Friday, June 10, 2011

The 10 Scariest States to be an Atheist

I came across this article by Greta Christina (a fantastic blogger) on the alternet website. I'm not shocked, but sad to see good ole' NC made the list.

I've been following two of the stories listed in the article. The first one is described in state #4, Rhode Island. Here is a snippet from the blog:

4: Rhode Island. Did you hear the one about the public high school with the prayer banner in the school gym -- a prayer banner specifically addressed to "Our Heavenly Father"? The public high school that got asked to take the banner down by 15-year-old atheist high school student Jessica Ahlquist, since it's an unconstitutional promotion of religion by government? The public high school that's digging in its heels and hanging on to the banner, despite decades of unambiguous legal precedent making it clear that they're in the wrong? The public high school that's getting sued by said atheist high school student and the ACLU... and is still digging in its heels, devoting extensive time and resources to defending their promotion of religion?

That's Rhode Island, folks. And this story isn't just about a school administration insisting on its right to unconstitutionally establish religion. It's about a community's ostracization of an atheist teenager -- in some cases to the point of threats of violence. Ahlquist has been shunned, insulted, vilified, and even threatened with violence. Students in an English class in her school said -- during class -- that she should be "smacked around and beat up" for fighting the prayer banner. Comments in the Providence Journal article on the story were ugly, personal, even threatening -- to a great extent about the ACLU, but largely about Ahlquist herself. ("I think you need to talk to a doctor and get help... you are sick in the head." "Looks like we have a moon bat in the making." "Make no mistake, Jessica and the Bolshevik thugs representing her are driven by anti-Christian bigotry and intolerance and censorship... Curse them to hell.")

In fact, according to the Providence Journal, Ahlquist and another student were removed from their regular classroom schedule last month -- after some students said they intended to harm her. To quote JT Eberhard, high school specialist at the Secular Student Alliance, "In the city of Cranston, an entire community, perhaps an entire state of adults, is engaging in a smear campaign against a single high school student. Her crime? Believing her school violates the first amendment by hanging a prayer banner in the gym invoking the phrases 'Our heavenly father' and 'Amen'."

And this is in New England. This is Rhode Island. The first of the 13 original colonies to declare independence from British rule. The state specifically founded as a place of religious freedom, as a response to religious persecution. A slat in the cradle of liberty. And they are vilifying and threatening a 15-year-old girl for being an atheist, and for insisting that her public school follow the Constitution and not shove religion down her throat. Anti-atheist bigotry is everywhere. It's not just in Alabama or Mississippi. Or even Texas.

I heard Jessica Ahlquist speak on an atheist radio show called the Non-Prophets and I have to say that she blew me away. Jessica was bright, smart as hell, and so well composed during the interview. This girl is going to be a leader in our community and I hope that we can stand up and offer her the support her school / school board / and state are denying her!

The second story is described in state #1 - Louisiana. Here is a snippet from the article:

#1: Louisiana.

I freely admit that this list, and the order I'm presenting it, is subjective. It's not based on a careful statistical analysis of rigorously gathered data based on journalistically objective criteria about anti-atheist bigotry. It's based on stories that happened to get my atheist dander up. It's based on stories that made me sad -- and enraged.

And the story that happened in Louisiana made me sad, and enraged, more than almost any other.

I'm talking about Damon Fowler.

I'm talking about the atheist high school student who opposed his public school having a school-sponsored prayer at his graduation. Whose name was leaked. And who, as a result, was hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community; publicly demeaned by one of his teachers; physically threatened; and thrown out by his parents, who cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and threw his belongings onto the front porch. Whose public school went ahead and had the graduation prayer anyway. Who has had to leave his home and move in with his sister near Dallas, Texas.

You know things are bad when your atheist safe haven from extremist religious persecution is in Texas.

That's Louisiana.

Worst. State. Ever.

This poor kid! He was also a featured guest on the Non-Prophets and visible shaken by the whole ordeal. This kid was torn apart by his school, his town, and his family for standing up for the constitution! That is insane to me. The 'evil' atheist community actually raised over $30,000.00 in scholarship money to send him to college while the 'christians' tossed him out on his ass.

Most of these issues reference the 1st amendment of the US constitution. The Establishment Clause in the first amendment is generally interpreted to mean that the government cannot establish a national religion by congress and that the government cannot favor one religion over another. The separation of church and state is attributed to Thomas Jefferson and often mentioned by the supreme court (Reynolds v. United States, Everson v. Board of Education). In the cases of Rhode Island and Louisiana, the public school would represent the STATE and the prayer would represent the CHURCH. These two should not co-exist.

Here is the full article:

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