Somebody should really spank me. Kidding. Maybe.
Seriously, though. I have been very lazy and neglectful with this blog. I was rolling along just fine for a while and goodness knows the religious whackaloons don’t give me any shortage of material. Maybe it was boredom. Or laziness. Or the feeling that I’m such a small voice in a big, crazy world. I think maybe everyone trying to establish or maintain an online presence has at some point in time battled feelings of irrelevance.
I needed inspiration. I needed Damon Fowler and Jessica Ahlquist.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts this week The Non-Prophets supported by the fine folks over at the Atheist Community of Austin. They interviewed two teenagers who against all odds are standing up for the separation of church and state provided for us in the Constitution. I had been keeping up with their stories, but hearing their own voices speak out on that podcast was a revelation.
In case you aren’t aware of their stories, I’ll briefly try to summarize. Damon just graduated from high school in Bastrop, Louisiana. He sent an email to school administrators stating that if a Christian prayer was recited at graduation, he would file a complaint with the ACLU. My understanding of the situation is that the school was further informed of the illegality of the Christian graduation prayer. Word got out that Damon, an atheist, set the wheels in motion for the prayer to be removed. The slackjawed mouthbreathers of Bastrop, LA bullied and threatened Damon. His own parents kicked him out of his house. In the end, the graduation prayer went through and now there might be legal action against the school for this violation of the Constitution. Damon, for his part, now has the full attention of the atheist movement as well as a respectable college fund. His Facebook page is Support Damon.
Jessica is in a similar situation. She is an atheist attending high school in Cranston, Rhode Island. This Rhode Island community is predominantly Catholic. When Jessica requested that a prayer be removed from the wall of the public school she attends, she was met with the bullying and animosity of her schoolmates. She is currently involved in legal action to have the prayer removed. While she has the support of her family, she is only a sophomore at this school and will continue to attend during the course of the legal proceedings. Her Facebook page is Support the Removal of the Cranston High School West Prayer.
I cannot thank these brave students enough. Listening to their interviews woke me out of my laziness and reminded me just how critical atheist activism is. I admire them for coming to their atheism at such a young age. I was not that clear-thinking in high school. Even if I had been, I don’t think I would have had the nerve to stand up for what is right. I would have been afraid of what my parents and community would say. I would have been worried about losing friends. But too long have atheists been closeted in intimidated silence. People like Damon and Jessica are paving the way for more and more atheists to come out of hiding and to make their stand.
Also, I should note that religious people should be thanking Damon and Jessica as well. They are not only acting for “atheist rights.” They are not taking a stand only because the school-sanctioned prayers offended them personally. They are speaking out because these prayers are in violation of the Constitution. That same Constitution protects Christians from being forced to say Muslim prayers. Or Muslims being forced to say Hindu prayers. Or Hindus… You get the point. The separation of church and state was not intended by our founding fathers to cripple religion. It was designed to protect religious freedom.
Please stop by their Facebook pages and tell them thank you. Damon and Jessica, we need more people out there like you.
Thanks to them, I am all fired up again. I am committing right now to posting a new blog article once per week. Please do your part and share, share, share.