Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I'll be attending a couple graduation ceremonies this weekend.


I heard a story on the radio this morning about prayer and violation of the Constitution at graduation. I haven't seen any posts about this so far, but a school in Louisiana snook in the lard's prayer even after an atheist student notified the administration that he would be contacting the ACLU if a prayer was recited at graduation.




After mocking Damon Fowler, a high school senior who asked that a religious reference be removed from a graduation ceremony, a town decided they’re more jihadi than Jefferson and chanted a Christian prayer anyway.Screen-shot-2011-05-21-at-10.31.10-AM.png


Despite the fact that Morehouse Parish School System attorney Steve Katz told school officials at Bastrop High School in Louisiana to respect the Constitution and remove a Christian prayer from the graduation ceremony, the school sanctioned a “Moment of Silence” – in which a student speaker took the opportunity to chant the Lord’s Prayer in unison with the crowd.


Here’s the description from the local paper:


“The program handed out to over 1,000 people who attended the event at the football stadium listed ‘A Moment of Silence.’ Graduating senior Laci Mattice came to the podium and said her faith compelled her to thank God for blessing the class of 2011.


‘I now ask my fellow students who wish to join in to recite the Lord’s Prayer,’ Mattice said. The seniors standing on the football field were joined an overwhelming majority of attendees.” [sic]


The drama in Bastrop is yet another example where Christianists have shown themselves to be completely ignorant of democracy, intolerant of others and prone to mob rule. Even a local Baptist preacher had to tell locals to chill out with all the bigoted religiosity. Not only is the Wall of Separation unfathomable to the Christianists in Bastrop but the concept of minority rights, one of the pillars of democracy anywhere, seems completely incomprehensible to them.


BHS Principal Stacey Pullen previously said that there would be no prayer at the ceremony but perhaps she thought she had discovered a brilliant way around the First Amendment by having a student say a prayer during a “Moment of Silence.” However, even student-led prayer is unconstitutional. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled “that a policy permitting student-led, student-initiated prayer at high school football games violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” (h/t to VeryLittle on Reddit) The basis of that decision was Lee v Weisman, a 19 year-old ruling I previously cited as a key precedent for keeping theocracy out of America’s public schools.


It seems likely that Pullen’s decision has paved the way for a lawsuit with real merit that will become a rallying cry both for those who support the Wall of Separation and fundamentalists who insist America has always been a Christian theocracy.


For ways you can help Fowler go to the “Support Damon” Facebook page.



Christianists! Never heard that one before. :)


Won't surprise me a bit if I hear the same this weekend.


Apparently, the student who cited the violation is going through hell because he chose to stand up, being turned on by even his own mother.


What do you guys think? Should we, as non-believers, stand up to this sort of thing? Would you be offended?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am afraid we are outvoted on this issue. The south is overwhelmingly Christian. Majority rules, unfortunately.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Super Moderator

Here's another article on the student. Various atheist organizations have come to his support. In fact, over $15,000 has been raised toward his college scholarship fund, via The Friendly Atheist blog.


I really like this excerpt from the article:


One of the chunks of mud that's most commonly slung at atheists is that we're selfish. Amoral. That without a belief in God and the afterlife, people would have no moral compass, and would just act to please themselves, without any consideration for others. That without a belief in eternal punishment in the afterlife for bad behavior, eternal reward in the afterlife for good behavior, and a supernatural authority figure refereeing it all, people would have no reason to be good people, and no reason to avoid doing terrible things. That without religion, people would have no compassion, no sense of justice, no empathy, no desire to see society running smoothly... and would just do whatever we wanted to do.


But when Damon Fowler was suffering and in need, the atheist community stepped up. It provided compassion. It demanded justice. It offered emotional support. It offered practical support. It opened its wallets. It made it unassailably clear to Damon Fowler that he was not alone: that although his school, his community, even his parents, had all turned their backs on him, atheists would take care of him, as best they could, until he could take care of himself. It made it clear that, even though he no longer had a home in Bastrop, he had a home in this movement. When Damon Fowler was suffering and in need, the atheist community proved itself to be a real community.


If atheism means we just do whatever we want to do... then apparently, what we want to do is take care of each other. Apparently, what we want to do is help people who have been injured. Apparently, what we want to do is speak out against wrongdoing. Apparently, what we want to do is put a stop to injustice. Apparently, what we want to do is make sacrifices for people in need.


A whole lot more than the Christians in Bastrop, Louisiana.


I'm not saying that atheists are morally superior to religious believers. I don't think that, and I'm not saying it. I'm aware that many religious believers are good, compassionate people with a strong sense of justice. I'm even aware that many religious believers, indeed many Christians, are appalled by what's happening to Damon Fowler, and oppose it with every breath in their bodies. And I'm aware that many atheists are hostile, self-involved schmucks. (Believe me... I'm aware of that.) That's not my point.


My point is this: Human beings don't need God to be good. Human ethics seem to be wired into our brains, through millions of years of evolution as a social species, and every human being who isn't a sociopath has them. Some of us act on them better than others... but we all have them. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Rastafarian, Wiccan -- and atheist.


And my point is this: The next time someone tells you that atheists are selfish and amoral? Remember Damon Fowler. Remember the religious community that bullied him, harassed him, ostracized him, and drove him out.


And remember the atheist community that took him in.


If you want to support Damon Fowler's scholarship fund, you can do so with theChipIn widget at the Friendly Atheist blog. The widget closes on May 31.






Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Super Moderator

Personally, I don't care if people pray, wave the flag, or honor the American Idol finalists at a public event. If I had a turn at the podium I would thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pbuh) and enjoy the stunned silence.


Both sides seem a little touchy regarding the separation issue, though there are occasional instances where public money funds religious activities. That needs to be stopped, but I say let them pray just as someone might at the dinner table you share. Who cares?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder what would have happened though, if a Muslim student wanted to pray to Allah after giving a closing speech, or if a student did indeed thank the FSM and pray to it. I'm sure the school admins wouldn't have stood by and let that happen . It sucks Christians always get a free pass to do whatever the hell they want regardless of the rules, and it's fine, no consequences, but let someone in a minority do that - it's a different story.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

From my own standpoint, I wouldn't mind a prayer at all being said by Brother Jeff at one of these events. I can hear it now:


"Oh, heavenly farter, GLORY be unto you, oh precious Lard. I thank you for Kryasst, the spook within me and the spook outside of me, which are all magically one with you, great farter. Even now I can smell the scent of the holy fart. GLORY!!!!" (I couldn't begin to match Brother Jeff's abilities so I'll stop there).


Seriously, though, I don't mind graduation prayers so much. Hell, Christianity is everywhere and if I were to be troubled by that, I'd have to......... Well, I don't know what I'd do.

Link to post
Share on other sites

One guy, the student president I think, led a quick prayer with the class right before the graduation ceremony the other day. I didn't really care.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to step up and say that this happened in North Louisiana - which might as well be Mississippi. People here in NOLA are too lazy to pray before graduation, except the Catholic schools. But they aren't public, are they?

I can see the logic in just ignoring the Jeebus prayers at events, but when they are funded by the state, it really shouldn't happen. Like others have said, other religious prayers aren't allowed, and that's plain old discrimination.

What upsets me the most is the treatment Damon has suffered for simply speaking his mind. No one deserves that, regardless of their convictions.

Link to post
Share on other sites
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.