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Let's have a moment of silence ... but not before we pray first
May 26, 2011 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Student Protests Prayer at Graduation, Gets Divine Retribution Instead A high school atheist in Bastrop, Louisiana tried to stop prayer at his graduation by writing to his superintendent and threatening to bring in the ACLU. The superintendent complied, but the student's name was leaked, and soon he was harassed by fellow students and a former Teacher of the Year, and was kicked out of his house.

Once the student's name was released, and his role in this incident, was leaked, the following resulted:

1) He was hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community.

2) One of his teachers (a former Teacher of the Year) publicly demeaned him.

3) He was physically threatened and received death threats.

4) His parents cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and threw his belongings onto the front porch.

To add insult to injury, even though the prayer was dropped from the program, one of the student speakers said her faith compelled her to thank God for blessing and went ahead and led the crowd in prayer anyway.. “I respect the beliefs of other people,” Mattice told the parents, family, and friends assembled for the graduation, “but I feel that I can’t go on without giving glory to my Lord today. I want to ask for the Lord’s blessings upon us.” With the crowd cheering her on, Mattice then invited her fellow seniors to join her in reciting the Lord’s Prayer “if they want to.”

A college fund has been setup to help support the protesting student since his parents have cut him off.
posted by zooropa (357 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just like any other graduation
Bastrop High's Class of 2011 ceremony uneventful


This headline writer definitely knows his audience!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:29 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is sort of a double, but glad it got it's own FPP.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:31 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus wept.
posted by dirtdirt at 4:32 PM on May 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


By Mark Rainwater

Bastrop Daily Enterprise

Posted May 20, 2011 @ 08:17 PM

Last update May 20, 2011 @ 09:29 PM


BASTROP, La. —


Jesus was said to be especially pleased that graduation ceremonies at Bastrop High School came off without a protest.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:33 PM on May 26, 2011


But atheists are shrill and smug and that makes it OK.
posted by bardic at 4:34 PM on May 26, 2011 [63 favorites]


Oh good, now I have another link to post whenever some fucking moron tells me how persecuted Christians are.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:35 PM on May 26, 2011 [53 favorites]


To add insult to injury, even though the prayer was dropped from the program, one of the student speakers said her faith compelled her to thank God for blessing and went ahead and led the crowd in prayer anyway..

Which is a problem how?

But atheists are shrill and smug and that makes it OK.

Some often are. Fortunately they've been given cover by religious folk who've proven they can be the bigger assholes.
posted by namespan at 4:36 PM on May 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I donated some cash to his scholarship. He's a brave kid for confronting our encroaching theocracy. I hope he keeps up his spirits and overcomes this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:37 PM on May 26, 2011 [37 favorites]


Once back in high school--during class, I might add--I got a note passed to me. Confused (being a rather unpopular kid and not one to be receiving notes), I unfolded and read it.

"Why don't you believe in God?"

I look up to try to deduce who passed it to me, only to find that THE ENTIRE CLASS was staring at me imploringly, as if they had been planning this "intervention" long in advance.

I wasn't even officially out then.

It's not fun being That Kid in That School in That City. Poor guy.
posted by phunniemee at 4:37 PM on May 26, 2011 [71 favorites]


It's probably much ado, but damn, when I was that age, when any of us were, when we weren't preoccupied with plumbing or taxes or that person at work who makes out lives difficult in almost imperceptible ways, this god stuff was important. Everything's important. I applaud the kid, if only for making his parents reveal what a pair of despicable pricks they are.
posted by tigrefacile at 4:37 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is the sort of thing that makes me really glad to be involved in the ACLU. Eric Workman, the Indiana student who went through basically the same ordeal, is an acquaintance of mine and also happens to be one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and considerate kids you could ever meet. Hopefully, this kid is similar to Eric, and will have the will and the fortitude to use this event as a catalyst to make something of himself and his cause.
posted by broadway bill at 4:39 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Look, I think if an individual student is giving a graduation speech and wants to pray as part of it, it's her right and privilege as a person. (I don't see it as the school sanctioning it.)

But what is happening to this young man is wrong. I am personally offended as a parent that his folks have kicked him out. And it is UNCHRISTIAN what the others are doing as well.

If you aren't going to act like Jesus has told you to act, why do you think He is going to appreciate your prayer?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:39 PM on May 26, 2011 [82 favorites]


This is the quote that seems to qualify him as "publicly demeaned":

"'And what's even more sad is this is a student who really hasn't contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates,' Quinn said."

Some of that other shit is tough, kid, but let's not blow our lifetime sympathy wad all at once.
posted by hermitosis at 4:39 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's so Divine about this retribution? Sounds like community ostricization, which is wholly the human domain.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:39 PM on May 26, 2011 [30 favorites]


And it is UNCHRISTIAN what the others are doing as well.

No, it's pretty Christian (going by what actually Christians do, not Christ). What you mean is that it's inhumane.
posted by DU at 4:41 PM on May 26, 2011 [35 favorites]


I only wish the best for this kid. Fuck the whole lot of them in that town.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:41 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think I'm more disappointed than Harold Camping that people like these weren't raptured.

It's like they WANT to be persecuted when their theocratic dream-government gets taken over by a slightly different sect than theirs.

For some reason they just don't get it that it's in their interest that government remain impartial and uninvolved in religion.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:42 PM on May 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


* Photocopies a note saying "You appear to be making the argument from ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam), whereby you are misplacing the burden of proof away from the party making the affirmative claim"

* Sends it to all phunniemee's classmates
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:43 PM on May 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


(I don't see it as the school sanctioning it.)

Once the school violated his privacy, they essentially sanctioned religious payback against him, as well as the de facto inclusion of prayer at a school event.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:43 PM on May 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


You know, if Christians would only act like fucking Christians.....
posted by digitalprimate at 4:43 PM on May 26, 2011 [15 favorites]


When I was a senior in my high school in South Texas, our football quarterback got very sick, and was hospitalized. He ended up dying that year. He was the cousin of my skater best friend, and he was a great guy.

While he was in the hospital, we were planning some Senior Talent Show thing/deal. One of the people involved said that we should include an opening prayer for the quarterback.

There was a pregnant pause. I waited for someone to say something, but no one did.

So I said "Well, we can't really do that."

The entire room turned to me. Dead silence, bug eyes.

"Because, you know, it's not constitutional. There is a separation of church and state."

Another pregnant pause, and the Choir Teacher, who I knew was a fervent Christian, looked
deflated and angry and said: "Technically, he's right."

TECHNICALLY.

They had a "moment of silence" instead. Which I was all for, because it paid respect to the guy, and let everyone decided how to approach the idea.

I got ALOT of angry comments the next day, both directly and mumbled at me in the hall.


Good for this kid. Seriously. These zealots think that their beliefs are more important than letting others be free to choose their lives. That's insulting, selfish, and ignorant. Fortunately, it's also a tendril of a type of current religious belief.
posted by gcbv at 4:44 PM on May 26, 2011 [36 favorites]


Seems like there should still be some room for a lawsuit here against the school district. Maybe the higher taxes it brings will convince everyone not to openly be assholes next time.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:44 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let's have a moment of silence for the U.S. Constitution...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:48 PM on May 26, 2011 [27 favorites]


Jesus wept.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:32 AM on May 27 [+] [!]


I can't read that verse without thinking of Hellraiser.
posted by topynate at 4:48 PM on May 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Can we make the whole school take Kristof's God/Sex Quiz, as a precondition to graduate? Kudos to the protesting atheist student.
posted by Azaadistani at 4:49 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


But atheists are shrill and smug and that makes it OK.

I hate shrillness and smugness more than just about anybody and, no, I don't think this is OK.
posted by jonmc at 4:50 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur, you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.


Emily Dickinson (1830–86)
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:50 PM on May 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


Lawsuits aren't great learning experiences. People learn they cost money and take time, which shouldn't be the message. Instead, it would be awesome if someone lead the town in a discussion of different religious beliefs (including atheism), and a bit on the separation of church and state.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:51 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


So technically religious belief allows one to disregard the rule of law?

Sharia it is.
posted by pianomover at 4:52 PM on May 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


If you aren't going to act like Jesus has told you to act, why do you think He is going to appreciate your prayer?

I believe that technically the Christians are doing what they're told. I'm pretty sure we can find the relevant passage in Mark 16:15-17. Here we go:

15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17 And maketh sure to be a complete fucking douche whileth thy preacheth.
posted by Talez at 4:52 PM on May 26, 2011 [33 favorites]


You know, it's not even the prayer aspect of it. There are plenty of uber liberal European and Asian countries that have no problem with prayer within certain institutionalized contexts. It's a formalism.

The difference is that that here, people (rightly so) equate prayer in official settings with oppression. In Europe, they had about 250 years worth of wars to sort that shit out. Here, not so much. It gets your ass kicked by that cop in training no neck asshole to protest.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:54 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure we can find the relevant passage in Mark 16:15-17

I believe that was actually Doucherotomy 16:15-17.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:54 PM on May 26, 2011 [39 favorites]


Instead, it would be awesome if someone lead the town in a discussion of different religious beliefs (including atheism), and a bit on the separation of church and state.

I think Fowler tried something close to that, and then he learned firsthand how the Christians in his town operate, when they learn that they don't have the right to shove their religion down everyone's throats. I hope he gets good lawyers and takes his old school district and the taxpayers to the cleaners.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:55 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Then again there's this one:

"Be not like the hypocrites who pray in the town square, instead go home and pray in a closet"
posted by jonmc at 4:55 PM on May 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


This really sucks in a lot of ways and I feel for the kid. It's one thing to have to deal with people hating you, it's a whole 'nother level when your parents throw you out of the house for them.

Then there's this part: "A high school atheist in Bastrop, Louisiana tried to stop prayer at his graduation by writing to his superintendent and threatening to bring in the ACLU."

If you rain on everyone's parade, don't be surprised when lighting strikes. He was probably too young and immature to fully understand what he was pushing for, but damn he was being a huge jerk for demanding that no prayer be said. Pick your battles, kid.

There's a lot of wrong on both sides here, but ultimately for adults to allow this to happen to a child is unconscionable. He deserved better treatment from his community, even if he was being a jerk.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:56 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm really into D&D and nerd stuff and sometimes I run into a dude who is like DID YOU KNOW THIS ABOUT GOBLINS and I'm kind of embarrassed for my hobby.

I feel the same way about my faith- I'm a Christian dude and it's very, very important to me and then I see this and I am totally embarrassed for my faith.
posted by GilloD at 4:57 PM on May 26, 2011 [28 favorites]


So essentially the school caused a student to be bullied? Bravo.
posted by Splunge at 4:57 PM on May 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


If you rain on everyone's parade, don't be surprised when lighting strikes. He was probably too young and immature to fully understand what he was pushing for, but damn he was being a huge jerk for demanding that no prayer be said.

Uhhh yeah, what kind of jerk asks for their constitutional rights to be respected?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:59 PM on May 26, 2011 [96 favorites]


If you rain on everyone's parade, don't be surprised when lighting strikes.

Yeah, all raining on people's parades by pointing out the US Constitution! What an ass!
posted by muddgirl at 4:59 PM on May 26, 2011 [35 favorites]


He was probably too young and immature to fully understand what he was pushing for, but damn he was being a huge jerk for demanding that no prayer be said.

How is asking a high school administration to obey the law "being a jerk"?

(On preview, buy me a coke!)
posted by en forme de poire at 5:01 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


That WWJD thing really needs to make a comeback. By suffering for his beliefs, this kid is emulating Christ far more than those who are making his life miserable.

I'm a much less confrontational type of non-believer. Rather than calling the ACLU, I'd just make up a huge sign with "Matthew 6:5" to hold aloft through the duration of the prayer. Wonder if that'd earn me the pitchfork-wielding-mob treatment.
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 5:02 PM on May 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Look, I think if an individual student is giving a graduation speech and wants to pray as part of it, it's her right and privilege as a person. (I don't see it as the school sanctioning it.)

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:02 PM on May 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


(and miles to go beats me to the punch.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:03 PM on May 26, 2011


He was probably too young and immature to fully understand what he was pushing for, but damn he was being a huge jerk for demanding that no prayer be said. Pick your battles, kid.

But you don't pick your battles at that age, do you. You're never as convinced of anything as you are in your teens. And who's to say that a more important stand remains to be made in the life of someone perhaps otherwise middling and unremarkable? Plus the fact that he was demonstrably in the right makes him a little less of a jerk, no?
posted by tigrefacile at 5:04 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


he was being a huge jerk for demanding that no prayer be said

Then, he tried to sit at a public lunch counter! Then, he tried to start a union! Then, he tried to marry his one, true love. What a jerk! Should have seen it coming!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:04 PM on May 26, 2011 [99 favorites]


If you rain on everyone's parade, don't be surprised when lighting strikes. He was probably too young and immature to fully understand what he was pushing for, but damn he was being a huge jerk for demanding that no prayer be said. Pick your battles, kid.

You... you know it's illegal, right? He's a jerk because he tried to prevent the school illegally promoting religion, is that what you're saying?

There's a lot of wrong on both sides here

What? Are you seriously suggesting that American public schools should promote specific religions? Have you actually thought this through?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:04 PM on May 26, 2011 [56 favorites]


I forget where I first read this, and I can't find a link to credit, but let me paraphrase something I saw a few years back: The people who want to pray in schools? Their interest here isn't the spiritual welfare of their own kids. The people pushing school prayer can pray with their kids from the moment they wake up, until the moment they drop them off at school and from the moment they pick them up until the moment they go to bed.

Nope, these people are pushing for prayer in schools because they want to pray with (and at) EVERYONE'S kids. They want to make sure that others are exposed to their religious beliefs every possible minute, and prayer in schools is a good way for them to get to the children of people who don't believe what they do. It's just another evangelism/proselytization scheme.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:06 PM on May 26, 2011 [58 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "If you rain on everyone's parade, don't be surprised when lighting strikes. He was probably too young and immature to fully understand what he was pushing for, but damn he was being a huge jerk for demanding that no prayer be said. Pick your battles, kid.
"

Wow, man. I don't know where you get off saying that.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:07 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


This isn't Divine Retribution. This is typical Scarlet Letter bullshit.

Really, if you're going to write an FPP quoting a news article as your main source, you should use the headline of that article be what you use as your headline, or you should find a completely neutral way to phrase whatever your post is. This comes across as being either petty or uninformed, and I'm sure the poster is neither.
posted by hippybear at 5:09 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd just make up a huge sign with "Matthew 6:5" to hold aloft through the duration of the prayer.

My very favorite bible verse, although I like to quote Matthew 6:5-13, which reads in full:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]’


The utter hypocrisy ignoring a Biblical admonition printed on the same PAGE as one of the most commonly-recited prayers in Christianity is mind-boggling.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:10 PM on May 26, 2011 [39 favorites]


Yeah, all raining on people's parades by pointing out the US Constitution! What an ass!

Being a strict Constitutionalist doesn't really help anybody on this issue, in my opinion. If the community wants to have a prayer at graduation, let'em have the prayer. Lawyering up and telling people that must obey the law on this is silly and stirs up bad feelings. Mind you, I'm agnostic and get about annoyed by preaching at public events also. But a prayer isn't going to kill anyone.

The somewhat reverse holds true of course, if a non-christian wants to say a prayer or whatever, fine. And yes, respect the non-believers too. We make not like one another's beliefs, but there's no need to be demanding about it.

What? Are you seriously suggesting that American public schools should promote specific religions?

No. My point is that he shouldn't have made a stink about the prayer at graduation. I can understand the desire, trust me, I was happily debating whether God exists with my 2nd grade nun/principal.


You... you know it's illegal, right?

I assume you and everyone else pointing that out has never, ever ignored law, like drinking underage, toting up, speeding etc?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:11 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, Brandon, I'm pretty sure I've never infringed on anyone's civil rights.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:14 PM on May 26, 2011 [46 favorites]


I assume you and everyone else pointing that out has never, ever ignored law, like drinking underage, toting up, speeding etc?

My underage drinking is clearly the same thing as an institution abusing its power to exclude students who do not believe in the majority religion. Exactly the same thing.

There's a reason the Bill of Rights was written - it was written to protect atheist kids from state institutions dominated by Christian actors, or to protect Christian kids from state institutions dominated by Muslim actors, or any combination you can think of. There's nothing "strict Constitutionalist" about this argument.
posted by muddgirl at 5:17 PM on May 26, 2011 [32 favorites]


I assume you and everyone else pointing that out has never, ever ignored law, like drinking underage, toting up, speeding etc?

As someone who doesn't drink and didn't underage drink, doesn't "tote up", rarely ever speeds, and the most "illegal" thing I've ever done is get a parking ticket on street cleaning day, yeah: I'm gonna have to side with the Constitution-respecting kid on this one.
posted by phunniemee at 5:18 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Being a strict Constitutionalist doesn't really help anybody on this issue, in my opinion. If the community wants to have a prayer at graduation, let'em have the prayer. Lawyering up and telling people that must obey the law on this is silly and stirs up bad feelings.

I certainly hope no bad feelings have been stirred up for any Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists or Agnostics who have attended graduation in previous years, and have been forced to mumble nonsense in front of their peers or face humiliation.

The somewhat reverse holds true of course, if a non-christian wants to say a prayer or whatever, fine.

Right, I'm going to check the Bastrop High School calendar for any officially-sanctioned events praising Mohammad or Vishnu.

I haven't found any so far but I'll get back to you.

I assume you and everyone else pointing that out has never, ever ignored law, like drinking underage, toting up, speeding etc?

OH YOU WIN SORRY. Go ahead public institutions, it's a free for all, spend taxpayer money undermining any constitutionally guaranteed civil rights you like; after all, I sometimes drive over the speed limit!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:19 PM on May 26, 2011 [20 favorites]


I assume you and everyone else pointing that out has never, ever ignored law, like drinking underage, toting up, speeding etc?

When I drank as a teen, I never grabbed some other kid by the throat and forced alcohol into him.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:20 PM on May 26, 2011 [29 favorites]


I assume you and everyone else pointing that out has never, ever ignored law, like drinking underage, toting up, speeding etc?

Those are covered in the constitution's well known "drinking underage, toting up, speeding etc" clause.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:21 PM on May 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


Here's a surprising article from World Net(ut) Daily actually in favor of no prayer before school events..

How much will it cost to send all of Bastrop, Louisiana to Hawaii for the football game?
posted by Leezie at 5:21 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I assume you and everyone else pointing that out has never, ever ignored law, like drinking underage, toting up, speeding etc?

Man, I guess that time I jaywalked means it's ethically ok for me to start some grand larceny and murder! False binaries is totally the way to reason one's way through life!

You don't have to be a strict constitutionalist to say, "Hmm, forced participation in religion, or suffer death threats? What other places now, and before in history, has this led to problems?"
posted by yeloson at 5:24 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Those are covered in the constitution's well known "drinking underage, toting up, speeding etc" clause.

AKA, the "Constitutional Opposites Day" amendment.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:25 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If the community wants to have a prayer at graduation, let'em have the prayer.

So the community -- or, at least, the portion of the community whose wishes should be respected -- only includes those of a certain kind of Christian faith.

