved and slap the sanctimonious bastards down hard.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    Refusing to publish her editorial may well be legal, if they thought (and after Cranston, who could blame them) that it would be disruptive.

    But that does nothing to make the content of that editorial go away. LCHS, if Krystal is right, is on the wrong side of the constitution, and is due for a wake up call.

  5. Mimmoth says

    Oh, my mistake. I thought I had clicked all the links but I must have overlooked the middle one somehow. Thank you for drawing my attention to it.

    Her editorial might well be disruptive, just as in (I hope) an earlier time an editorial about the rights of blacks might be disruptive–in the sense that bigots might react with violence. The violence makes the editorial more necessary, not less.

    I hope Krystal will be okay.

  6. says

    On one hand it is said to see this kind of stuff repeatedly happening. On the other hand, it is great to see so many young students standing up for their beliefs. It is encouraging for the future.

  7. Cuttlefish says

    bassmanpete–oddly enough, yours is the second Banjo Paterson comparison I have received in less than a week! I am terribly flattered, of course, but the technical answer would be “no”. Banjo and I, though, are both far more “versemongers” than “poets”, and there are only so many rhyme and meter schemes to go around, so we tend to tread similar territory at times.

  8. Cuttlefish says

    Hey, maybe it’s a matter of plausible deniability–they knew there would be more publicity this way, but they could wash their hands of it and get re-elected, after the board caved in to the inevitable uproar and examination.

  9. crowepps says

    Richard W. Riley, U.S. Secretary of Education under President Clinton, sent every school superintendent in the country guidelines on “Religious Expression in Public Schools” in August of 1995.


    The U.S. Department of Education “Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools” has been widely disseminated since it was written in 2003, and is available to educators on the internet.


    Borden v. Sch. Dist., 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 8011 (3d Cir. Apr. 15, 2008) got extensive coverage in both mainstream and educational media for three years.


    And as we all know, the Alquist case has saturated the media for months now.

    Any school board, school administration or staff of teachers which says it wasn’t aware it was breaking the rules is filled with incompetent dunderheads who should lose their jobs.

  10. TimKO,,.,, says

    I know TN is the bible belt but do you have any Hindu or Muslim students? If so, talk to them. Also, that’s going to be one of your arguments to the slow-minded: to ask them if they would mind including Judaism, LDS, or Islam to their prayer announcements alongside xtianity. This might be the only way to get them to see your side; because there’s no way they can conceptualize non-theism in the BB without that analogy.

  11. gshelley says

    Don’t the courts apply a higher standard for schools restricting religious expression as compared to other expression?
    If the school has previously published pro Christian articles, I doubt they are going to have much success arguing they have the right to be selective in this case. If they never print anything that touches on religion, they would have a stronger argument


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