Posts Tagged “bastrop high school”

Battle of Ascalon-engravingFor some reason, the nation’s Christianists get all up in arms over public school graduations. It’s a kind of obsession. They seem to want to hold them in religious venues (e.g. in Enfield, Connecticut a year ago) and they demand that school officials say prayers at them during graduations. There’s just one teeny little problem with this obsession, and that’s the First Amendment. They aren’t permitted to do the former of these unless they have no choice, and they can’t do the latter at all — ever. Nevertheless, they still act as though they can and should do both, and that anyone who prevents them from doing either, is trying to destroy them personally. They just can’t handle being told “no.”

Case in point: Bastrop High School in Louisiana, where a courageous student named Damon Fowler dared say “no,” and the community — mostly made up of militant Christians — has gone after him over it. The Bastrop Enterprise reports on this revelation of Christians’ character (WebCite cached article):

For the first time ever, prayer will not be part of graduation ceremonies Friday night at Bastrop High School.

Principal Stacey Pullen said the school received an e-mail on Tuesday from a student who identied themself as an atheist.

“They said if we included a traditional prayer in the ceremony that they would contact the (American Civil Liberties Union),” Pullen said. “We asked our attorney about it, and we are making changes to the program.”

While this is a proper and legal response, the reaction of local Christians has been typical condescension:

Mitzi Quinn has been on the staff at BHS for almost 25 years, much of that time as a senior advisor. In the past, Quinn said there have been students who were atheist, agnostic and other non-Christian religions who “had no problems” with the prayer.

“They respected the majority of their classmates and didn’t say anything,” Quinn said. “We’ve never had this come up before. Never.”

Ms Quinn apparently does not understand the legal concept here. Violating separation of church and state is unconstitutional and impermissible in the United States, in every place, and under every condition. It does not matter that, in the past, non-Christians have held their tongues for fear of Christians’ wrath. They should not have had to do so, and that they did, does not make the practice acceptable. It is flat-out illegal. Period.

Moreover, it is not the job of non-Christians to have to be silent in the face of a Christian majority. That Christians are in the majority does not meant they are entitled to have their way all the time. This sort of thinking is what fueled the “Jim Crow” era, and is just another way of saying it’s up to minorities to “keep in their place,” be both silent and unseen, and not “get uppity.” This philosophy is immoral, inappropriate, and an unacceptable basis for public policy.

Other students have jumped on this issue. BlagHag reports that some of them used the graduation rehearsal to express their (understandably, given their ages) juvenile outrage that their precious graduation prayer was taken away from them (cached).

The real gem of this case — and what makes the (vile and disgusting) character of militant Christianists most evident, is that Damon’s own mother is throwing him out over this, according to his brother Jerrett (cached):

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.

Way to go, Christians. What a fantastic way to represent “the Religion of Love.” Why, this example of godly, loving behavior makes me want to run out immediately and convert to fundamentalist Christianity as soon as I can!

… Not … !

Remarkably, this attitude is scriptural, and I suppose expected of militant Christians, since Jesus himself declared:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:34-37)

Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:51-53)

Jesus said, “Those who do not hate their fathers and their mothers cannot be disciples of me, and those who do not hate their brothers and their sisters and take up their cross like me will not become worthy of me.” (Gospel of Thomas 55)

So maybe I should congratulate Damon’s mother for being dutiful to the explicit words of the gospels and rejecting her son as a result? Maybe this was a courageous, rather than cowardly, act?

Or maybe — just maybe! — this shows how horrific it is to actually apply, literally, the words of scripture to one’s life, and how dysfunctional and counterproductive fundamentalist Christianity is.

Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, has created a Chipin scholarship fund for the young Damon. I’ve contributed, and urge you to do so, too:

One last thing for all you militant Christianists who don’t get it: No one is preventing you from praying, anywhere you wish to. You can pray silently, any time you want, even in public school, and even during a graduation. Neither Damon Fowler nor the ACLU have stopped you from doing so, and for that matter, they aren’t even trying to do that. What they’re stopping is the school system forcing students to pray at public school events. That’s all. Your religious-freedom rights are not being taken away from you. For you to make any such claim, is a lie … a lie for Jesus. Many of you have no problems lying for Jesus … but your lies will still be lies, whether or not you feel entitled to tell them.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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