And that's a big problem. Government support of religion contributes to the attitude that the "community" is partly defined by its religion, and that people who don't conform aren't properly part of the community. It encourages viciousness against those folks. You don't have to look hard in order to find other examples of others who have been punished and ostracized for failing to believe the right thing.

In countries that are less fervently religious than the US, this is not as big of a problem. The religious do not generally feel as entitled or as vicious. Inside the US, from my personal experience, the support--or not--of the school in promoting a certain kind of belief does make a difference for those unfortunate others.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:26 PM on May 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


Not to pile on Brandon Blatcher for offering an opposing viewpoint, but separation of church and state isn't one of those "just for fun" laws. It's a fundamental philosophical idea that has constant, real, positive, and important ramifications in our lives. It is, in fact, a Big Deal whenever any state actor crosses that line, no matter how insular the community or unimportant the organization. This kid's actions are not foolish or naive, or not just foolish and naive. They really are an example for all good citizens. He acted rightly and for a good cause, and I think that in the long run, he's better off without his parents in his life until they can find love in their hearts instead of judgement and hate. May he find greener pastures elsewhere. Perhaps Vermont.
posted by jsturgill at 5:28 PM on May 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


I assume you and everyone else pointing that out has never, ever ignored law, like drinking underage, toting up, speeding etc?

No in official government capacity, nope!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:29 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


hippybear: Sorry about that. I was the OP, and you're absolutely right. I let my emotions get the better of me on this one.

Part of why this resonated deeply for me is that something like this happened to me. When I was a kid, I was in Cub Scouts. I loved it, and thought it was a ton of fun. I was proud to be a Scout. In fact, my Mom was a Den Mother. However, I'll never forget when I and a few friends of mine (I was a Jew, and they were Muslims) went to the Packmaster to ask about the Benediction that opened every Pack meeting. It was a blessing specifically prayed "in Jesus's name" and we were asking politely to have it changed to something non-denominational and non-specific. The Packmaster and his family were born again Christians, and he reacted quite harshly to our request. He thought we were rude, insulting, and threatened to kick us out of the pack. When our parents got involved, he threatened to quit. From what I understand, they basically told him to go right ahead. A few months later, we had a new Packmaster (a father of a kid I went to Hebrew School with). The blessing was changed to something non-denominational and life went on.
posted by zooropa at 5:32 PM on May 26, 2011 [31 favorites]


One other thing ...

I hate to seem like I'm trivializing this by quoting a fictional TV show, but there was a great scene in an early "West Wing" episode that dramatized this perfectly:

"It's the fourth grader who gets his ass kicked at recess 'cause he sat out the voluntary prayer in homeroom. It's another way of making kids different from other kids when they're required by law to be there." - Toby Ziegler
posted by zooropa at 5:33 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Mother of God in Nazareth, I guess we're still pack animals at heart, no matter what veneer of civil society or morality you paint over us.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:33 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you aren't going to act like Jesus has told you to act, why do you think He is going to appreciate your prayer?

It's because most Christians are Christians in name only, but don't even realize it. Don't even realize it, even thought some of them actually have read the Bible. They are blind, blinded by prior conception of what the words mean, blinded by interpretation.

Fred Clark of slacktivist wrote a great post on the phenomenon.
posted by JHarris at 5:34 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


While we are on the topic, surprisingly I am not for mandated prayer at civic events. 99 percent of the time the prayer is so watered down for an American Civic god that the real Jehovah probably wants to puke. So, what's the point?

To me prayer is a pretty sacred thing that I take very seriously. Not a token talisman to be trotted out to "bless" an occasion.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:35 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Leezie, the WorldNet article about school prayer that you linked to was great reading! On one hand, I was pleased to see a religious person take a sensible position on forced prayer, on the other hand it's a little sad that the author had to be on the receiving end of community coercion before he arrived at that position.
posted by Triplanetary at 5:35 PM on May 26, 2011


If you rain on everyone's parade, don't be surprised when lighting strikes. He was probably too young and immature to fully understand what he was pushing for, but damn he was being a huge jerk for demanding that no prayer be said. Pick your battles, kid.

Brandon, I might be on board with your comment if "lightning strikes" meant "people were offended" or "kindof up in the kid's face" or something like that.

"Pick your battles" is always good advice. And it's plausible to argue that the establishment clause doesn't prohibit prayer at public events (compulsory participation, absolutely, but a prayer on the program, not necessarily, and prayer offered by a speaker, absolutely not).

But I can't think of any reasonable standard by which a kid ought to expect abuse/death threats and being kicked out of their parents house for anything like this.
posted by namespan at 5:35 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


AKA, the "Constitutional Opposites Day" amendment.

No. In Americaland, the Constitution is a divinely inspired document. As such, a graduation incantation is perfectly cromulent part of the ceremony.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:37 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a surprising article from World Net(ut) Daily actually in favor of no prayer before school events..
Wow. It's refreshing to see someone learning from experience, rather than exploding in a white-hot fury of righteous indignation. Thanks for posting that.
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 5:38 PM on May 26, 2011


Being a strict Constitutionalist doesn't really help anybody on this issue, in my opinion. If the community wants to have a prayer at graduation, let'em have the prayer. Lawyering up and telling people that must obey the law on this is silly and stirs up bad feelings.

Why, naturally! Why won't she just sit in the back of the bus, instead of kicking up a fuss, Lawyering up and telling people that must obey the law on this is silly and stirs up bad feelings, after all. But that would be outrageous, huh? Don't we see it all the time - when my group is attacked, why that's outrageous, but fuck the gays, because gays are not my group, it's not important to me. It's important to atheists... or even non-Christians? Well fuck 'em and their Constitutional rights. I'll remember that support for me, an atheist, when it comes time to defend the rights of some aggrieved group or another. And here I thought that this should not be just a matter for atheists (or Jews, or Muslims or...) - that it should be for Christians too - defending the Constitution should not be just a job of the aggrieved party, but a job FOR ALL OF US!

Disgusting.
posted by VikingSword at 5:39 PM on May 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


Just in case some people have missed it, here's a video of the prayer at the graduation rehearsal, complete with a good thirty seconds of cheering and whooping when the students realize the constitution won't be respected, and here's video of the actual ceremony, where basically the same thing happens. I've been following this since Damon's original post on r/atheism, and while the actions of the community have totally appalled me, it's great to see how much support the internet can provide the disenfranchised. And for good measure here's an AMA on Reddit featuring Damon and two other high schoolers who've been pushing the same issue at their respective schools.
posted by Dr. Christ at 5:40 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The brother of one of my students a couple of years ago announced to his class that he was an atheist (in 5th grade), and when another student asked what an atheist was, a parent who was helping out answered that an atheist was someone who was too stupid to understand that Christ died for his sins.

The parent caught a shitstorm and had to apologize to the student in front of the whole class. This was in a conservative area in California, which in my experience is so different from being conservative in, say, Mississippi (where half my family is from) they might as well come up with a different name for it.
posted by Huck500 at 5:40 PM on May 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


I hate to seem like I'm trivializing this by quoting a fictional TV show
Better The West Wing than The Real Housewives of [Major Metropolitan Area]. :)
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 5:42 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are plenty of uber liberal European and Asian countries that have no problem with prayer within certain institutionalized contexts. It's a formalism.
The UK still has a state run church and claims that their king or queen is the leader of said church. Most of these countries have a tradition of being Christian nations.
He was probably too young and immature to fully understand what he was pushing for, but damn he was being a huge jerk for demanding that no prayer be said. Pick your battles, kid.
Yeah, god forbid people actually demand to have the constitution followed.
Lawyering up and telling people that must obey the law on this is silly and stirs up bad feelings.


I know, just like all those workplace bitches who keep complaining about "sexual harassment"

There is a huge difference between asking that individuals obey the law and asking that governments obey the constitution.
posted by delmoi at 5:43 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


In Americaland, the Constitution is a divinely inspired document.

Well, SOME say it was divinely inspired.

Others tell a different tale.
posted by hippybear at 5:44 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


And I know you said "fictional", but I prefer to believe those people are just characters. Makes me a little less sad for humanity.
posted by and miles to go before I sleep at 5:44 PM on May 26, 2011


Ia! Ia!
posted by hippybear at 5:44 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


He was hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community.

I think this brave young man has learned the hard lesson that this isn't his community. I hope he escapes it.
posted by stroke_count at 5:45 PM on May 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


I know, just like all those workplace bitches who keep complaining about "sexual harassment"

This made me giggle.
posted by Leezie at 5:46 PM on May 26, 2011


"Hmm, forced participation in religion, or suffer death threats?

Listening to a prayer at a graduation ceremony isn't forced participation. That said, no one should be threatening the child and there should be a ton of adults looking after his safety, especially his messed up parents.

OH YOU WIN SORRY. Go ahead public institutions, it's a free for all, spend taxpayer money undermining any constitutionally guaranteed civil rights you like; after all, I sometimes drive over the speed limit!

Mind you, that's not what I said, nor endorsed. If the the school was having prayer regularly, I'd be "Aw hell no, don't even try it" But a prayer at graduation? Sheesh, that's nothing. Some of the kids could probably use all the prayers they could get.

So the community -- or, at least, the portion of the community whose wishes should be respected -- only includes those of a certain kind of Christian faith.

To be clear, my point here is that making a fuss and threatening the principal over a prayer wasn't smart and doesn't do anything except make Christians more entrenched in their beliefs. I'm totally down with separation of Church and State and any school that attempts anything other than a prayer at graduation should be hauled into court.

There's the law and then there's the grey area, where something is technically wrong, but one should ask if it's necessary to push certain situations. This is one of the those times, IMO, of course. It appears we may have to agree to disagree.

Of course, now that there's a ton of people threatening a kid, their lame asses should be hauled off the police station, no question.

But I can't think of any reasonable standard by which a kid ought to expect abuse/death threats and being kicked out of their parents house for anything like this.

I completely agree with that and nothing I've written indicates otherwise.

Note: I can not reply to everyone's individual comment. It's just not humanly possible. Apologies if I've skipped over your comment, I'm not trying to duck you. I'm just hitting the big points, since we're clearly not agree or come to any understanding here.

On preview:
I hate to seem like I'm trivializing this by quoting a fictional TV show, but there was a great scene in an early "West Wing" episode that dramatized this perfectly:

"It's the fourth grader who gets his ass kicked at recess 'cause he sat out the voluntary prayer in homeroom. It's another way of making kids different from other kids when they're required by law to be there." - Toby Ziegler


1. The kid wasn't threatened beforehand. All he had to do was endure a couple minutes of prayer.

2. There's another great scene in West Wing, where Charlie is questioning why the President and others are going off to mass at an official function. The President says Yeah, technically it's illegal and wrong, but eh, it's what we do, it's a tradition in this situation, so not a big deal. Sorkin wrote it much better than I'm paraphrasing of course.

On preview again:
I know, just like all those workplace bitches who keep complaining about "sexual harassment"

This is why we can't have nice conversations.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:47 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think this brave young man has learned the hard lesson that this isn't his community. I hope he escapes it.

Sounds like he's in Dallas with his sister and brother.
posted by Leezie at 5:48 PM on May 26, 2011


Oops, missed one:
Actually, Brandon, I'm pretty sure I've never infringed on anyone's civil rights.

It doesn't sound like the kid's civil rights were violated before his name was leaked,.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:51 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Brandon, I actually understand your point, although I disagree with it vehemently. I think my best response is just to say that if we only hold to our ideals when they're convenient, then we have no grasp of them at all.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:52 PM on May 26, 2011 [43 favorites]


Freedom of religion is a civil right. And, for many of us, this includes freedom from state sponsored religion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:52 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]



1. The kid wasn't threatened beforehand. All he had to do was endure a couple minutes of prayer.


For real, you are thinking that a kid with those kinds of parents in that kind of community wasn't dealing with 18 years of this shit being forced down his throat?

You really need to stop posting.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:52 PM on May 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm totally down with separation of Church and State and any school that attempts anything other than a prayer at graduation should be hauled into court.

Oy gevalt.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:53 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good to know that some think there are rights that can be safely ignored - even as fundamental as the first amendment, because otherwise "it would stir up bad feelings" in a community. There were plenty of such people who told "the Yankees" to butt out of the South and that defending someone's constitutional rights was merely "stirring up bad feelings" in their community, so why don't these meddling outsiders go away and leave things be as they've always been. Very, very revealing for someone on metafilter to support these attitudes. Of course there is another view: rights are non-negotiable, period, end of story. Because once you start to negotiate MY rights away, there can be no solidarity, and soon everyone's rights will be negotiated away.
posted by VikingSword at 5:55 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whatever happened to the good old fashioned moment of silence? We don't get enough of silence and we need it. Lots of it.
posted by tommasz at 5:59 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Why are you atheists so angry?"

Oh, I dunno, really. Good point. Must remember that one.
posted by Decani at 6:04 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


If the the school was having prayer regularly, I'd be "Aw hell no, don't even try it" But a prayer at graduation? Sheesh, that's nothing. Some of the kids could probably use all the prayers they could get.

You called this kid a jerk because he doesn't know which officially-sanctioned public school prayers Brandon Blatcher is cool with, and which Brandon Blatcher isn't cool with.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:06 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Not to pile on Brandon Blatcher for offering an opposing viewpoint...

Why not? If you rain on everyone's parade, don't be surprised when lighting strikes.
posted by Benjy at 6:08 PM on May 26, 2011 [28 favorites]


Good on this kid, I hope he can use his scholarship fund and get the fuck out of Dodge.
posted by maxwelton at 6:08 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think there's a good possibility the kid had his trollface on when he sent the letter to his school superintendent, whether he was on the right side of the constitution or not. I think perhaps he is finding how easily trolled his community is, and 'successful troll is successful' does not necessarily translate to lulz.

I think it's a shame the community reacted the way it did, and not just because it helps cement the association of the terms 'ignorant redneck' and 'evangelical Christian' in my mind. It makes me sad that people seem to bond best when they've found an Other to hate.
posted by Mooski at 6:09 PM on May 26, 2011


Brandon Blatcher >:

1. The kid wasn't threatened beforehand. All he had to do was endure a couple minutes of prayer.

The point I was trying to make by quoting "West Wing" (upon further review, the episode was "Shibboleth") was that it's not just enduring a couple minutes of prayer. It's really not. Kids (not just adults) can be cruel, and when you're sitting there silently 'enduring' prayer, you still stand out. You're the Other.

I am Jewish, and I have attended many functions over the years where a prayer "in Jesus's name" was said (see my post about the Cub Scouts). I stood silently and respectfully said nothing, but still had to endure the glares of incredulity and incomprehension from people. On more than a few occasions, I've been taken aside and told I was being rude for not participating.

I don't know if you've ever had to endure this kind of treatment for being an Other. I truly and genuinely hope you never have to.

2. There's another great scene in West Wing, where Charlie is questioning why the President and others are going off to mass at an official function. The President says Yeah, technically it's illegal and wrong, but eh, it's what we do, it's a tradition in this situation, so not a big deal. Sorkin wrote it much better than I'm paraphrasing of course.

Great episode -- "The Red Mass". Here's the quote I think you're referring to (via WestWingTranscripts.com):

CHARLIE
I've got it. You mind if I ask you something about Red Mass I'm curious about?

BARTLET
So how isn't it a Constitutional issue? It is, but sometimes you say, "Big deal." It was the intention not to have a national religion, not to have anyone's religious views imposed on anyone else, and not to have the government encourage a national display of piety as a substitute for real action.



BTW, Brandon, I really respect you for coming back and answering a lot of the replies to your original post. Seriously. I may respectfully disagree with your viewpoint, but boy we need opposing viewpoints, and I'll defend your right to have a voice and say it any day.
posted by zooropa at 6:10 PM on May 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oh, but these people are not the real christians, they too are just a small nonrepresentative bunch of wakoes...


1. The kid wasn't threatened beforehand. All he had to do was endure a couple minutes of prayer.

Yeah, man. All the bitch had to do was sit at the back of goddamned bus....
posted by c13 at 6:13 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have to say the Catholics (or at least the Congregacion St Croix, the order which educated me from grades 5 through 12) manage to comport themselves a bit better in this regard nowadays. My parents were Baptist but they sent me to a Catholic school because in New Orleans, a Catholic founded city, those are simply the best institutions even for a secular education.

But while as a protestant I was exempted from participating in religious ceremonies, I was required to learn the basics of Catholicism and more importantly the basics of other major world religions too. That semester destroyed my faith as thoroughly as a bulldozer running over a sandcastle. It was clear and obvious that the faith my parents hewed to was no different than that of those other people who lived elsewhere and thought so differently. It was all obviously hogwash.

I wasn't exactly shy about this. But the school tolerated me, and even gave me an award on graduation for my dedication to "the search for truth." (I'm sure it didn't hurt that I also scored about 5 standard deviations out on every standardized test I ever took.) I got flack from the other students for being a geek but I never got any flack from anybody, student or faculty, for being an atheist.

It's funny because we unbelievers tend to associate the Catholics with things like the massacre of the Cathars and the Inquisition, seeing the Protestants as liberal reformers. But part of it may be that the Catholics learned a hard lesson hundreds of years ago and the Protestants have not inherited that wisdom.

I'd probably feel a bit less generous to them, though, if I was or was involved with a woman of child-bearing age.
posted by localroger at 6:14 PM on May 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


You know what, Brandon, I guess I do have one more thing to say (for now), which is that I'm frankly surprised to see you so obviously victim blaming. I may be wrong, but it just seems out of character to me. It's like you're saying, yeah, you know they went too far, what happened was wrong, but he should have known better than to ask them to uphold the law while walking alone at night in that part of town with such a short skirt while wearing a pink turban with the wrong school's mascott on it. Really, Brandon? You're going to bring school mascotts into it?

I can't spell tonight. I have to get back to work. I had to turn this into a joke because I'm actually pretty upset. Not at anyone here. Fuck. Later.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:15 PM on May 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


I have an interesting perspective on the question of prayer in schools and public places, because I was raised in a church which believed that people of differing faiths should not pray together--and that included most other denominations of Protestant Christianity, to the extent that there were always arguments in the ranks about whether our pastors should attend ecumenical prayer services. The idea of school prayer was like, unpossible by my church's standards. You get a Wisconsin Lutheran kid praying next to a heathen ELCA kid next to a goddamn pagan Catholic and who knows what's next but it probably involves cats and dogs getting along and it certainly was not okay.

Whatever, I didn't have to go to my school's convocation ceremony and that was just fine by me.
posted by padraigin at 6:22 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I got flack from the other students for being a geek but I never got any flack from anybody, student or faculty, for being an atheist.

Worth noting that I experienced the same in my Catholic High School.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:25 PM on May 26, 2011


The kid's got 20K in that scholarship fund which should get him through a year or two of a state college (remember his parents cut off their support for him). I'm unemployed but I'm chipping in 10 bucks for him. Some of you guys please chip in using zooropa's link at he top of the page.

I relate to this on several levels, the being not-Christian in a Christian world thing, the being cut off by your parents thing.... I hope this kid comes out of this OK.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:26 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


A. It's not "divine retribution." Just garden-variety bigotry.

B. I don't care if this kid was as obnoxious, opinionated, or arrogant, or whatever sin is supposed to make these actions ok. Nothing makes it ok to bully him or for fuck's sake, kick him out of his fucking house. It's his parents that deserve a public shaming, complete with rotten vegetables and eggs.
posted by emjaybee at 6:30 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


And remember the atheist community that took him in.
damn dirty atheists, stole community from the church folk.
I mean COME ON!

