Oh, geez, Oklahoma.
There was a weird court case there recently. Well, maybe not so weird, unfortunately—I could see it happening here. To make it short, an atheist girl in high school was kicked off a sports team because she wouldn’t join in team prayers; abuse ensued; school officials lied; the principal assaulted the father; police and principal perjured themselves to press charges against him; threats were made to try and drive the family out of the state. It’s actually a little bit hard to believe such stuff could go on in 21st century America, but it went to trial, and this next little anecdote alone is enough to convince me that the Smalkowski family was discriminated against for their lack of faith.
Edwin introduced himself to the jury as National Legal Director for American Atheists and asked the prospective jury in the Oklahoma panhandle if they could accept the testimony of an Atheist over that of a professed Christian. When the jury looked at him blankly, the judge asked the prospects if they understood the question. One woman spoke for many in the group by asking “What is an Atheist?” Edwin explained that an Atheist was a person who did not believe in a god or gods or in a supernatural world, and that the defendant and his entire family were such persons. Many of the prospects said they could not believe such a person over a Christian and were struck for cause. To their credit, many members of the jury panel, including two ministers’ wives, told the judge they could not be fair to an Atheist in such a situation and were excused.
Don’t worry, foreigners who read this, in the United States we ship all of our really stupid people to Oklahoma, so this story isn’t at all representative of what you’d discover in Iowa or Alabama or Pennsylvania.
Nah, I lied. Oklahoma is a perfectly normal state, and even in Minnesota we’d probably have to struggle to scrape up 12 people who both knew what an atheist was, and didn’t think they strangle kittens for fun. Sigh.
Anyway, the good news is that they did manage to find 12 intelligent people, and got a fast and unanimous verdict of not guilty. Yay, Oklahoma!
One cute postscript:
The night of the verdict, tornados of unusual violence descended on the panhandle of Oklahoma. The home of the Principal who had brought the false charges against Chuck Smalkowski was severely damaged.
This fact has no relationship whatsoever to the verdict.
Man, you mess with the religious and all you have to face are imaginary, invisible, insubstantial ghosts; screw with the godless and you have to deal with the immense power of the real physical universe. (To be fair, though, you still have to deal with the same forces even if you don’t screw with us.)