I think, therefore a heretic, that jesus would have said
let him speak.
posted by clavdivs at 6:30 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


and i love jesus, so.
posted by clavdivs at 6:31 PM on May 26, 2011


Brandon:He was probably too young and immature to fully understand what he was pushing for, but damn he was being a huge jerk for demanding that no prayer be said.

So if you were an employee of mine, you'd feel Ok if at the end of every day we all stopped for a bit and had a minute of prayer which concluded with the phrase "in Satan's name, Amen" ? How would you feel, Dude? Because that's how it feels when someone who is non-Christian is forced to be a part of a Christian prayer group.

I think the kid knew exactly what he was doing and my guess is that me may have turned Atheist due to antics like these from the Christians that he knew.

I'm not dissing Christians per se - just the radical extreme Christians
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:33 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Brandon, I actually understand your point, although I disagree with it vehemently. I think my best response is just to say that if we only hold to our ideals when they're convenient, then we have no grasp of them at all.

Fair enough and thanks for saying that. I think that the all or nothing approach on this doesn't work and actively divides people.

For real, you are thinking that a kid with those kinds of parents in that kind of community wasn't dealing with 18 years of this shit being forced down his throat?

I don't know. It's certainly possible, sure. Many religious people act or react in ways that are against their faith when challenged or feeling threatened.

Of course there is another view: rights are non-negotiable, period, end of story. Because once you start to negotiate MY rights away, there can be no solidarity, and soon everyone's rights will be negotiated away.

We're talking five minutes at a public high school graduation. People are going to have to hear a lot of crap they to want to listen to in their life. The end of the world isn't coming because of this. If it was, it would have happened centuries ago.

You called this kid a jerk because he doesn't know which officially-sanctioned public school prayers Brandon Blatcher is cool with, and which Brandon Blatcher isn't cool with.

No, I called him a huge jerk for threatening the principal with the ACLU over a prayer at graduation. It was flat out selfish and small minded. If you don't like it. hum some Marilyn Manson to yourself and get on with your life (I wore headphones). But attempting to get the prayer banned is just petty. You're not going to change them or their minds by doing so. Living well is the best revenge.

The point I was trying to make by quoting "West Wing" (upon further review, the episode was "Shibboleth") was that it's not just enduring a couple minutes of prayer.

I get that, but that was what he was trying to get banned, a couple of minutes of prayer. Maybe it as a make or break point for him, or some symbol. But if you're going to buck the system and attempt to ban something everyone wants, you can't expect others to be happy about that..

I don't know if you've ever had to endure this kind of treatment for being an Other. I truly and genuinely hope you never have to.

Was raised Roman Catholic, went to Catholic school grades 1-8 and was pretty damn sure God didn't exist by second grade. I live in the American South. Make of that what you will.

On preview:
which is that I'm frankly surprised to see you so obviously victim blaming. I may be wrong, but it just seems out of character to me. It's like you're saying, yeah, you know they went too far, what happened was wrong, but he should have known better than to ask them to uphold the law while walking alone at night in that part of town with such a short skirt while wearing a pink turban with the wrong school's mascott on it. Really, Brandon? You're going to bring school mascotts into it?

Unsurprisingly, I wouldn't call it victim blaming, but common sense. Which admittedly teenagers are not known for having. If you're going to threaten someone i.e. up the stakes like that, then you better be prepared for them to...do something. You can not pull out a gun and expect others to pull out a sword.

I've repeatedly said that the community reaction to him was completely wrong. That doesn't make his initial action right or justified though.

Take it easy Florence, hope your evening goes better.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:35 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


When I drank as a teen, I never grabbed some other kid by the throat and forced alcohol into him.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:20 PM on May 26 [8 favorites +] [!]


Then I submit, my friend, that you never truly lived.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:39 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


So if you were an employee of mine, you'd feel Ok if at the end of every day we all stopped for a bit and had a minute of prayer which concluded with the phrase "in Satan's name, Amen" ? How would you feel, Dude?

Pretty interested, I've never worked for a Satanist, so there would be lots of questions. Then I'd probably get bored and tell you I'm skipping the prayers. I'm such an awesome employee you wouldn't care.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:39 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're talking five minutes at a public high school graduation.

If principles are not considered important in such trivial circumstances, when are they considered important?
posted by localroger at 6:39 PM on May 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Clarification: Because if you don't think principles are important for trivia, you certainly won't when big money and influence is at stake.
posted by localroger at 6:43 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


A. It's not "divine retribution." Just garden-variety bigotry.

Funny thing about the gods is they always outsource everything.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:44 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


funny thing is about god is the outsourced gods.
posted by clavdivs at 6:47 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pretty interested, I've never worked for a Satanist, so there would be lots of questions. Then I'd probably get bored and tell you I'm skipping the prayers.

I can tell that you have never ever been in this situation. I have.

In public elementary school I was forced to sit and listen to the Lord's Prayer. If I left, I would be guaranteed a low "Citizenship" score.

In the military, basic training I was forced to attend an evangelistic service on Sunday. If I left I would have been put in jail. There were repercussions for that but it's beside the point...

When I was homeless I was forced to attend two evangelistic services a day. It was my option of course, the other option being that I could sleep on a park bench and die.

Your glib response does not serve you well. In the real world had you "skipped the prayers" your next employee eval would have been sub-par and you would shortly be leaving the company. This sort of crap still occurs today

I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and believe that you are merely ignorant of the realities involved due to lack of life experience in matters like these. I think the blow-back that you are receiving from numerous posters here should make a sensible person stop, think and maybe re-evaluate their views of the world.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:51 PM on May 26, 2011 [44 favorites]


It's funny because we unbelievers tend to associate the Catholics with things like the massacre of the Cathars and the Inquisition, seeing the Protestants as liberal reformers. But part of it may be that the Catholics learned a hard lesson hundreds of years ago and the Protestants have not inherited that wisdom.

I may be biased here, because I was raised Catholic (and tangentially, was not forced to endure Catholic schooling), however, I think you're right on the money. Literally everything about this story rubs me the wrong way. These people should not be allowed to call themselves Christians.

I'd argue that the post further upthread making snarky remarks about Christians being prosecuted is actually right on the mark for Catholics, who are increasingly alone in the sea of American Christianity. JFK's election was marred by absurd accusations that he'd be more loyal to the pope than to the American people, which were later repeated about Biden in the past election cycle.

In spite of what Ratzinger says and does, the Catholic church came out swinging in support of immigration reform and single-payer universal healthcare. Catholic Charities USA is the second largest social services provider in the US, surpassed only by the federal government. The vast majority of their work is completely non-evangelical. There are also plenty of pockets of Catholicism that offer tacit approval of homosexuality, mainly as an acknowledgment of the huge number of gay clergy, even though this differs from official church doctrine.

There are still plenty of things I disagree with The Church on, and made the important distinction of describing myself as "raised Catholic" earlier in this comment, because of these things (and am somewhat surprised at myself for making a spirited defense of The Church). However, as a whole, I find a whole lot more to like about Catholicism than mainstream Christianity (or even mainstream political philosophy) in the US. Be good to other people -- is that so hard?
posted by schmod at 6:51 PM on May 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


deadmessenger - that's one of the best examples of hypocrisy I've seen, and it is based on the source of the word "hypocrisy"!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:06 PM on May 26, 2011


Brandon Blatcher,

Is this the cross you want to die on?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:08 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If principles are not considered important in such trivial circumstances, when are they considered important?

When they have a chance at effecting change. Let's imagine things had gone better: The principal forbids the prayer at graduation, the kid is never found out so isn't threatened, what's the upshot? You've got a lot of pissed off Christians who are in less of mood to respect others.

An ideal situation, in my mind, would be that the kid or someone reads verses from the Koran or Tora or the atheist equivalent. Everyone gets their five minutes, graduation over, life goes on.

Clarification: Because if you don't think principles are important for trivia, you certainly won't when big money and influence is at stake.

I don't see why not. Trivia is, by its definition, of little worth or importance. Of course it doesn't mean one ignores all the small stuff, but yeah, some of it you do let float on by, 'cause it's not worth the fight. Pick your battles, yadda yadda...

In the real world had you "skipped the prayers" your next employee eval would have been sub-par and you would shortly be leaving the company.

Your life experiences are not mine. One of my previous bosses was a hard core Christian who could not understand why anyone would or even could be an atheist. We got along fine, had some decent, sometimes heated talks ( he couldn't understand how I could be moral if I didn't believe in God). Neither of us changed our mind, but we got along.

Like I said earlier, was brought up Catholic, was sent, yes sent, to Catholic school until grade 9 and even had to deal with crap in public school. It wasn't anything horrible, (was beat up for other reasons), but I'm not unfamiliar with running that metaphorical and literal gauntlet.

I think the blow-back that you are receiving from numerous posters here should make a sensible person stop, think and maybe re-evaluate their views of the world.

So you're saying the kid who started all of this should stop and re-evaluate his views?

Is this the cross you want to die on?

I can't tell if you're serious or joking. If serious, you're gonna have to spell out what you mean.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:15 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Brandon: Really it all comes down to whether you believe in civil rights , in this case with regard to religion, or you don't.

If you do then you tend to think this kid is a hero. If you don't then I imagine you think this kid is a pain in the butt. I wonder how happy you would personally be today if Rosa Parks decided to just shut the fuck up and move to the back of the bus. Me, I believe that lady was a hero, same with this kid.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 7:26 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


When I drank as a teen, I never grabbed some other kid by the throat and forced alcohol into him.

But...but...are you saying all those Peer Pressure videos we watched in middle school were LIES?!
posted by straight at 7:29 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a Christian, I am adamantly opposed to prayer in school. When discussing my position with (generally more-conservative) Christian friends who favor school prayer, I put on my best shocked face and say:

"Really? You trust government schools to teach your kids how to pray? What kind of parent are you?"
posted by straight at 7:32 PM on May 26, 2011 [18 favorites]


And it's plausible to argue that the establishment clause doesn't prohibit prayer at public events (compulsory participation, absolutely, but a prayer on the program, not necessarily, and prayer offered by a speaker, absolutely not).

The Supreme Court has ruled very specifically and clearly that school-led prayer at these kinds of events is unconstitutional. I don't feel like finding the cite so you'll just have to trust me. Whether a student can say a prayer within their speech is a more complex issue, but it's cut and dried that the school itself can't lead a prayer, nor can they essentially use a student to get around their inability to lead a prayer.

So it's plausible, but you'd have to ignore long-standing precedents set by the Supreme Court.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:41 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's a small grouping of cases, actually. Engel v. Vitale found that state officials couldn't compose a prayer to be recited in schools. Lee v. Weisman found that clergy-led prayer at school events wasn't allowed. And finally, Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe found that student-led prayer at school events wasn't allowed.
posted by hippybear at 8:05 PM on May 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


Brandon: You know, my first impulse when I heard this story (kid pisses off other kids because he threatens his school with the ACLU over a prayer) was the same as yours. Partly because I hadn't heard the rest of the story. Partly because even at my most God-hating, I was fairly apathetic. So a religion wants to waste five minutes of my life? See if I care.

But I'm not going to assume that everybody has got the same cheery relationship with religion that I've got, where the worst I've ever seen as an atheist is that once a girl told me I'd go to hell if I didn't find Jesus and I laughed in her face and called her some names and she cried. Some people have a legitimate bone to pick with religion. Some people have had it forced in their faces all their life. Some people have been truly hurt by people operating under some religion banner or another.

And more importantly, while I can understand a bunch of vaguely religious kids getting pissy because one kid tried to "infringe" on their "rights" to religion (and I can totally understand kids being stupid enough to think that freedom of religion means they have freedom to public prayer, because kids are idiots), the response of the school and all the adults in this situation are disgusting. The school had an opportunity to back up this kid, use it as a lesson to teach tolerance and even empathy to its students ("remember that what might seem like a small issue to you might be something that somebody else cares about deeply"), and to make efforts to strongly discourage other students from harassing him. Instead, it seems like the school has if anything egged on the people who want to target this student.

The school's behaving shittily, this kid's parents are behaving shittily. That teacher ought to get canned, because there is nothing fucking more irresponsible than badmouthing one of your own kids in a way that encourages other students to follow suit. That's as bad as sexual harassment in my book. You do not fucking take sides against a student, especially not to the fucking public.

And as much as I would have been apathetic about that prayer, constitutional or no, the fact remains that the highest law in our nation is on this kid's side, and if he decides he has a beef with it, he is entitled as a U.S. citizen to that beef. Open and shut case. He's in the right. Everybody who disagrees with that kid is in the wrong. Everybody who goes out of their way to make that kid feel bad for what he did is worse than wrong, they're immature, irresponsible, and pretty un-Christian, too.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:08 PM on May 26, 2011 [19 favorites]


I don't see why not. Trivia is, by its definition, of little worth or importance. Of course it doesn't mean one ignores all the small stuff, but yeah, some of it you do let float on by, 'cause it's not worth the fight.

But see here's the point, it's trivial FOR YOU. It's not worth the fight TO YOU, but hey it was worth it, thankfully, to a lot of other people. I'm the product of an interfaith relationship and yeah let me tell you some of the things people say to me (for example, recently a doctor neighbor who is also a practicing Irish Catholic asked me how I know right from wrong) and the attitudes I was subjected to in school, even WITHOUT prayer, ensured that I felt like an outsider. Last time I checked that's not what community is supposed to be about.

There's no reason why I, or anyone, should have to "endure" a few minutes thanking Jesus or Buddha or Odin at a public school graduation. You know why? If it's important to you to thank whomever, you can do it privately without making others who do not share your faith feel ostracized. After all, that spirit of inclusiveness is what the community SHOULD be celebrating and that can be done with a moment of reflection or a non-denominational moment of thanks.

Considering how powerfully some communities lobby for christian prayer to be let into schools (even my very very liberal hometown had a knockdown drag out fight about prayer in schools) defying them from trampling on his freedom of religion is pretty important NOT JUST FOR THIS TOWN but for other kids in similar circumstances. Clearly some others here feel the same. If you haven't felt like this, well, hey it's trivial for you, but that whole "This isn't my life experience" thing, you might consider that for some of us this is pretty important not just because it's about civil rights, but because there's absolutely no reason at an event like this students should have to "endure" feeling ostracized. After all, if it's trivial, then there shouldn't be a problem cutting it out of the ceremony, right?
posted by miss-lapin at 8:09 PM on May 26, 2011 [22 favorites]


Evidence against the oft-repeated notion that "coming out as atheist isn't comparable to coming out as gay." (Spoken as a gay man and an atheist who grew up in the bible belt).
posted by treepour at 8:13 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


When they have a chance at effecting change. Let's imagine things had gone better: The principal forbids the prayer at graduation, the kid is never found out so isn't threatened, what's the upshot? You've got a lot of pissed off Christians who are in less of mood to respect others.

Brandon: do you seriously think never challenging someone's views is going to change their mind, or that collective silence will cause that person to change their behavior?

We've moved from injustice anywhere being a threat to justice everywhere to, "Hey, don't make such a big deal about the obliteration of your rights as an American citizen. The majority taking it away from you may get offended."

I don't know what happened to that progressive spirit that demanded our rights, period, but I'm sure as fuck getting tired of this collective cowardice being praised as polite. Cowardice is cowardice is cowardice, and if more people had the same courage of this kid, the injustice would probably end.
posted by notion at 8:26 PM on May 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "To be clear, my point here is that making a fuss and threatening the principal over a prayer wasn't smart and doesn't do anything except make Christians more entrenched in their beliefs."

Who was trying to change other peoples' beliefs?

I was raised in a very unusual, uncommon religion; for one year, one other kid at school was the same religion as me, once. Out of 13 years, k-12 public school.

Every single remotely religious thing that my--public--schools did was Christian flavored. Every time. There was a brief nod one year to Jews, in the middle of a Christian event. Every one was grating, exclusionary, and showed that my civil rights weren't as important as those of the local majority.

If I had had a clue how to do it, I'd have brought in the ACLU to my high school's graduation. I did object to the prayer, but all that happened was that the *really* outspoken evangelical girl didn't get to lead the prayer. There was still a very Christian one. Why should any of those Christians have to pull back from celebrating their Christian-ness at this very important ceremony in their lives? Yeah, my first amendment rights are really important in this world; the Constitution really matters to the people who are in authority. Yep.

Five minutes at one single event does matter. Five minutes of "my religion is important and yours isn't" is too much.
posted by galadriel at 8:33 PM on May 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh, but these people are not the real christians, they too are just a small nonrepresentative bunch of wakoes...

Which are the ones that voted for things like Prop 8 in California? The "representative" or the "nonrepresentative"?
posted by Brocktoon at 8:40 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's funny because we unbelievers tend to associate the Catholics with things like the massacre of the Cathars and the Inquisition, seeing the Protestants as liberal reformers. But part of it may be that the Catholics learned a hard lesson hundreds of years ago and the Protestants have not inherited that wisdom.

Whoa there on the sweeping generalizations about "Protestants" - it's are a diverse bunch. We* Episcopalians,** for example, are generally not responsible for such bad behavior

* OK I'm an atheist, but Episcopalian-raised.
**The Episcopal Church is maybe not the best example, given the debates about just how Protestant we really are. I expect that the more liberal branches of Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc. can sub in just fine here, though.
posted by naoko at 8:44 PM on May 26, 2011


The Supreme Court has ruled very specifically and clearly that school-led prayer at these kinds of events is unconstitutional.

It's also self-centered and rude.

When I was in high school, I got asked sometimes to stand up and say a prayer at stuff like the band awards banquet. This was 1986 in Ohio, so it was probably illegal, but I guess they must've thought it was okay and "unofficial" if a student was doing it rather than a teacher. I never heard anyone complain about it.

But I had a friend who was Jewish. I asked her if it made her uncomfortable having someone get up and pray, "in Jesus' name," as I did. She said that it did. So the next time I was asked to do it, I said no. When I explained, the teacher asked if I couldn't offer a more generic, inclusive prayer. I said there was no way I was going to change the way I pray to please an audience, as if I were really talking to the crowd and not to God.

I think the teacher ended up giving a vague benediction before the event. Sadly, I probably thought it was inoffensive, not really thinking at the time about atheists, which I'm sure we must've had, although I didn't know anyone who identified themselves that way.

But for me, the issue was: It's not my band banquet. My Jewish friend was just as much a member of the band as I was.

At home or at church, I'll pray the way I think is right, but the school is not my home. Atheists, Muslims, Jews and other minorities are not guests or intruders. They are citizens, and the school belongs to all of us.
posted by straight at 8:46 PM on May 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


Brandon, it seems like your experiences have caused you to be submissive. As a way to get through the day without getting picked on you wanted to fade away and draw the least amount of attention as possible. In doing so you effectively allowed those same people to walk all over you, when you should've stood up for yourself. If you have to get an authority (such as parents, teachers or a third party) involved then that's what you have to do.

Like this kid did.
posted by JakeEXTREME at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


This kid has serious balls and will go places in life. I became student vice president in my high school during my senior year. I later realized that meant I had to give the convocation prayer at graduation.

As the event approached, I got threatened on several occasions by good Christians who knew me to be not so down with their Jesus sandwich. There was no way I was going to give a good Christian prayer and they knew it. Physical threats. From classmates that were previously sorta friends, sorta stupid future town folk. So, I got a summer job and an excuse to leave town and never looked back.

This kid is a genuine American hero in the most classical and true sense of those words.
posted by astrobiophysican at 9:06 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's one thing to ignore the prayer, it's another to threaten an entire community. Tolerance goes both ways.

I'd love to take some heat off Brandon Blatcher.
posted by Avenger50 at 9:15 PM on May 26, 2011


Avenger50: "It's one thing to ignore the prayer, it's another to threaten an entire community. Tolerance goes both ways."

Fuck that shit.

His "threat" was to ask that known his known and explicit legal rights be observed. There is no responsibility to tolerate prejudice, especially when the prejudicial act is explicitly illegal.
posted by idiopath at 9:41 PM on May 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


Fuck that shit.

Way to get your point across.

I just agree with Brandon Blatcher that threatening to call the ACLU probably isn't the most effective way to disagree with people's religious beliefs.

And the frankly enraged reaction to that point is kind of ridiculous.
posted by Avenger50 at 9:54 PM on May 26, 2011


It's a pretty cut-and-dried case. The one Supreme Court case I didn't list earlier, Wallace v. Jaffree, explicitly says that a "moment of silence" also isn't constitutional when it's mandated as part of a school function.

So the prayer would have been unconstitutional, the moment of silence would have been unconstitutional, and the student-led prayer which did occur was also unconstitutional.

It's not like none of this has already been hashed out. These are all issues which have already been questioned, carried through multiple rounds of judicial decisions, and finally at the highest court in the land have been found that they violate the First Amendment.

I suppose the argument could be made that the students don't actually HAVE to attend their graduation ceremony... But wait. Santa Fe ID v. Doe was about football games... those are optional, just like a graduation ceremony theoretically would be.

So yeah... It's pretty well established that there isn't any place in public school functions for prayer, whether it's dictated or a moment of silence or whatever.

Really, this school district should be taken to task for every year they had a prayer or moment of silence as part of the graduation ceremony since 2000, when the most recent of these cases was settled. One could even say, for every instance since 1962, when the first of them was settled, but we'll be generous and say since 2000.

Exactly how is the law of the land supposed to be enforced if people don't speak up when they are being violated, anyway?

Perhaps this student should have allowed the graduation to proceed as planned and recorded the entire thing and saved the printed program and then turned all that over to the ACLU to make a huge stink and have the District spend a lot of money defending itself in court? I think he was taking the better path by trying to keep them from violating the decided law of the land ahead of time rather than feeding them the rope they needed to hang themselves and then pulling the noose tight.
posted by hippybear at 9:57 PM on May 26, 2011 [16 favorites]


Avenger50: you referred to this kid as "threatening a community" because he simply wanted to prevent something that was illegal, and that personally bothered him.

I note that neither you nor BB has suggested any solution other than "doing nothing at all" - but it's irrelevant - it's his right to do this - in fact, I'd think it's his civic bloody obligation to prevent his community from doing something that is both illegal and immoral.

And were I a Christian, I'd be offended at the suggestion that the Christian community is so weak that it's "threatened" by someone simply exercising his legal rights.

When it comes down to it, this is a story of a large majority ganging up to impose their will on a tiny minority. This would be offensive enough even if it wasn't actually prohibited by law...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:03 PM on May 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


I just agree with Brandon Blatcher that threatening to call the ACLU probably isn't the most effective way to disagree with people's religious beliefs.

You misunderstand. His goal was not to "disagree with people's religious beliefs," it was to ensure that his civil rights were respected.
posted by dialetheia at 10:04 PM on May 26, 2011 [19 favorites]


Anyone who thinks this kid should have kept his mouth shut is a sorry excuse for an American.
posted by nicwolff at 10:04 PM on May 26, 2011 [19 favorites]


i think he was absolutely right to object to a school sponsored prayer at graduation and for the school to leak his name was utterly petty - and the community reaction was outrageously hard-hearted and mean - however, laci, the student who decided to do her own prayer was within her first amendment rights of free speech to do so - just as another student would be within hers to praise satan, buddha or the flying spaghetti monster

and his parents? - they'll live to regret that, i'm sure - they don't love him - they love their idea of what a child should be
posted by pyramid termite at 10:06 PM on May 26, 2011


however, laci, the student who decided to do her own prayer was within her first amendment rights of free speech to do so

Well, I'm not so sure the Supreme Court would agree with you about that being within the student's rights.
The Court held that the policy allowing the student led prayer at the football games was unconstitutional. The majority opinion, written by Justice Stevens depended on Lee v. Weisman. It held that these pre-game prayers delivered "on school property, at school-sponsored events, over the school's public address system, by a speaker representing the student body, under the supervision of school faculty, and pursuant to a school policy that explicitly and implicitly encourages public prayer" are not private, but public speech. "Regardless of the listener's support for, or objection to, the message, an objective Santa Fe High School student will unquestionably perceive the inevitable pregame prayer as stamped with her school's seal of approval."*
posted by hippybear at 10:09 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's one thing to ignore the prayer, it's another to threaten an entire community. Tolerance goes both ways.

He threatened them, i.e. the school, with lawyers? Because they were breaking the law? He should have been more tolerant of the lawbreaking and the civil rights abuses if he expected to receive his civil rights? Thanks for your input.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:13 PM on May 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


I am a stone-cold, aetheist, baby-eating liberal. But:

I think there gets to a point in the whole "but, but...the constitution!!!" argument where really, if you're placing some sort of abstract idea over peoples feelings, you're kind of being a dick. If you're Rand Paul and you're saying "well, I think that business owners should be allowed to discriminate based on race if they REALLY want to, because to force them otherwise is unconstitutional," well, you're really fucking over all of the minorities that a policy like that is going to severely hurt.

In this case, a majority of his school wanted to do a prayer. A school prayer happening during graduation was by no means preventing this kid from living the best life that he could. It is not infringing on his rights or his lifestyle. They could have prayed the shit out of their ceremony while he twiddled his thumbs and spaced out. He probably could have left the room while they did it if he really wanted to. But no, he contacted the ACLU and shat on their party and he did it because he knew it would stir up some shit real nice.

That doesn't mean I'm not rooting for him, or I think anyone would ever in a million lifetimes deserve to be bullied or disowned by their parents. And sometimes the shit needs to be stirred to bring awareness to these sorts of things, to speed up the process of achieving an even more secular nation.

But still...I don't know, I'm sort of drunk and honestly I think the whole school prayer thing is kind of a non-issue culture-war-distraction type of deal. I don't know, feel free to refute the shit out of me as I would love to be 100% on this kids side instead of just 85%.
posted by windbox at 10:14 PM on May 26, 2011


it all comes down to whether you believe in civil rights , in this case with regard to religion

especially when the prejudicial act is explicitly illegal.

A lot of unmitigated confidence here that a prayer at graduation is a grievous violation of the establishment and free exercise clauses.
posted by namespan at 10:32 PM on May 26, 2011


> In this case, a majority of his school wanted to do a prayer.

This has been explained before but a majority wanting to do something doesn't make it right. In this case, the majority wished to force everyone, including the non-Christian minority, to participate in their religious ceremonies.

If they wanted a prayer, they could have gone off to any church and had one.

There's another point, and that's that your explanation is assuming that the rest of the community has respected his right not to be a Christian until this point and that they just wanted to make an exception on this one day. I imagine exactly the reverse is true - that there wasn't a single day when the kid didn't have Christianity forced on him.

> A lot of unmitigated confidence here that a prayer at graduation is a grievous violation of the establishment and free exercise clauses.

This confidence is probably due to the lengthy legal history of this question which has been extensively quoted in this thread, as opposed to your comment, which casts doubt on this idea without actually saying it's false or, you know, supplying some sort of actual argument or evidence....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:35 PM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


A lot of unmitigated confidence here that a prayer at graduation is a grievous violation of the establishment and free exercise clauses.

Yes, almost as if the Supreme Court had ruled on such a thing and those specific rulings had been listed and discussed multiple times in this thread.
posted by naoko at 10:39 PM on May 26, 2011 [17 favorites]


In this case, the majority wished to force everyone, including the non-Christian minority, to participate in their religious ceremonies.

Listening = participation?

By this argument, you are being forced into complicity with the very opinion I'm typing right now if you read it.

It's a tremendous amount of power, and I find it kind of heady, really. Why, I can "force" you into participating in such statements as "white people are better than black people" and "women who are raped are asking for it."
posted by namespan at 10:40 PM on May 26, 2011


namespan: have you even read this thread? have you read any of the Supreme Court cases having to do with school prayer that have been linked here already? Or are you just saying things without any real basis in legal opinion? Because you're sounding kind of uninformed right now.

If you have information which pertains to the Supreme Court decisions which we are not aware of that supports your ideas, I'd welcome you linking them here.
posted by hippybear at 10:44 PM on May 26, 2011


The issue, I think, is that prayer in school enforces already existing prejudice. Growing up atheist in Salt Lake City, I felt downright fucking miserable not praying along with everyone else, and feeling everyone's mild disgust/pity towards me, like I was a defect born "without an organ to hear."

When that othering is sanctioned by an establishment that you have to interact with 5 days a week, you begin to feel subhuman and that your rights aren't important. It's not a question of simply not participating with the prayer, because THAT'S the issue - your nonparticipation is what they find offensive and what they will judge you on. If you participated, no one would give a shit.

Good on this kid. It took guts, and I hope he keeps them.
posted by OrangeDrink at 10:49 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


If the prayer is a trivial matter why would anyone wish to violate civil rights to engage in it? If Christians are serious about this prayer, as they seem to be, it not only violates the constitution but is contrary to the tenets of their own religion (in Matthew 6, as has been pointed out). There really is no good defense of this prayer in school.

This year we have this bible belt kid taking on school prayer and last year it was the girl in Mississippi, who wanted to wear a tuxedo and take her girlfriend to the prom. These kids just keep on giving me hope for the South.
posted by Anitanola at 10:57 PM on May 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've seen enough horror movies to know that when you name your kid "Damon", that means they are the spawn of Satan. Clearly that's what happened here.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:58 PM on May 26, 2011


As Poet_Lariat pointed out, this poor kid needs your support. He was kicked out from his community and from his own home because he stood up for his legal rights, and those of countless others who suffer in silence. I have a job, so I donated $50. Give what you can; here is the link again.
posted by Triplanetary at 11:21 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nothing to see here, just God's gentle people at work.
posted by dantsea at 11:31 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is really only one right answer here - obeying the highest law of the land. This is not a trivial, or small issue. It's the very first amendment to our constitution. Issues which have been decided, unequivocally by the Supreme Court of the United States. There is no gray here. There is no nuance. Our constitution, as interpreted by the SCOTUS, draws a bright line here. Anybody, who suggests that someone whose constitutional rights are being brazenly violated is a "jerk" for demanding that the highest law of the land be followed, is unequivocally wrong. It is deplorable and ignorant to argue anything else. But it is duly noted that there are those who are ready to sacrifice somebody else's most basic rights, and ready to call the victim a "jerk" for demanding nothing more than that his fundamental constitutional rights not be violated. This fact will throw a harsh light on any future argument such people make when it comes to their own civil rights, or those of their community or those that they care about.
posted by VikingSword at 11:40 PM on May 26, 2011 [8 favorites]


windbox: "I am a stone-cold, aetheist, baby-eating liberal. But:

I think there gets to a point in the whole "but, but...the constitution!!!" argument where really, if you're placing some sort of abstract idea over peoples feelings, you're kind of being a dick.
"

It's not an abstract idea to want your school not to treat you as sub-human and worthy of respect. It's not fucking abstract to be KICKED OUT OF HOME.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 11:43 PM on May 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


have you read any of the Supreme Court cases having to do with school prayer that have been linked here already? Or are you just saying things without any real basis in legal opinion?

Do you consider all the court's rulings sacrosanct, or are there any you disagree with?

If I were to scan your recent metafilter history for, say, discussion on various 4th amendment cases, would I find any argument from you that the courts have ruled poorly?

Those rulings are backed up with legal reasoning too, but they aren't the only informed legal opinions out there, and in my lay opinion, a lot of the recent 4th rulings have over-marginalized it through overemphasis on some legal concerns and not enough on others, and I don't think that's OK even though the courts say so. Do you?

My thinking on some of the school prayer rulings has some parallels. I think a lot of the jumping up and down on the establishment clause has actually led to some marginalization of the free exercise clause and possibly even freedom of speech.

I don't think there's harm or an establishment of state religion when a benediction or invocation is included in a public functions. I think it might be credible to argue there's harm from, say, recitations of the Lord's Prayer (to pull from Poet_Lariat's example) or prayer institutionalization at frequent events. I think there's definite harm where actual participation (not just listening) is directed or public officials begin to offer direction as to the form religious expression should take, and most of all if ecclesiastical authority has the force of law. But none of this is what I see in the context of prayers at high school graduation. Or for that matter, prayers on the program in national inaugural events.

(And the part I really feel strongly about: while I can at least understand how the hostility to programmed prayers might grow out of enthusiasm for the establishment clause, I don't think anyone can go to the place where they're willing to condemn prayers that are offered by student speakers as part of their non-prayer-designated speeches without essentially joining the crowd of people who will sell out the free speech portion of the 1st for speech they don't agree with. And don't have much high ground from which to sternly lecture people on the importance of constitutional rights.)

I had the same fighty reaction to what I was reading in Brandon's comment as a lot of people apparently did when I was reading it as "blame the victim" stuff, and I still don't think there's any reasonable standard by which anybody should expect retaliation in the form of threats and being cut off from ones family. I don't have any sympathy for the way the Bastrop community seems to treat people who assert their rights — even if I disagree with the grounds for the assertion.

But the more I read Brandon's followups, the more I think I'm more on the same page than I initially thought. I do think communities should be able to have milestone ceremonies which include expressions of beauty and faith (whether in Jesus, physics, Moses, human potential, Ayn Rand, the Singularity, what have you) from among its members, and those within the community who don't share that faith should be able to tolerate that as it's essentially another speech. There are so many other contexts in which this skill has to be practiced in order for a civil society to exist that I'm not sure why religion should necessarily be an exception.
posted by namespan at 11:44 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sitting through speeches in which students continuously thank "my lord Jesus" for "getting me here" is bad enough. Schools and other institutions should not allow the "free exercise" of religion under their auspices because fundamentally none of their functions are related to religion. The assignment of agency to a supernatural being is personal; let the invocation of that being remain personal.

The fact that the community impulse calls for this religious practice is evidence against the public prayer, not for; remember that human beings, as part of their social group-building, love to exclude. If you feed the majority the idea that their religion is officially sanctioned, they become more exclusionary. It isn't simply five minutes of meaningless babble; its meaning derives from the fact that 90% of the group listening to the invocation now believe that everyone believes as they do. The smaller the minority, the worse this is, the more personal the exclusion becomes.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:12 AM on May 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Do you consider all the court's rulings sacrosanct,

More sacrosanct in this case than your opinion, yes.
And if I have to choose between the two ...
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:14 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't consider anything sacrosanct. That's rather the point.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:22 AM on May 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I do think communities should be able to have milestone ceremonies which include expressions of beauty and faith

That's a bunch of crap, right there. Only the majority will get to express their idea of what they consider beautiful, and thank the deity they worship.

Public prayer during public ceremonies is smug, condescending, hurtful, exclusionary, self-congratulatory, pat-yourself-on-the-back bullshit of the most venal kind. If there was a god, they would surely turn their face away in disgust from such a squalid spectacle being promoted in their name.
posted by maxwelton at 12:25 AM on May 27, 2011 [16 favorites]


This makes me sick. Because I have been that girl who led the prayer anyways. Not in the same context. But I know she's up there thinking that being a Christian makes her better than all the "sinners." It makes her right and him wrong. And that gives her free license to do what she pleases, whether it tramples on the atheists or not. Because God says it's right and that's all that matters.

I am an agnostic with atheist leanings now. All I can say is that if there really is a God, may He or She forgive me for being such a douche when I was a Christian, like that girl.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:28 AM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


(You know, even in a discussion like this where I think the "right" and the "wrong" positions are as close to unambiguously black-and-white as we will ever see... is it too much to ask that we try and talk about this amongst ourselves without sarcasm, sneering, meanness, and anger? It's possible to express an opinion concisely, forcefully, and even wittily without jumping down other users' throats.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:31 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, I don't blame the girl who led the prayer, at all. She's young and doesn't have much experience in life. She is doing what her tradition indicates. Quite understandable. Would it be nice if she was more inclusive - sure, but again, this is a student just starting out who has not lived much in the world outside of school. I direct my ire at the school officials - the very people tasked with educating their students. How are the students supposed to learn even basic civics, if school officials use the power of the state to undermine the most fundamental laws of the land? Wretched.
posted by VikingSword at 12:37 AM on May 27, 2011


And if I have to choose between the two ...

Well, it's more practical to choose the court's ruling, that's for sure.

But is there anything in particular you find compelling about the reasoning in the relevant court opinions weighed against what I had to say, or are you simply appealing to the general authority of the court?

That's a bunch of crap, right there. Only the majority will get to express their idea

Oh, it's not even "the majority." Only the individuals selected will get to express themselves — and not just for the few minutes of prayer you're all excited about, the hour or two of self-congratulatory hurtful-bullshit faux-wisdom speeches too (since we're being cynics about the likely content). Oh, yea, and the music selected. *shakes head* Pablum.

I think you'll find this is also a general problem with life: the views of the majority tend to have higher representation. There are places where I agree this needs to be robustly checked by the state, but areas that are essentially about expression rather than liberty are not generally among them, much less worth going to war over (legally or literally). And where action does need to be taken, I think being less fatalistic about the potential for pluralism is probably a better approach than blanket prohibitions.
posted by namespan at 12:49 AM on May 27, 2011


They should have compromised by leading everyone in this:

While we out here, say the hustlas prayer
If the game shakes me or breaks me
I hope it makes me a better man
Take a better stand
Put money in my moms hand
Get my daughter this college plan, so she don't need no man
Stay far from timid
Only make moves when ya heart's in it
And live the phrase Sky's The Limit
Motherfucker. (see you chumps on top)


Like Jesus, Biggie Smalls had a Life After Death.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:58 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


namespan:But is there anything in particular you find compelling about the reasoning in the relevant court opinions weighed against what I had to say, or are you simply appealing to the general authority of the court?

I'm not going to play the "no matter how you engage me you can't prove me wrong" game with you. If you don't have the empathy to understand that there are other beliefs that need respect besides your own, if you don't have the vision to see an America where one is not forced to accede to the whims of a religious majority , if you don't have the understanding to know the principles upon which our country was founded and the legal understandings that followed then we really do not have much to talk about.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:25 AM on May 27, 2011 [13 favorites]


And as much as I would have been apathetic about that prayer, constitutional or no, the fact remains that the highest law in our nation is on this kid's side, and if he decides he has a beef with it, he is entitled as a U.S. citizen to that beef. Open and shut case. He's in the right. Everybody who disagrees with that kid is in the wrong.

And yet, the prayer at graduation still happened, but now to cheer and clapping. It's become a rallying point, riling up Christians who feel under attack and now the need to be extremely obnoxious with their beliefs. Nothing has changed for the better.

There's no reason why I, or anyone, should have to "endure" a few minutes thanking Jesus or Buddha or Odin at a public school graduation.

There's lots of things you'll have to endure and won't like as adult. A prayer at graduation seems fairly low on the list.

Brandon: do you seriously think never challenging someone's views is going to change their mind, or that collective silence will cause that person to change their behavior?

I can't really answer your question because nothing in it is something I've stated in this thread or believe. I've written, repeatedly, that this specific instance was not worth calling the ACLU over or threatening the principal about. That line of thought is nothing like what you seem to think I wrote or conveyed.

Who was trying to change other peoples' beliefs?

No one, as far I can tell, that's part of the problem. Everyone, the kid and community, came at this with their firmly entrenched beliefs and they're walking away with those beliefs even more firmly entrenched. Both sides failed to reach out and try to live with those who believe differently.

I note that neither you nor BB has suggested any solution other than "doing nothing at all"

You are mistaken.

Brandon, it seems like your experiences have caused you to be submissive. As a way to get through the day without getting picked on you wanted to fade away and draw the least amount of attention as possible.

Yes, that's exactly what's happening in this thread.

This has been explained before but a majority wanting to do something doesn't make it right. In this case, the majority wished to force everyone, including the non-Christian minority, to participate in their religious ceremonies.

Honestly, the language being used here seems overheated and dramatic. It's a prayer, lasting a couple of minutes at most. No one is holding anyone down to listen to it. Hell, most of the kids were probably bored in general and wishing the prayer and other things from the ceremony were shorter. No force was involved.

Again, this is one of things you really can't win, imo, by fighting it head on. People are just hunker down and do what the hell they wanted. You know what a lot of kids probably learned that day. You can ignore the Constitution and nothing will happen. You can get up on stage and do exactly as you believe and you will be lauded for doing so. This is why I'm saying, pick your battles. Otherwise you wind up with these little skirmishes that wind up doing nothing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:16 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


And yet, the prayer at graduation still happened, but now to cheer and clapping. It's become a rallying point, riling up Christians who feel under attack and now the need to be extremely obnoxious with their beliefs. Nothing has changed for the better.

Sure it has. A thousand isolated high-school nonbelievers and doubters have learned that they are not the only ones, and that there are people willing to back them up. That alone makes it worth it.
posted by alexei at 2:37 AM on May 27, 2011 [14 favorites]


Avenger50: "threatening to call the ACLU probably isn't the most effective way to disagree with people's religious beliefs"

It isn't a way of "disagreeing with people's religious beliefs". It is a way of not being forced to participate in religious ceremonies you don't believe in. And not creating a civic society that explicitly endorses beliefs we don't share, and are constitutionally protected from having to share.
posted by idiopath at 2:41 AM on May 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


I grew up in part in a small town in Texas where this sort of thing was commonplace. Official functions where prayers would be made in the name of Jesus. As a Jew I was punished for observing Jewish holidays. Teachers would deliberately schedule tests on those days and refuse to let you take a makeup. You were marked absent instead of being allowed time for religious observance. And they taught the Bible as if it were fact in the classroom. Speak up, and your classmates would beat you up. Silence was safety. Most people learned to keep their mouth shut.

That was wrong then, and it's wrong now.

Brandon, you're not listening. Worse, you're speaking from a position of privilege to people who have not been so fortunate. We have explained to you that this incident does not exist in a vacuum. It is always part of a culture of demeaning ostracism which punishes outsiders and demands conformity. You claim no force was used. There most certainly was. He was being bullied into a religious experience that he had a legal and civil right not to undergo.

Considered the concerted community reaction. These people fought back forcefully when their right to impose their religious beliefs on others was questioned.

Multiple people here have tried to explain this to you. This is not trivial. This was worth standing up for. If you don't understand or can't empathise with our lived experience that's OK.

But this wasn't trivial. And it wasn't just 5 minutes. And it most certainly was not an isolated incident. The kid chose to make a stand. Good for him. Someone should have done it for him long before now so he wouldn't have to.
posted by zarq at 4:20 AM on May 27, 2011 [25 favorites]


That's insulting, selfish, and ignorant.

One person wants to force his viewpoint on the vast majority of the community who want to pray at graduation... and it's the community that selfish?
posted by Dano St at 4:25 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, this kid can take his parents to court, and sue them for support, right? For that matter, perhaps the local Department of Social Services should sue the parents on his behalf. And I believe in most jurisdictions it's unlawful to lock people out of their home without notice. WHy should parents get some mysterious exemption? Seems more reasonable, parents should get exceptional liability.

The idea of kids suing parents is one I originally thought of when I heard of divorce settlements requiring the family bread-winner to pay for college. I thought it was odd that kids with divorced parents had some arguable "right" to college that kids of non-divorced parents lacked.
posted by Goofyy at 4:34 AM on May 27, 2011


Dano St: "One person wants to force his viewpoint on the vast majority of the community"

No. If he were to instead ask everyone to join him in renouncing Jesus, disavowing any belief in God, and proclaiming their independence from all religion, that would be forcing his belief on others.

This is simply requesting that their beliefs are not forced on him.
posted by idiopath at 4:42 AM on May 27, 2011 [18 favorites]


You're right, idiopath. Force was the wrong word there. Adapt perhaps. Anyway, it's the selfish part that I wanted to point out.
posted by Dano St at 4:51 AM on May 27, 2011


The utter hypocrisy ignoring a Biblical admonition printed on the same PAGE as one of the most commonly-recited prayers in Christianity is mind-boggling.

It's fascinating to me how the same people who insist that every word in the Bible is meant to be taken as literal truth feel free to simply ignore the passages that forbid things they want to do.
posted by EarBucket at 4:57 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Silly selfish atheist, wanting the school to obey the law...
posted by the_artificer at 4:59 AM on May 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Brandon, would you have been so relaxed if the speech had said 'I would like to take a moment to praise the [insert choice of 'white'/'heterosexual'/'American born'] community for getting us here, let us all bow our heads to them'? I'm sure that intentional exclusion of any ethnic minority/LGBT/immigrant children isn't the right thing to do.

I'm sure from knowing you that you would disapprove of privilege being wielded against minorities in general. Why doesn't this child with a different belief system deserve the same consideration?
posted by jaduncan at 5:19 AM on May 27, 2011


It is really not that selfish.

If an atheist simply mouths the words of some prayer and doesn't believe a word of it, they may feel lousy about it, and will probably privately feel like a hypocrite, but they probably do not see what they are doing as committing a sin or angering a own jealous god.

The ones for whom the right to abstain from these sorts of services is most important, the people whose conscience they will weigh the heaviest, are religious. Just the wrong religion. Many religions explicitly reject interfaith prayer, even when you actually do interfaith right.

In that light, this is one of the ones who has less to gain standing up for many others in a worse position.
posted by idiopath at 5:23 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's a prayer, lasting a couple of minutes at most. No one is holding anyone down to listen to it.

It would depend on the state and local regulations, but in general you're wrong. The power of the State is being used to hold people down and force them to listen to it, or face punishment. High school graduations are typically not optional, and are instead the last instance of legally-required attendance.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:07 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm flabbergasted by some of the views expressed in this thread. "It's only a couple of minutes!" and "Pick your battles" and "He's selfish" and the like are just appalling.
posted by rtha at 6:18 AM on May 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


Well, I'm not so sure the Supreme Court would agree with you about that being within the student's rights.

Actually, it's virtually certain that they would agree.

While the Court has in recent decades taken a strong turn against "school prayer," it's important to recognize that what they've ruled unconstitutional are attempts to use the power of the state to force people to submit to unwanted prayer.

But at the same time, the Court has quite vigorously protected students' free-expression rights. The short answer is that anytime you're free to say more-or-less whatever you want, that speech can include religious content. Relevant cases include _Mergens_ and _Lamb's Chapel_.

When a valedictorian or similar is allowed to give a speech at graduation in a more-or-less open mike setting, that almost certainly fits the bill. The school is not allowed to tell you that you can give a speech about whatever you want (within the broad constraints of good order)... so long as that isn't god. There are a wide variety of other circumstances where religious expression in public schools is not merely allowed but is actively protected. Not protected because it's religious, but protected in the same way that when you're allowed to say more or less whatever you want, the school can't tell you not to talk about Star Trek.

About the only ways religious content in a student's graduation speech might be ruled impermissible are (1) if the school is involved in pre-approving the student's speech, or (2) if the facts of the case make it clear that it was an attempt to organize forced-prayer.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:21 AM on May 27, 2011


I would like to see how well the Christians in that group would do if, say, forced to attend a Muslim prayer session. My guess is: lawyers on speed dial.
posted by adipocere at 6:28 AM on May 27, 2011 [17 favorites]


ROU_X: I don't disagree with you about the right for speeches to be made on whatever topic.

However, that isn't what happened. This student actually said that she was leading a prayer, which isn't a speech at all. She could have mentioned God all she wanted in her speech. But as soon as you say "join with me in prayer" you've crossed a clear line when it comes to school functions and Supreme Court rulings. And that's pretty much exactly what the student is quoted as saying.

Anyway, the school had already violated SC rulings when they put a "moment of silence" in the program. That's an entirely separate case from the student-led prayer case.
posted by hippybear at 6:32 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Brandon, you're not listening. Worse, you're speaking from a position of privilege to people who have not been so fortunate.

I don't think I am, but I'm open to the criticism.

As I've said before, I'm agnostic, but was raised Roman Catholic, went to Catholic school in grades 1-8 before putting my foot down on religious boarding for grade 9, went off to public high school and still dealt with occasional crap from the those who were religiously intolerant. Currently I live in the American south, which is strongly religious and can get pretty intolerant.

Just mentioning all of that again, so hopefully ya'll understand where I'm coming from. Living as minority, in one form or another, had taught me that picking battles is important to making people rethink their ignorant views on race, sex or whatever. I could get upset about every slight, every utterance of nigger or boy and blasphemer, but to me, it's not worth it. There are good, kind people with screwed up views and it's been my experience that when you're in the same community, it's usually better to gently question rather fight tooth and nail with them. It's not always guarantee of course and there's certainly the question of what and how much one should let slide. It's also important to say that I came these conclusions only in my late '20s, early '30s, so it takes a little experience to deal this stuff.

We have explained to you that this incident does not exist in a vacuum.

Ya'll have explained your backgrounds and life experiences and projected them onto this situation. So have I. Yet that doens't make either one of us right. But I do find it interesting that the kid was complaining a prayer at graduation and not anything else.

Brandon, would you have been so relaxed if the speech had said 'I would like to take a moment to praise the [insert choice of 'white'/'heterosexual'/'American born'] community for getting us here, let us all bow our heads to them'? I'm sure that intentional exclusion of any ethnic minority/LGBT/immigrant children isn't the right thing to do.

Probably. After all, there is freedom of speech, people just have to remember that with that freedom comes responsibility. If the student wanted to say something as ignorant as that, ok then, that's reflection on them, not me.

I'm sure from knowing you that you would disapprove of privilege being wielded against minorities in general. Why doesn't this child with a different belief system deserve the same consideration?

Because it's just a a few minutes of words that he doesn't even believe in. Fowler didn't call up demanding that the school stop allowing prayer or take down religious sign at the school, something I would totally get behind. Sitting through a prayer isn't going to kill him, so I'm not sure why that became and continues to be the issue if all these other horrible things were taking place.

The power of the State is being used to hold people down and force them to listen to it, or face punishment.

That's such a low standard of force, it hurts your point.

I would like to see how well the Christians in that group would do if, say, forced to attend a Muslim prayer session.

That's not what happened here. No one forced the kid to go a prayer session. At most, he was required to attend his graduation, where a prayer occurred.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:35 AM on May 27, 2011


I'm flabbergasted by some of the views expressed in this thread. "It's only a couple of minutes!" and "Pick your battles" and "He's selfish" and the like are just appalling.

If you're flabbergasted, ask questions, try to understand or challenge. Sticking to name calling in a this thread seems sadly ironic.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:39 AM on May 27, 2011


I'm flabbergasted by some of the views expressed in this thread. "It's only a couple of minutes!" and "Pick your battles" and "He's selfish" and the like are just appalling.

The gap between idealism and pragmatism isn't forgiven easily by either side, unfortunately.
posted by Mooski at 6:50 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


What names did I call anyone? I expressed how the opinions of some people here made me feel. How is that ironic?
posted by rtha at 6:51 AM on May 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Because it's just a a few minutes of words that he doesn't even believe in. Fowler didn't call up demanding that the school stop allowing prayer or take down religious sign at the school, something I would totally get behind. Sitting through a prayer isn't going to kill him, so I'm not sure why that became and continues to be the issue if all these other horrible things were taking place.

So is a speech intentionally excluding ethnic minorities/LGBT/immigrants. I ask you again, would you be prepared to say they should merely sit there and put up with it?
posted by jaduncan at 6:53 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


What names did I call anyone? I expressed how the opinions of some people here made me feel. How is that ironic?

It struck me as sadly ironic that in a thread about being othering and not being tolerant, a comment about how appalling someone else's view was made.

So is a speech intentionally excluding ethnic minorities/LGBT/immigrants. I ask you again, would you be prepared to say they should merely sit there and put up with it?

I'm totally prepared to say pick your battles.

If you find that answer frustrating or think it's me ducking the question, I'm ok with that. I've repeatedly said that I found Fowler's threatening the principal with the ACLU over a prayer at a high school graduation jerkish, while also noting that's all I was ok with. If you or anyone else wants to turn that specific line of thought into "Would you be willing to oppress all minorities now," then we're seeing this from two radically different view points that can't really meet in the middle based on how we are currently conversing.

To me the actual situation and your hypothetical are vastly different so trying to compare the two to make point doesn't work.


Question for ya'll. What sort of punishment, if any, do you think should happen, since a prayer was said?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:19 AM on May 27, 2011


Question for ya'll. What sort of punishment, if any, do you think should happen, since a prayer was said?

As far as I can tell, none of the Supreme Court decisions, and the First Amendment itself, do not contain decreed punishments.

I suppose if this student can get some lawyers on his side, he could tie up the student and the school district in court for civil damages for having his right not to be forced to endure school-sanctioned prayer violated.

I would have no problem with that happening.
posted by hippybear at 7:26 AM on May 27, 2011


I would like to see how well the Christians in that group would do if, say, forced to attend a Muslim prayer session.
That's not what happened here. No one forced the kid to go a prayer session. At most, he was required to attend his graduation, where a prayer occurred.


Brandon, what the hell is the difference?

The important part about the freedom of religion is that it prevents the government from adopting one religion over another, because in the past, that has led to the type of wars the tore Europe apart for centuries. So whenever the government compels you to attend something, no one religion can be held up over another. Even if 100% of attendees are the exact same kind of Christian, or Muslim, or Hindu, or whatever, it's still illegal for the government to allow prayer. Enforcing this law is a hell of a lot more important than offending some people who don't value it.
posted by notion at 7:27 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


One person wants to force his viewpoint on the vast majority of the community who want to pray at graduation...

I don't know how many times it needs to be said before some people get it, but he was not forcing his viewpoint on the majority. He was demanding that the majority follow one of the most basic and affirmed tenets of the United States Constitution.

There's a lot of gray area shit that gets debated here. This isn't that.
posted by rollbiz at 7:28 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


me: That's not what happened here. No one forced the kid to go a prayer session. At most, he was required to attend his graduation, where a prayer occurred.

notion: Brandon, what the hell is the difference?


One is ceremony centered around graduation with prayer taking place at one point.

The other is a specific meeting centered around prayer and religion.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:36 AM on May 27, 2011


And the football games were ceremonies centered around sports with prayer taking place at one point. Which the Supreme Court specifically said should not happen.
posted by hippybear at 7:38 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you find that answer frustrating or think it's me ducking the question, I'm ok with that. I've repeatedly said that I found Fowler's threatening the principal with the ACLU over a prayer at a high school graduation jerkish, while also noting that's all I was ok with. If you or anyone else wants to turn that specific line of thought into "Would you be willing to oppress all minorities now," then we're seeing this from two radically different view points that can't really meet in the middle based on how we are currently conversing.

I guess I see this as the same issue. I am just genuinely curious what your separation is between religious othering/prejudice and other forms of it. I mean, on the facts, it is merely a child seeking to use his constitutionally mandated protections for respect of his belief system. I am just curious as to why you see it differently to a black student objecting to the Confederate flag being used (etc etc).

I'd also like to say that I like and respect you, and this is an attempt to probe your view rather than trip you up. I'd just like you to articulate what the difference actually is between this and other anti-discrimination protections.
posted by jaduncan at 7:40 AM on May 27, 2011


I would like to see how well the Christians in that group would do if, say, forced to attend a Muslim prayer session.

That's not what happened here. No one forced the kid to go a prayer session. At most, he was required to attend his graduation, where a prayer occurred.

Brandon, what the hell is the difference?


If you want to go down this road then the equivalent would be attending college in a Muslim country/area and having to sit through a Muslim prayer at the graduation ceremony. I don't think anyone here would be up in arms about that. If fact, they would probably describe it as self determination/freedom of religion.

I'm with BB. This seems like a huge overreaction on the part of the kid (which doesn't excuse what the school/parents did).
posted by Summer at 7:42 AM on May 27, 2011


This is America, not Saudi Arabia.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:44 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to go down this road then the equivalent would be attending college in a Muslim country/area and having to sit through a Muslim prayer at the graduation ceremony. I don't think anyone here would be up in arms about that. If fact, they would probably describe it as self determination/freedom of religion.

...in the United States? I'd have just as much of a problem with that constitutional breach, yes. What would be the difference? It's about discrimination on the basis of religious belief, not who is doing it.

I'm honestly confused as to what you think changes in this situation based on changing the religion involved.
posted by jaduncan at 7:45 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually Summer, that's very close to the 'of course it's OK when [insert minority] does it' line of argument often used about racism/sexism/etc. It's not true here either, and really only serves as a somewhat complex 'but X does it!' argument.
posted by jaduncan at 7:48 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd just like you to articulate what the difference actually is between this and other anti-discrimination protections.

I don't see including a short prayer at a high school graduation as discrimination. Again, no one's forcing you to believe, the local community wants to have a prayer, so I'm inclined to shrug and say "ok, have a prayer if that's part of how you want to celebrate this occasion."

I'm totally fine with prayer being bared from high school sports ceremonies though, as hippybear brought up. To me the difference is one of repeatability and time. A once a year prayer at graduation, ok, I can look the other way. A regular occurrence at high school sports games throughout the year? No, that's bleeding your religious views into into the general student body and should not be tolerated. On a personal level, I find it distasteful because God would have lot more to worry about than your performance at high school game.

If some Christians wanted to pull the "Hey, you said it was ok at graduation, it's not fair that it be banned from sports (or whatever)" I'd say "You're right, we need to completely ban it then, no more prayers at graduation."

In short I'm fine with a little looking the other way for local communities on some things. But just a little and if they want to push it, well then we can got back to not looking the other way.

I would be interested in what the prayer was supposed to be before all of this occurred. I'm guessing it was very different from what the student said.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:56 AM on May 27, 2011


You're speaking to someone who'd like to wipe all religion from public life everywhere, but the reality is that in some places religion is woven into the fabric of life and really this is one of its less obnoxious manifestations. Pick your battles indeed.

I'm honestly confused as to what you think changes in this situation based on changing the religion involved

I wasn't the one who introduced the Muslim angle. The religion involved makes no difference to me.
posted by Summer at 8:00 AM on May 27, 2011


From a country (UK) that actually mandates worship in schools - it's not the prayer, it's the context. Someone wants to stand up there and thank the invisible pink unicorn? Fine. Someone stands up there and implicitly excludes anyone who doesn't worship the invisible pink unicorn from the school community? Not fine. This is a community turning on someone for not fitting in, and that's what's unacceptable, and would still be unacceptable if it was completely legal.

In my multifaith school prayer and hymns were deathly boring things to be endured, like Latin lessons - and because even the believers would rather have been somewhere else they didn't break the school into 'us' and 'them'.

I'm not in favour of prayers in school (I think the fact that they're illegal in the USA is basically awesome), but I think it should be said that this is way beyond that simple issue. This is being turned on by a pack of wolves.
posted by Coobeastie at 8:04 AM on May 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Coobeastie: that is indeed true, and I thank you for reminding me (and this thread) that the legal question about the prayer is probably secondary to the full-on Scarlet Letter ostracism which this young man is currently enduring.
posted by hippybear at 8:13 AM on May 27, 2011


It struck me as sadly ironic that in a thread about being othering and not being tolerant, a comment about how appalling someone else's view was made.

I thought this thread was about someone's Constitutional rights being violated.

In any case, reading my comments can at most have taken you a couple of minutes out of your life, and you aren't even legally required to read this thread or belong to this site. Pick your battles!
posted by rtha at 8:23 AM on May 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Those damn NPR listeners are always "toting up" during the fund drives.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:30 AM on May 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't think anyone here would be up in arms about that.

That's an odd assumption to make. I wouldindeed be "up in arms" about a public school in a predominantly Muslim area of the US sanctioning an exclusively Muslim prayer.

Private schools can do whatever the hell the want. Schools that are supposed to be open to all students should not exclude students who are not part of the cultural majority.
posted by muddgirl at 8:47 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lordsprayer -- is that like some sort of fish shaped Super Soaker ?
posted by y2karl at 8:50 AM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Brandon, I'm really surprised by your views. If I didn't know your long history on this site, I'd think you were poking us with a stick. Many people have told you how this directly affected them when they were in school, and you continually brush it off as "not a big deal" and "just sitting there for 5 minutes." Never mind the constitutional issues; it seems very disrespectful to people's actual lived experience. You may have had similar experiences, but you reacted to them differently.

The problem is not that people are forced to believe - you're right in that he could just wear headphones, and certainly 5 minutes of prayer does not a Christian make. The problem (besides the constitutional issues) is that he and other non-Christians were othered by the prayer's recitation. I mean, what if a student stood up there and said "White people are great!" with no acknowledgement of other groups (assuming the school is majority white). How would a non-white kid feel? Maybe you'd be able to brush it off, but when it happens over and over and over it reinforces the community norms that Those People are not like Us, and that kind of thing spills over into everyday life. It's not just the graduation ceremony. It's never just an isolated event.

This kid lifted the lid off of a huge pot of vitriol. He exposed a community full of frothing hypocrites. Their hyperbolic post facto reaction proves the point that he did not overreact.
posted by desjardins at 9:01 AM on May 27, 2011 [13 favorites]


I suppose "post facto reaction" doesn't make a lot of sense, but whatever
posted by desjardins at 9:02 AM on May 27, 2011


Here's one vote for more tolerance in the world. That is to say that I wish there could be a few moments in any given graduation ceremony for followers of various faiths, or of none, to step up and speak of what the future holds.

It's sad that there has to be such an all or nothing stance instead of simple tolerance and human decency. I think that's along the lines of what Brandon's saying... and I support that wholeheartedly.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:12 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The future holds more tyranny of the majority, so long as victims get labelled intollerant for daring to speak up for their civil rights.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:18 AM on May 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


I have put my money where my obnoxious mouth is. For some reason, helping the kid out seems like the more Christ-like thing to do than taunt him with a Pharisaical 'prayer' of rebuke.
posted by nomisxid at 9:20 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


You may have had similar experiences, but you reacted to them differently.

He's complaining about being Catholic in a Protestant public school.

Catholics still consider Our Father, who still is in heaven, to still have a hallowed name. They still believe his kingdom will still come, his will will still be done just as it is in heaven. They still request their daily bread and forgiveness for their tresspasses. They are still supposed to forgive those who tresspass against them. They are still not lead into temptation and are still delivered from evil.

The reason he doesn't complain about school prayers is because, for the most part, Matthew 6:9-13 doesn't magically change a hell of a lot between Christian denominations. Unless they specifically say something like "and Catholics should go die in a fire those false Christians! PROTESTANT REFORMATION 4EVA GUYS AMIRITE?" he can probably sit there knowing that he's not listening to what he considers an abomination/blasphemy/wrong.
posted by Talez at 9:32 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you'll find this is also a general problem with life: the views of the majority tend to have higher representation. There are places where I agree this needs to be robustly checked by the state, but areas that are essentially about expression rather than liberty are not generally among them, much less worth going to war over.

And the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, draws a pretty clear line. Choice of music at graduation is on one side. Prayers are on the other. Because freedom of religion matters, and no matter how many Christians there are at the school, the graduation ceremony belongs equally to the atheists and Jews and other citizens who are not Christians.

When it comes to music, it's no big deal if the graduation ceremony does not include your musical tastes. But in the USA, religion is more important than that. And it is a big deal if even five minutes of the graduation ceremony is a religious prayer that is only for some of the students and not the others.

There should not be even five minutes that says, "Christians are the real citizens here, the ones who fully belong. Atheists are partly outsiders. Part of this ceremony is not for them, and they can just sit there and be quiet until we get to the part that includes them."
posted by straight at 9:39 AM on May 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


That is to say that I wish there could be a few moments in any given graduation ceremony for followers of various faiths, or of none, to step up and speak of what the future holds.

I think the point is, it doesn't belong IN the graduation ceremony. Religious groups have their own meetings they can attend, and they can call a special one specifically for the graduates if they feel it's necessary. This holds true for all religions or belief systems. Heck, let the non-believers and athiests have a post-graduation bowling tournament or something.

But really, there isn't any place in any function being put on by a public school for religious exhibition of any sort.

Frankly, I'd really like to see the prayers which are said at the beginning of every day in Congress and in state legislative bodies also take out. They don't have any place in any of our secular activities where there is an official representation of the citizenry as a collective happening.

I can put up with the 7th Inning Stretch singing of God Bless America (although I will change the channel or go to the restroom while it's happening). I have no problems with Rotary clubs opening their meetings with prayers. Or whatever that group or event is which is not an official US government function. But like it or not, public schools ARE a function of the government, and as such, they should not have prayers, moments of silence, or any other actions which cross the barrier between church and state. Let the church and the private organizations take care of themselves. The public functions should be secular (not athiest, mind you... SECULAR), and should not involve invocations of any religious or supernatural beliefs as part of their business.
posted by hippybear at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2011


If I didn't know your long history on this site, I'd think you were poking us with a stick. Many people have told you how this directly affected them when they were in school, and you continually brush it off as "not a big deal" and "just sitting there for 5 minutes."

Zarq brought up the same point and I wrote an extended response to him.

Never mind the constitutional issues; it seems very disrespectful to people's actual lived experience. You may have had similar experiences, but you reacted to them differently.

You just argued that the experience of the one wasn't as important as the experience of the many. So majority rules in this instance, is that it?

I mean, what if a student stood up there and said "White people are great!" with no acknowledgement of other groups (assuming the school is majority white). How would a non-white kid feel?

I believe that analogy was addressed here, but if you don't think so or think my reasoning is flawed, I'm all ears.

Fun fact: Basethrop, Louisiana is 60% black so yelling "white people are great" at high school graduation would provoke and interesting response.

The problem (besides the constitutional issues) is that he and other non-Christians were othered by the prayer's recitation.

They were othered before that because, well, they're not Christian in a mostly Christian community. Hearing a prayer a high school graduation doesn't suddenly make them other.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:42 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


If prayer at graduation is so unimportant that it shouldn't be a burden for a nonbeliever to sit through it for five minutes, then it shouldn't be a burden on believers to have a lack of prayer at graduation.
posted by rtha at 9:54 AM on May 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


Question for ya'll. What sort of punishment, if any, do you think should happen, since a prayer was said?

I think that the school board should have said to the valedictorian that it wasn't appropriate to give that speech, and given some small punishment appropriate.

More importantly, I think they should have apologised to the child concerned about it.

They were othered before that because, well, they're not Christian in a mostly Christian community. Hearing a prayer a high school graduation doesn't suddenly make them other.


A thought experiement: They were othered before that because, well, they're not hetrosexual in a mostly hetrosexual community. Hearing a speech about how much better being hetrosexual is at a high school graduation doesn't suddenly make them other.

It might just reenforce their outsider status however, removing the pleasure of their graduation with an absolute rejection by the community for not conforming.
posted by jaduncan at 9:54 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Absolutely boggled by this thread. Gobsmacked. If taking an unambiguously legally correct stand is 'jerkish' then by jove we need more jerks around here.
posted by Skorgu at 9:55 AM on May 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


All he had to do was be othered for five minutes, like he was his entire life!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:56 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


This made me think of Constance, who was told she couldn't bring a same-sex date to her school's prom. The school's decision was ruled to be a violation of her civil rights. Follow-up.

But hey, the prom is voluntary, is one night a year, and the majority should rule, right? She was only discriminated against for one night, so I guess that makes it okay.
posted by rtha at 10:10 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


BB, ultimately you're arguing for removing someone's constitutional rights on the basis of 'oh well, they should suck it up'. I can't agree with that. Not only that, you're arguing that they are jerkish for seeking to have equal rights.

Equality is equality. For everyone regardless of gender, ethnic group, sexuality or religion. If you disagree with that, and disagree that inclusion should be required in the provision of public services I don't really know what to say other than that it saddens me that someone who can absolutely see (and indeed advance) these arguments in the context of discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity doesn't wish to extend the same consideration to others.
posted by jaduncan at 10:10 AM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


4) His parents cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and threw his belongings onto the front porch.

I haven't read this entire thread (sorry I just can't), but I have read all the links and most (if not all) of the links contained within them. Does anybody know the basis of this statement? It, like the other 3 bullet items, is a quote from the alternet link, which goes on the say:
Let's be very, very clear about this one. At a time when their son was being bullied, threatened, publicly pilloried, and ostracized from his school and his community, his parents joined the party
"[J]oined the party" is linked to Fowler's reddit post, which doesn't say anythign about this in the main body. I searched the comments for 'house', 'home', 'kick' and 'porch' and still didn't see anything about it. I did see the update from the brother about not being allowed contact.. Am I missing something?

I ask because the other 3 bullet points do not seem congruent with the level of outrage. Number 2, for example, seems to be about a teacher saying "And what's even more sad is this is a student who really hasn't contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates" when interviewed by the paper. For this, one of the links via the OP called her "an obtuse bitch". I dunno, y'all, who is demeaning who here?
posted by Dano St at 10:14 AM on May 27, 2011


Oh, I think I found it. Well the (possible) financial support part any way.
posted by Dano St at 10:36 AM on May 27, 2011


If prayer at graduation is so unimportant that it shouldn't be a burden for a nonbeliever to sit through it for five minutes, then it shouldn't be a burden on believers to have a lack of prayer at graduation.

Yes and no. The problem is that's been a tradition at the school, so the believers are used to it and people usually freak out over change, especially over their special snowflake one.

But your point is a good one, it's a few minutes either way and isn't going to kill anyone. I'm still inclined to let'em have the prayer though, because it's a big moment and in a community setting and it seems important to them. Yeah, we'll probably have to agree to disagree on that one.

But hey, the prom is voluntary, is one night a year, and the majority should rule, right? She was only discriminated against for one night, so I guess that makes it okay.

No, that was the school actively trying to suppress a particular student while allowing everyone else to have a date. No one was making Fowler pray, demand that he pray or prevent him from not praying, so it's a different situation in my opinion.

BB, ultimately you're arguing for removing someone's constitutional rights on the basis of 'oh well, they should suck it up'.

I have not written anything remotely like that. If you want to have a discussion about this, you can't be putting words in my mouth. There's not much point for me to directly answer your questions when you ignore the answer. It does not appear that we can understand each other's viewpoints on this matter.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:57 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, that was the school actively trying to suppress a particular student while allowing everyone else to have a date. No one was making Fowler pray, demand that he pray or prevent him from not praying, so it's a different situation in my opinion.

Of course she could have a date just like everyone else, with a boy! Suck it up, heterosexuality is tradition!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:00 AM on May 27, 2011


If taking an unambiguously legally correct stand is 'jerkish' then by jove we need more jerks around here.

I've agree with a lot of what Brandon said here, but "jerk" is probably overstated. I can't speak for him, but I expect it is hyperbole echoing off all the other ranting going on.

As for my calling him "selfish," I did actually did not do so. What I said was that he is being more selfish than the community which was originally characterized as such by the comment I quoted. All sides are looking out for their interests first, which is fine and dandy, but if we are going to label any side selfish it seems to me that it clearly lands on the individual asserting his wishes against the wishes of the majority.

About the unambiguously legally correct part, IANAL, but it seems the school district complied with the law. I'm pretty meh on the Constitution stuff anyway. It's a fucking ceremony, he wasn't forced to praise Jesus to earn his degree. My religious beliefs could literally land me in jail, apparently Constitutionally. I deal with it.
posted by Dano St at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2011


the local community wants to have a prayer

Brandon, I think this phrase best characterizes my problem with your opinion and my problem with prayer at an event like this. When you say, "the local community wants a prayer," so he should put up with it, don't you see that you're very strongly implying that the atheist is not really part of the group you're calling "the local community"?

That's the real harm of prayer at school or some other event sponsored by the government. The state should not be allowed to draw lines based on religion which say "These Christians are the real members of the community, and everyone outside this circle is not fully a member of the community."
posted by straight at 11:09 AM on May 27, 2011 [15 favorites]


Not to mention this is the kind of community that actively attacks atheists who get uppity, who the hell knows how many other students he was really speaking for who were too scared to speak up?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:13 AM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't see including a short prayer at a high school graduation as discrimination.

Well, Brandon_Blatcher, that's why everyone's so upset. YOU don't see it as discrimination. But clearly a lot of other people do. (Including the Constitution! And the Supreme Court!)

Can you understand why? Even if you don't necessarily empathize with it?
posted by ErikaB at 11:18 AM on May 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not to mention this is the kind of community that actively attacks atheists who get uppity

Citation for actively attacks? I saw some people cheering and Fowler saying he's heard "rumors of death threats". Please do not confuse some nasty comments made on the internet for the actions of this community.

who the hell knows how many other students he was really speaking for who were too scared to speak up?

According to Fowler, 3.
posted by Dano St at 11:19 AM on May 27, 2011


Dano St: About the unambiguously legally correct part, IANAL, but it seems the school district complied with the law.

If they didn't suggest or endorse the prayer at the ceremony, this may be true. But they would never have complied with the law if this kid hadn't taken a stand, and the kid should not be criticized by anyone for taking that stand.

My religious beliefs could literally land me in jail, apparently Constitutionally. I deal with it.

Please elaborate on this!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:20 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


But they would never have complied with the law if this kid hadn't taken a stand, and the kid should not be criticized by anyone for taking that stand.

Agreed.

Please elaborate on this!

Maybe around 4:20, but prolly not.
posted by Dano St at 11:25 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem is that's been a tradition at the school, so the believers are used to it and people usually freak out over change, especially over their special snowflake one.

All kinds of terrible things are defended on the basis of tradition, and so I am inclined to say "tough shit" to those who would hold their tradition as being paramount over the Constitution. The Constitution itself has a lot of tradition about protecting minority rights from the tyranny of the majority.
posted by rtha at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


Repeated for fucking truth and emphasis:

At home or at church, I'll pray the way I think is right, but the school is not my home. Atheists, Muslims, Jews and other minorities are not guests or intruders. They are citizens, and the school belongs to all of us.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


- straight
posted by joe lisboa at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2011


Citation for actively attacks? I saw some people cheering and Fowler saying he's heard "rumors of death threats". Please do not confuse some nasty comments made on the internet for the actions of this community.

His parents kicked him out, his teacher betrayed him, and his school spitefully used a technicality to do what the law forbade them from doing anyway. This is enough to scare people from speaking up for their rights.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hey, you! You know who I'm talking to: the one out there praying for my soul. Knock it off. I'll die for my own sins, thank you. The sooner, the better, too. There's a lot of them to account for. Crap - here's another one.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:41 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you say, "the local community wants a prayer," so he should put up with it, don't you see that you're very strongly implying that the atheist is not really part of the group you're calling "the local community"?

My choice of wording wasn't "put up with it" but "look the other way", "let is slide" etc. Dealing with a prayer in the context of graduation doesn't seem like a burden and a somewhat silly thing to get angry about. If

But no, I don't see how I'm strongly implying that an atheist is not really part of the group. Obvious he's different and that's fine and he shouldn't be hounded for it, but that doesn't mean he wasn't part of the community. I understand how he could feel different

YOU don't see it as discrimination. But clearly a lot of other people do. (Including the Constitution! And the Supreme Court!)

Can you understand why? Even if you don't necessarily empathize with it?


Sure, it's been said by the Supreme Court that's it's illegal to do and there's the danger of giving the crazy branch of Christianity an inch, 'cause then they'll demand a mile everything while screaming they're a victim in a majority Christian nation. Not fun people, not at all.

But faith seems to matter to a lot people, it's something they need or believe in. I can't say that I understand that need specifically, but I see that need. So I'm inclined to let'em show it at a high school graduation.

Maybe around 4:20, but prolly not.

Call me, PLEASE.

All kinds of terrible things are defended on the basis of tradition, and so I am inclined to say "tough shit" to those who would hold their tradition as being paramount over the Constitution.

I understand what you're saying and would usually agree. On this specific issue, I'm ok with letting it slide, while acknowledging the community of Basetrop had reacted in an astonishingly pisspoor and unchristian manner..

The Constitution itself has a lot of tradition about protecting minority rights from the tyranny of the majority.

Yay, at least three fifths.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:42 AM on May 27, 2011


His parents kicked him out, his teacher betrayed him, and his school spitefully used a technicality...

That's just it. I don't think he's been kicked out. His brother in Texas has disowned the family and said his parents may cut off college support to Damon. It seems Damon is living at home as the brother reports their mother prevents Damon from contacting him.

I've already mentioned the source for the claim of betrayal by the teacher, but here it is again: Mitzi Quinn's quotes here. Are that really publicly demeaning him? Do they really make her an obtuse bitch marginalizing atheists everywhere? She was asked for her opinion and shared it. Mountain meet molehill.

I'm with you on the technicality. Maybe even on the spiteful. But the truth is two individual students choose to say prayers at separate school events. They acknowledged other people believed differently but they were the ones speaking and spoke of what they believed. Then a bunch of people cheered. That's what this entire thing is about, as far as I can tell.

This is enough to scare people from speaking up for their rights.

Agreed. And it sucks and it shouldn't have happened. I just think this isn't a spectacularly horrible example of atheist persecution. But I'm not an atheist so I guess if this is the case that want to compare to Rosa Parks I shouldn't be questioning it.
posted by Dano St at 11:58 AM on May 27, 2011


D'oh...2nd link should be this
posted by Dano St at 12:01 PM on May 27, 2011


Yay, at least three fifths.

Yeah, on the basis of tradition, no less. Awesome, right? I am never, ever going to claim that the Constitution is perfect. I also try very hard to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. That some parts of it suck does not make the good parts bad.

On this specific issue, I'm ok with letting it slide,

Fine. He's not, and the Constitution is on his side. Lots of traditions are traditional and well-loved by lots of people, and yet still harmful, discriminatory, and/or illegal.

I just think this isn't a spectacularly horrible example of atheist persecution.

Something doesn't (and shouldn't) have to be the Most Horrible Thing Ever in order for it to be wrong, and in order for it to have its wrongness called out. And no one is calling this kid Rosa Parks.
posted by rtha at 12:07 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


And no one is calling this kid Rosa Parks.

There are 3 references to "back of the bus" here.
posted by Dano St at 12:13 PM on May 27, 2011


What I said was that he is being more selfish than the community...

Really? More selfish than the community that ostracized him, sent him death threats, and kicked him out of his house?
posted by en forme de poire at 12:16 PM on May 27, 2011


But no, I don't see how I'm strongly implying that an atheist is not really part of the group.

Because you said "the local community wants" the prayer. But the atheist student clearly doesn't want the prayer. So who exactly are you referring to with the noun "the local community"?
posted by straight at 12:21 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


This kid is Rosa Parks. There: I said it. He is just a minority who made a simple choice to stand up for his basic dignity and became a symbol of what happens when you decide to take a stand for what is right in the face of a hostile majority. The community wants a lot of things that aren't necessarily right, but you don't move mountains all at once, you move them one stone at a time. This boy picked his spot to make a stand. Some of you think, why was it worth it to piss off so many over such a trivial thing when it would have been so much easier just to take it. And the answer is simply because so long as people are willing to take it, they will continue to need to. Nothing ever changes without somebody asking for the change. So if you argue that we should shut up and take it, then you are arguing for the status quo. If that's what you want, then please just say so.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:25 PM on May 27, 2011 [14 favorites]


I've already mentioned the source for the claim of betrayal by the teacher, but here it is again: Mitzi Quinn's quotes here. Are that really publicly demeaning him? Do they really make her an obtuse bitch marginalizing atheists everywhere? She was asked for her opinion and shared it. Mountain meet molehill.

The betrayal is the leaking of the name that made the rest of the harassment and shaming and intimidation possible, the teacher publicly insulting him is just the cherry on top.

This is enough to scare people from speaking up for their rights.

Agreed. And it sucks and it shouldn't have happened. I just think this isn't a spectacularly horrible example of atheist persecution.


If you agree it was a community intimidating a minority group into silence over their constitutional rights you can't say it isn't a big deal. Like BB, you are speaking out of both sides of your mouth on this and it's pretty irritating.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:32 PM on May 27, 2011


I think that alongside the standard memorizing and reciting speeches by the likes of MLK and Milk and Lincoln and Jefferson, American children should spend more time reading the counterarguments of the bigots and the separatists and the royalists. We should know what apologizing for the status quo sounds like. We should learn the distinctive odor of "don't rock the boat" and "people hate to change" and "people love their traditions".

There are certain issues and certain times where civility is unconscionable. Where making compromises and not rocking the boat puts you on the wrong side of ethics and of history.
posted by idiopath at 12:33 PM on May 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


There are 3 references to "back of the bus" here.

Oops, you're right. I guess that makes it wrong for him to take the stand where and how he did.

On preview: What IRFH said.
posted by rtha at 12:35 PM on May 27, 2011


I have not written anything remotely like that. If you want to have a discussion about this, you can't be putting words in my mouth. There's not much point for me to directly answer your questions when you ignore the answer. It does not appear that we can understand each other's viewpoints on this matter.

My apologies, it was intended to be a summing up rather than a quote. I paraphrased from:

"Again, no one's forcing you to believe, the local community wants to have a prayer, so I'm inclined to shrug and say "ok, have a prayer if that's part of how you want to celebrate this occasion.""

It's hard not to read that as effectively just saying he should have sucked up the violation of his constitutional rights.
posted by jaduncan at 12:39 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, the "leak". Another bit of murkiness. This is what Fowler says on Reddit:
The school was going to perform a prayer at graduation, but due to me sending the superintendent an email stating it was against Louisiana state law and that I would be forced to contact the ACLU if they ignored me, they ceased it. The school backed down, but that's when the shitstorm rolled in. Everyone is trying to get it back in the ceremony now.
So somehow knowledge of the email got out. A leak from a school administrator is plausible, but Fowler doesn't say that is what happened specifically and there are other possibilities. He did post his name himself on Reddit so he doesn't appear to want to be anonymous, but it seems everyone locally already knew it was him at that point.
posted by Dano St at 12:54 PM on May 27, 2011


Dano, we can take every murky aspect of this and give the community the most charitable possible interpretation, they still end up looking like shit.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:09 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are so many things wrong with the few but vocal supporters of the young man's community it's hard to know where to begin. Let me begin by saying I know myself what it's like to be lorded over (heh) over by a religious majority. I remember being called "kike" in high school. I couldn't get into certain colleges because I prayed to the wrong god. What get's me steamed ( take that Andy Rooney) , among other things, is how people can forget all that.

Take Brandon Blatcher. He claims, in other threads to be Black. If it weren't for people like Damon, who refused to sit at he back of the bus; people like Damon, who marched with Dr. King in Georgia and Alabama ; people like Damon, who refused to go to "the colored schools" even if it meant that they had to be escorted to school by armed National Guard; if it weren't for people like that Brandon Blatcher and his father before him would be figuratively (or literally) toiling away in some god forsaken field somewhere.

I'm picking on Brandon here but I wonder for how many other school prayer supporters in this thread have been helped by the Damon's of the world in similar ways.. It's amazing and utterly frustrating how short some people's memories are and how once they get theirs they seem to forget hat not everyone, everywhere has the same degree of freedoms just yet.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:17 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Take Brandon Blatcher. He claims, in other threads to be Black.

He "claims"? WTF? That kind of rhetoric is not okay, Poet Lariat.
posted by straight at 1:41 PM on May 27, 2011


My bad you're right - bad wording on my part and too much "on the internet no one knows you're not a dog " thinking. My apologies for the bad wording and sentiment.

None of which take away from my actual point.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:47 PM on May 27, 2011


As the event approached, I got threatened on several occasions by good Christians

I think that deserves a 'self-proclaimed' before the good, just for emphasis. They were bad Christians. Or people who called themselves Christians. Given how much time some people spend reading the bible and claim that it is the most important text in the world to them, and their faith is the most important thing to them, it's a never-ending wonder to me how they completely, utterly, totally, profoundly miss the entire fucking point.

It's a bit like knowing a gang of fanatically strict vegans who think that a pig is a vegetable.
posted by reynir at 2:22 PM on May 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


It's a bit like knowing a gang of fanatically strict vegans who think that a pig is a vegetable.

Nicely put!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:25 PM on May 27, 2011


Bacon's not a vegetable? The hell you say!
posted by rtha at 2:34 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Instead of funding a new kiva loan, I donated to this kid's college fund. Because I can totally see this in my son's future. Well, not the being thrown out of the house part, that would be silly, I like him...but I'm probably closest to being secular humanist (maronite catholic escapee), and I live in the groin of bible belt. I started reading myths to Boy well before he was old enough to understand them, and continuously feed him a steady diet of mythology and other fairy tales.

Now that he's eight, he grasps the commonality in all these stories, so when his little friends tell him "You have to believe X, because the bible says Y", he can say "yeah, but that's a much older story, because the Romans believed X, or the Norse believed C, or the Mesopotamians believed X because of Y."

But down here in possum swamp, texas...not being a christian is a dangerous thing to do. So, in the hopes that my son never has to face this situation, I'm willing to help educate this kid; who might grow up to do something that can change it.
posted by dejah420 at 2:48 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, not to worry. BB, would definitely jump in - and has done so in many threads - to tell somebody that as a member of a given minority, he's tired of this stereotype or that stereotype and can people please knock it off - he gets very heated about that... as is his right. And I - an atheist - support him in that. So worry not, BB is very ready to defend his causes. He's only not ready to defend, indeed, he'll deprecate and call a "jerk" someone who is not merely being stereotyped, but whose most fundamental constitutional rights are attacked. And it matters to him not that members of another minority - atheists - tell him in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable. Or that Jews do the same. Or any religious minority. And then it's "well I was a religious minority and I was not offended, I looked away". Fine for you. Not fine for others. Wait, don't we regularly have Southern apologists for slavery trot out some former slave or another to say that according to that former slave, slavery was just fine. It's bullshit. You are not welcome to tell another person why his/her most fundamental rights are OK to be ignored for any amount of time or any occasion, and it's not welcome to call them a jerk for asserting those rights. Certainly a lot of people called those who asserted their civil rights "jerks" and worse merely for asserting those rights, but that just shows those who make such calls in an ugly light.
posted by VikingSword at 3:00 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dano, we can take every murky aspect of this and give the community the most charitable possible interpretation, they still end up looking like shit.

Then why the need to embellish what actually happened?
posted by Dano St at 3:07 PM on May 27, 2011


Then why the need to embellish what actually happened?

I don't feel that you have established that this is the case, but I am agreeing with you that we should look at the verifiable facts which make the case on their own.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:10 PM on May 27, 2011


What is the basis of the claim he was kicked out of his house? Of the leak? Do hear "laugh[ing] condescendingly at the mention of a moment of silence"? I'm not seeing the evidence, just a game of telephone where the 'facts' get more outrageous with every blog post.
posted by Dano St at 3:20 PM on May 27, 2011


Do you hear...
posted by Dano St at 3:22 PM on May 27, 2011


Dude, I agree with you. The AlterNet story has stuff that was not previously reported and is being repeated elsewhere, but it's closer to making stuff up out of whole cloth than embellishment if they made up some of that stuff.

For instance, "He's been told, "Go cry to your mommy... oh, wait. You can't." (A reference to him being disowned by his parents.)

REGARDLESS, what we do know is still enough to make the community look like shit.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:24 PM on May 27, 2011


Fair enough.
posted by Dano St at 3:27 PM on May 27, 2011


I'm not going to play the "no matter how you engage me you can't prove me wrong" game with you.

It's no game. It's a fairly straightforward question: is your agreement with the court (and apparent disagreement with me) based on specific arguments within court opinions that you found compelling, or is it based on simply trusting the authority of the court?

How exactly do you justify extrapolating such a question into the accusation that I'm discussing in bad faith? It's a pretty weird leap, especially considering a bunch of nodes I've made to other positions in-thread. I assure you, I am happy to read and consider court opinions; I don't put time into making multiparagraph contributions to a thread where I'm unwilling to evaluate thoughtful responses. And this weird little piece of meta-rhetoric here seems to amount to an accusation that anybody who has the audacity to repeatedly attempt to make their case is somehow playing games.

And that's before we get to your non-sequitur of insults that followed from the apparent discomfiture at my question, which I'm sure some readers found satisfying, but pretty clearly constitute some rhetorical game-playing of your own.

You don't have to go that route. Your words ostensibly express confidence that my reading of the free exercise and speech portions of the 1st (as providing at least some measure of cover prayers at public functions, among other things) is simply clobbered by eminent legal thinking. I am interested to know what those arguments are. If you can't provide them, hey, it's still okay to have feelings and opinions.

But if you've only got more vague accusations of game playing and lack of empathy and vision and understanding to offer — if for whatever reason you have to rely on that kind of response rather than squeezing out the actual arguments — by all means, don't trouble yourself by "playing that game."
posted by namespan at 3:50 PM on May 27, 2011


Quite separate to the plight of this poor kid, it is interesting to watch a microcosm of the tendency towards aggressive group normalisation of lone voices of dissent to the majority view play itself out in the very thread that discusses the horrificness of it happening in reality, if in a severely watered down version. If you disagree with the people who say that the kid should have just let it slide I personally agree you're right, but remember that there is such a thing as a silent majority, people who's main agenda in life is to get through it without any major hassles and who haven't had the experience that you've had. Their experience is very different and supports their view and while rubbing their nose in their apparent ignorance might be satisfying, it's hardly useful as it creates an intellectual chasm as well as an experiential one. The kid should have definitely been allowed to reject this prayer and the school should have definitely prevented it. The law is the law. However, I don't think calling Brandon names or straight out claiming he's ignorant is going to help the debate, in much the same way that I don't think doing similar to that child will help the debate in this town.

Try to keep it civil people, try to remember that your name calling isn't directed towards anyone in the town in question, it's directed towards someone who's put their point of view across here in direct contradiction to the majority belief. If you can't at least give him some props for that, in this of all threads, I really think you're missing the point.
posted by rudhraigh at 4:24 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just one time, I'd like to see the valedictorian get up to give her speech and at the end, pull out a cup and wand and say, "My religion compels me to call the Four Directions and make invocation to the Goddess! Join me if you like!"

But see, Wiccans would never impose their religion on others like that.

Also, graduation would end with her being burned at the stake.
posted by RedEmma at 4:50 PM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


rudhraigh: "your name calling isn't directed towards anyone in the town in question"

what name calling? is this something I missed, a deleted comment, or what?
posted by idiopath at 5:18 PM on May 27, 2011


The point stands either way, just make the insulters the lone voice of dissent who are being silenced by majority pressure.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:21 PM on May 27, 2011


Before graduation my principal gathered us all together, as he did every year with the senior class, and had a long talk with us about pranks and threatened to withhold our diplomas if we pulled any stunts. I think the girl who led the prayer anyways should be punished. Nothing major, not necessarily withholding her diploma. But perhaps a small fine, with the school saying "you could have gotten us sued and lost us a lot of money." The money could be donated to charity or to school functions, since giving it to that poor kid would likely start a not-minor feud. But it sounds like in this area that would bring even more outrage.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:33 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rather than see anyone punished or further shamed, I would prefer to see a grassroots campaign in the town to raise awareness of constitutional issues and to start a dialogue about what it really means for a community to be inclusive of religious minorities.

HAHAHAHAHA! Oh, man! Sometimes I kill me!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:39 PM on May 27, 2011


Surprised that no one has mentioned Romans 13:1-7 yet — it commands the faithful to obey the law of the land. So not having the prayer would be the Christian thing to do.
posted by Tom-B at 7:23 PM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the girl who led the prayer anyways should be punished.

I think at least an apology might be in order?
posted by naoko at 7:37 PM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


brandon: But no, I don't see how I'm strongly implying that an atheist is not really part of the group.

straight:Because you said "the local community wants" the prayer. But the atheist student clearly doesn't want the prayer. So who exactly are you referring to with the noun "the local community"?


Good point, did miss that. I was probably missing up him being gone with the events leading up to the break. Thanks for pointing that out.

This kid is Rosa Parks.

No, he's not and it's insulting to say that. You can argue that he's brave and has guts, yes. But sending an email vs breaking a immoral law made after hundreds of years of codified slavery and discrimination doesn't make him anything close to a Rosa Parks. He emailed a letter, that's about it.

The betrayal is the leaking of the name that made the rest of the harassment...

His name wasn't leaked. He signed the email Damon F. When other students found out what happened they assumed it was him, asked if it was and he owned up to it. Kudos to him for that.

Like BB, you are speaking out of both sides of your mouth on this and it's pretty irritating.

I'm saying different things to different people about the subject to please whoever I'm currently with? Really?

It's hard not to read that as effectively just saying he should have sucked up the violation of his constitutional rights.

Rather than repeatedly insisting assuming the worst intentions of my words, perhaps you should read where I've explained them.

There are so many things wrong with the few but vocal supporters of the young man's community it's hard to know where to begin.

No one is supporting the completely unreal, inhumane and unChristian behavior of that community. Based on nonfactual sentence, there's nothing else to say about the overheated and condescending rhetoric that blooms throughout the rest of your comment.

He's only not ready to defend, indeed, he'll deprecate and call a "jerk" someone who is not merely being stereotyped, but whose most fundamental constitutional rights are attacked.

Rights? He was being denied what constitutional rights?

As to him being a jerk, I still think he was and pretty naive one at that. If this the worst he can complain about in terms of Christian oppression, then that's pretty lame. He's no Rosa Parks, he's Madelyone O'Hair complaining about astronauts publicly reading from the Bible: so determine to be technically right, he's missing or not caring about anything else.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:47 PM on May 27, 2011



I'm saying different things to different people about the subject to please whoever I'm currently with? Really?


Absolutely, you prick.


All he had to do was endure a couple minutes of prayer.

They were othered before that because, well, they're not Christian in a mostly Christian community. Hearing a prayer a high school graduation doesn't suddenly make them other.


This kid is Rosa Parks.

No, he's not and it's insulting to say that. You can argue that he's brave and has guts, yes. But sending an email vs breaking a immoral law made after hundreds of years of codified slavery and discrimination doesn't make him anything close to a Rosa Parks. He emailed a letter, that's about it.


Religious oppression has a history as long as slavery, contributed to slavery, and should be protested especially in countries that profess to believe in freedom from it, even if you look like a jerk to internet jackasses who want to preach about how unimportant a cause it is.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:01 PM on May 27, 2011


He signed the email Damon F. When other students found out what happened they assumed it was him, asked if it was and he owned up to it.

Good info. Some explanation of the kicked out bit in that thread too. (Sorry for missing your posting earlier, Dr. Christ).

Absolutely, you prick.

Aww, come on, man. It's pretty hard to have impeccable logic when you're side-stepping all the poo that's been flung here at anybody who has expressed disagreement.
posted by Dano St at 8:08 PM on May 27, 2011


Please, attendance isn't compulsory and it takes less than five minutes to read all the insults. He should have just shut his mouth.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:11 PM on May 27, 2011


And ALL THIS POO, please do not confuse some nasty comments made on the internet for the actions of the Metafilter community.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:13 PM on May 27, 2011


I'm saying different things to different people about the subject to please whoever I'm currently with? Really?

Absolutely, you prick.


Not following your logic here, would you care to explain what you mean?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:18 PM on May 27, 2011


All he had to do was endure five minutes out of one side, but he was dealing with it his whole life out the other.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:20 PM on May 27, 2011


Not following you there George. Speak slowly, use big words.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:24 PM on May 27, 2011


All he had to do was endure a couple minutes of prayer.

They were othered before that because, well, they're not Christian in a mostly Christian community

posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:26 PM on May 27, 2011


Not following you there George because I'm wasn't trying to please anyone with those comments.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:32 PM on May 27, 2011


You seriously trying to launch a semantic derail?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:34 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


You brought up a point, I'm not following it, so I'm asking for clarification. If that's a semantic derail, so be it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:37 PM on May 27, 2011



to say different things to different people about the same subject
would be the definition I'm using, I am aware you are not trying to please people by telling them to sit down and shut up when their rights are about to be violated. You are attempting to win an argument, so you are willing to say he should be fine with it because it is only five minutes to one point. To another, you rely the idea that it is not just five minutes but also a previous history of othering.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:43 PM on May 27, 2011


As to him being a jerk, I still think he was and pretty naive one at that.

no, brendan, i think you're wrong about that - i do agree that people need to pick their battles carefully, but the battle he picked - privately informing the school that their plan to have a public prayer as part of a graduation ceremony was a violation of people's constitutional rights - is not the battle he's ended up fighting

that was picked for him when the school chose to leak his name and make him subject to the community's harassment - the decent thing for them to do was to announce that they were not able to have the prayer because they had found out that doing so was against the law - but instead, they chose to passive/aggressively leak his name, knowing that others would do their dirty work for them

you might call his failure to foresee this dirty trick naivete - and maybe it is - but it's not a choice he made - it's a shameful and appalling choice someone in the school made for him

these people aren't followers of jesus - they're the kind of people who got him crucified
posted by pyramid termite at 8:43 PM on May 27, 2011


. You are attempting to win an argument, so you are willing to say he should be fine with it because it is only five minutes to one point. To another, you rely the idea that it is not just five minutes but also a previous history of othering.

No, I'm attempting to explain a point of view. There is not winning in real sense here, what with the name calling, "How could you, I've known you for years" and what not. Not exactly the winning seat here.

As to the rest, you're conflating two different points. There's listening to a few minutes of prayer and then there's the obviousness of being an atheist in predominately Christian community. If his biggest complaint about the latter is having to deal with the former, my thoughts are that he's being petty and jerkish about this.

If viewpoint 'causes you to tell someone to stop posting, call them names and shut their mouth, I'm going just going to note a little irony there.

that was picked for him when the school chose to leak his name and make him subject to the community's harassment -

That's not what happened, see the relevant link in a previous comment.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:57 PM on May 27, 2011


As to the rest, you're conflating two different points. There's listening to a few minutes of prayer and then there's the obviousness of being an atheist in predominately Christian community.

No, they aren't separate. The prayer is a continuation of the othering process. It is innaccurate to say all he had to endure was five minutes, by your own words and by common sense and by the testimony of many people in this thread.

If viewpoint 'causes you to tell someone to stop posting, call them names and shut their mouth, I'm going just going to note a little irony there.

Stop whining, jerk.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:03 PM on May 27, 2011


No, they aren't separate.

Gonna have to agree to disagree there.

The prayer is a continuation of the othering process. It is innaccurate to say all he had to endure was five minutes, by your own words and by common sense and by the testimony of many people in this thread.

The five minutes was referring to the actual prayer, you know the thing he was actually complaining about.

Stop whining, jerk.

Let it out, don't hold back.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:12 PM on May 27, 2011


The five minutes was referring to the actual prayer, you know the thing he was actually complaining about.


All he had to do was endure a couple minutes of prayer.

But we agree that wasn't all he had to endure, he also had to endure 18 years with an extreme Christian family that his brother says would disown him for dissent, years in a community that by your own words othered him, years in a school full of students that are similarly willing, with teachers willing to publicly badmouth him. In silence he endured it because of his family and this community.

So one day, one fucking time, he speaks out.

Jerk.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:22 PM on May 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


As an aside, regardless of the school leaking his name or not they are entirely 100% at fault for everyone knowing his name right now. They created this controversy by putting the prayer on the program when every school administrator in the country knows (or undeniably SHOULD know) it is illegal to do so. A student shouldn't be coerced into having to make the choice he did.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:44 PM on May 27, 2011


But we agree that wasn't all he had to endure, he also had to endure 18 years with an extreme Christian family that his brother says would disown him for dissent, years in a community that by your own words othered him, years in a school full of students that are similarly willing, with teachers willing to publicly badmouth him. In silence he endured it because of his family and this community.

The community didn't other him, he was othered by design/choice/whatever made him choose atheism. That makes anyone an other in a general sense, much like a single male would be an other in a group of women or an Asian person among Spanish. It's other by virtue of being, with no intrinsic right or wrong assigned to it, just is. That's what as meant with "They were othered before that because, well, they're not Christian in a mostly Christian community."

It's not clear what he endured, other than probable bullshit from his parents. In the quote I linked to up above, where he says he signed the email, he also indicates he was known as an atheist. But to what extent and what if any ramifications he faced. His comments on reddit don't mention many specifics.

So one day, one fucking time, he speaks out.

You're spinning a story to suit your own emotional narrative here. It sounds wonderful and uplifting, very David and Goliath, but it doesn't seem to match reality.

On preview:
A student shouldn't be coerced into having to make the choice he did.

That doesn't make any rational sense. He's a big boy, willing to own up to his actions. Don't treat him like a manipulated puppet, unable to think for himself.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:47 PM on May 27, 2011


The community didn't other him, he was othered by design/choice/whatever made him choose atheism.

HOO BOY.

Atheism is NOT A CHOICE. Everyone is born atheist. They don't know what the concept of God is. After that, some people are capable of believing in God. Other people, like myself, are not. I could go dance around in evangelical church every week for the rest of my god damn life and it would not increase my belief in a supernatural human-like ruler of the universe one fucking iota, because GENUINELY BELIEVING IN THINGS IS NOT A CHOICE. I cannot believe that 2+2 is 5. I cannot believe it's not butter. I cannot believe in God.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:55 PM on May 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


The community didn't other him, he was othered by design/choice/whatever made him choose atheism. That makes anyone an other in a general sense, much like a single male would be an other in a group of women or an Asian person among Spanish.

What a load of horseshit.

The problem (besides the constitutional issues) is that he and other non-Christians were othered by the prayer's recitation.

They were othered before that because, well, they're not Christian in a mostly Christian community. Hearing a prayer a high school graduation doesn't suddenly make them other.


You were denying that the prayer othered him on the basis that he was already othered. Either his othering from the prayer was of the same type as the previous or your comment is meaningless since the poster you were replying to was obviously speaking of othering of a different sort.

That doesn't make any rational sense. He's a big boy, willing to own up to his actions. Don't treat him like a manipulated puppet, unable to think for himself.

He was in a coercive situation as soon as he was presented with the choice to have to decide if he should protest a clearly illegal action. It's impossible for you to say otherwise without victim blaming.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:15 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


furiousxgeorge, would you please stop namecalling and making personal atacks? Or just take it to Meta if you can't do that? Please?
posted by zarq at 10:44 PM on May 27, 2011


BB has a thick skin and doesn't mind a few minutes of abuse, calm down, it's just my tradition.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:47 PM on May 27, 2011


It's a shitty direction for you to take a mostly civil thread. It sets a precedent other griefers can point to and say, "well, he got away with it."

it's just my tradition.

An unpleasant one.
posted by zarq at 10:57 PM on May 27, 2011


Nevertheless, I think you should just silently condone this blatant violation of the rules and I'm sure BB would agree.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:01 PM on May 27, 2011


Nevertheless, I think you should just silently condone this blatant violation of the rules and I'm sure BB would agree.

Well it would be consistent with his attitude about the student, at least.

I'm not him.

I flagged your comments. Let the mods decide.
posted by zarq at 11:05 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]



The community didn't other him, he was othered by design/choice/whatever made him choose atheism.


Um WHAT? So the able community doesn't other me, it's whatever made me disabled that othered me? Othering just kinda spontaneously happened and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MAKE UP OF THE PREDOMINATE COMMUNITY or its anxiety? Um, no. Who is The Other shifts depending, partially, on the make-up of the group with power. For example, a friend of mine in college was out when he was in high school. His very conservative high school ostracized him, taunted him, threatened him. Yet, when he came to NYC, he was immediately accepted. So, what changed? Not his sexuality, but the values of the community around him. So you can't say that othering has nothing to do with the community or the make up of the community.
posted by miss-lapin at 11:07 PM on May 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


Also Brandon YOU HAVE admitted that you messed up when you talked about the "local community" but for some reason that didn't cause you to maybe change your position. You said good point and that was it. By doing that YOU took part in that othering process as well. In that context, your the othering happened because of his choice-yet again is 1 victim blaming 2 self serving (self serving in the I don't have to really re-evaluate that maybe I took part in the marginalization this kid feels as an atheist).
posted by miss-lapin at 11:12 PM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Atheism is NOT A CHOICE. Everyone is born atheist.

then how do you explain the propensity of people to adhere to some kind of theism throughout the history of the world?

the whole idea that babies are some kind of tabula rasa that anyone can write anything one wants to upon doesn't seem true to me - whatever your views on god may be, it seems that people have a intrinsic affinity to believe in that - call it native stupidity if you like, but the tendency is obvious

people seem to be wired to believe in things like that - now, you may call that something we need to transcend - and there are many who might claim that god "made" us that way - but at some point, either god inspired someone - or some over imaginative person came up with the concept - but i don't think you can really get away with the proposition that people are born atheist and are somehow persuaded (or brainwashed) otherwise - it doesn't explain how the idea originated in so many cultures or why so many believe in it

i think that people are predisposed to believe in some kind of religion - otherwise, why would most of them do so?
posted by pyramid termite at 11:30 PM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Republican parents end up with Republican kids, more often than not.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:32 PM on May 27, 2011


then how do you explain the propensity of people to adhere to some kind of theism throughout the history of the world?


Cultural conditioning.

Next question.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:57 PM on May 27, 2011


If his biggest complaint about the latter is having to deal with the former, my thoughts are that he's being petty and jerkish about this.

Agreed. Oh, wait. Thought you were speaking in the third person about yourself. My bad. BREAKING: Brandon B is a precious little snowflake. But, hey, if you disagree: just let it slide, bro.

Let it slide.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:03 AM on May 28, 2011


What I said was that "Everyone is born atheist. They don't know what the concept of God is". This is blatently true. Babies don't appreciate object permanence, so they are likely to have equal trouble understanding omnipresence and omniscience, and all the other things that make up a God.

While I believe the memetic quality of religion could be sufficient to explain its ubiquity, I admit the possibility that primitive religious fervor could arise spontaneously in certain individuals, especially those without a basic scientific education. This in no way lessons my certainty that individuals such as myself have never "chosen" to doubt the existence of God, but are forced to do so by the balance of evidence in front of them. Did you choose to believe that fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, the cow says moo and the dog says bow-wow, or did it simply become irresistibly apparent to you based on the evidence?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:06 AM on May 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


What I said was that "Everyone is born atheist. They don't know what the concept of God is". This is blatently true. Babies don't appreciate object permanence, so they are likely to have equal trouble understanding omnipresence and omniscience, and all the other things that make up a God.

and they're just as incapable of understanding the concept of atheism, therefore they cannot be atheists

with your logic, i could claim that rocks were atheists - but it would be a meaningless statement

and the idea of cultural conditioning utterly fails to explain how the culture originated in the first place - why did someone come up with this idea? - why were so many willing to adopt it?

can you really claim that people are essentially atheist, "rational" creatures when so many of them turn out not to be so?

you might as well claim that turtles are really birds

if cats, for example, go after mice, no one questions that they have an innate instinct to go after mice

why do you question that if humans believe in religion, they don't have an innate instinct to believe in it?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:26 AM on May 28, 2011


why do you question that if humans believe in religion, they don't have an innate instinct to believe in it?

Humans are faced with a dangerous, unstable, scary world where the things that happen to them aren't easily explained. Unlike lesser mammals, they have the intelligence to question this. They are aware of their own death, and want (naturally) to survive beyond it. In the absence of complicated, detailed explanations (science) they tend towards simplistic, faith-based explanations (God did it).
posted by Jimbob at 12:42 AM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


and they're just as incapable of understanding the concept of atheism, therefore they cannot be atheists

I'm really talking about agnosticism, a.k.a. "soft atheism". Babies are agnostic - they "don't know". Religion comes later. In the distant past it could have arisen from instinct, but now it is passed from elders to children, or from adherents to converts.

why do you question that if humans believe in religion, they don't have an innate instinct to believe in it?

I admitted that there could be an instinctual cause of basic religious belief, i.e. the belief in powerful forces that think somewhat like ourselves. However, this instinct can be undercut by evidence and rationality.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:37 AM on May 28, 2011


... in some individuals.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:38 AM on May 28, 2011


Atheism is NOT A CHOICE. Everyone is born atheist. They don't know what the concept of God is. After that, some people are capable of believing in God. Other people, like myself, are not

Is it a strictly on/off switch, etched into our DNA, never to be changed? Or are most people born able to go either way, with shades of grey, based on how they're brought up. Being raised Roman Catholic, with it's specific myths and micro managing one's life and after life, it was impossible for me to be religious. But had been brought up Buddhist or by Jesuits or , I suspect things might have been different. One thing I've heard repeatedly from those who don't believe is that the negative religious experiences turned them off at an early age.

So when I say choice, I don't think it's a matter of "Coke or Pepsi" in being a believer, where one easily makes a conscious choice based on particular tastes. Was speaking of the indirect actions and situations or environment which shape our choice of choices. Does that make sense?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:03 AM on May 28, 2011


You were denying that the prayer othered him on the basis that he was already othered. Either his othering from the prayer was of the same type as the previous or your comment is meaningless since the poster you were replying to was obviously speaking of othering of a different sort.

No, I was responding pretty specifically the part ofdesjardins' comment I thought didn't make sense: "The problem (besides the constitutional issues) is that he and other non-Christians were othered by the prayer's recitation."

It's not like they were all of a sudden othered, he's probably been feeling out of the mainstream however long he's been atheist. Pinpointing the prayer as the "moment" of his othering seemed odd, hence my comment.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:10 AM on May 28, 2011


Whoops, meant to add this part:
He was in a coercive situation as soon as he was presented with the choice to have to decide if he should protest a clearly illegal action. It's impossible for you to say otherwise without victim blaming.

I'm having trouble believing listening to a prayer at graduation is coercive, particularly for a US high school student. Hell, half their day is composed of being "forced" to listen to things they don't want to listen to. Five minutes of their last ceremony hardly..productive? fun?

If the argument is that the graduation prayer was the breaking point, the damn breaking after years of torment and torture, I can understand that, while still thinking it's fairly unproductive and jerkish. It may make him feel better and there's something to be said for that, sure. But to me it just riled up and organized the crazy branch of the local Christians, so the victory seems hollow. YMMV.

BB has a thick skin and doesn't mind a few minutes of abuse, calm down, it's just my tradition.

Nevertheless, I think you should just silently condone this blatant violation of the rules and I'm sure BB would agree.


What are you hoping to accomplish with that line of action? I was pretty specific in saying that I'd let the prayer at graduation slide, but not not much else. If you're trying to make a point, you're failing by going that extra mile in the "much else" department

Um, no. Who is The Other shifts depending, partially, on the make-up of the group with power.

Agreed.

Also Brandon YOU HAVE admitted that you messed up when you talked about the "local community" but for some reason that didn't cause you to maybe change your position.

What position are you looking for me to change?

By doing that YOU took part in that othering process as well. In that context, your the othering happened because of his choice-yet again is 1 victim blaming 2 self serving (self serving in the I don't have to really re-evaluate that maybe I took part in the marginalization this kid feels as an atheist).

I'm gonna just go ahead and point out that I didn't do anything to the kid.

BREAKING: Brandon B is a precious little snowflake. But, hey, if you disagree: just let it slide, bro.

A HANDSOME precious little snowflake at that.

I probably would let it slide if this was just a short speech I had listen. You're not going to change me in five minutes and I'm not gonna change you or anyone else in five minutes. Far better to find a teaching moment elsewhere, preferably one that has a lot of time. But this ain't a speech, is it?

Look ya'll, I'm not looking to prove myself right and I'm content to agree to disagree on this. There's no winning of the "argument" in this context, because people seem to be angry or hurt (me among them) at this point. I was hoping just to discuss this, not make it some hill to defend and die on. At this point, everyone seems to just be more entrenched in their positions, virtually zero understanding had occurred and George has reached the name calling/teach a lesson by ramming it in phase.

I'm not sure what to go from here with all of this. I am totally ok with saying my view on the subject is by no means the definitive answer or the only valid one and it was good to have that pointed out.

It's fine if we keep talking. George can do as he likes, but the current path probably isn't helping much.

Thanks for the defense zarq.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:42 AM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


But to me it just riled up and organized the crazy branch of the local Christians, so the victory seems hollow. YMMV.

It is reporting an illegal, pre-meditated action. Your position here breaks down into victim blaming, there is no way around it. Everything that followed is one the people who planned this, not the person who was about to have their rights violated.

The entire idea that this was jerkish is dependent on the coercive nature of this, of course he should have known he would get them riled up! The backlash is what they depend on for people to keep their mouths shut and not speak up about something everyone knows is illegal.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:00 AM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is reporting an illegal, pre-meditated action.

There was a recent dust up here in Savannah that kinda relates to this, analogy wise. We have a lot of town squares downtown, about 23 of them. It's forbidden to park around some of the squares, a few which have churches around them. Yet on Sunday's, church goers usually park around the squares due to limited parking. They aren't ticketed. Someone came up with the idea to start issuing tickets to people on Sundays, 'cause "Hey, it's illegal." That backlash was fierce and the ticketing lasted all of two weeks, with tickets being forgiven.

Yes, parking around the squares was illegal. The government was totally in the right for issuing the tickets, but in a lot of ways, imo, totally wrong. Having a strict "This is the law and it must be followed, period" is good most of the time. However, there are edge cases where keeping to that may not be beneficial to the greater good. Our opinions on that differ, or on specific instances of that happening, but that's pretty much how I view the prayer at public high schools situation.

Your position here breaks down into victim blaming, there is no way around it. Everything that followed is one the people who planned this, not the person who was about to have their rights violated. The entire idea that this was jerkish is dependent on the coercive nature of this, of course he should have known he would get them riled up!

It's more of tactical/practical outlook. Fowler seems to have multiple goals with doing this: "I would like to strike a blow to this school board and America, saying I am an atheist and I won't be run over. It's time for atheists to be vocal. "

Yes, he stood up for himself, and that's not nothing. But in terms of striking a blow, to the school and America, it's probably a wash. He's inspired people sure, but some are inspired to get more entrenched. It's become an whack a mole arms race of sorts: He got the school to say no prayer, which lead to the a student fighting for what she believes and doing a prayer anyway. She, in her mind, cheerfully broke an immoral law with a lot of support from the community. Fowler did similar. Yet next year, there will probably still be a prayer at school. Hurray, victory.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:05 AM on May 28, 2011


Yeah, religious freedom is just like parking.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:57 AM on May 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


He would not have had to make a "tactical choice" about his religious freedom if it had been respected as required by the Bill of Rights, how he deals with a plan to victimize him doesn't make him a jerk no matter what he chooses. Stop obsessing over the victim not behaving up to your completely arbitrary standards.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:00 AM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: The parking story is interesting.

It seem that you're saying: "Christians in our city had special privileges to park that no other religion had. The city tried to take that privilege away and failed - and that's good!"

Sorry, it is not OK for a Christian majority to use that majority to impose their will on the rest of us. You wonder why you are getting such negative vibes from us, but it's because your argument seems to boil down to "Might makes right, so minorities shouldn't rock the boat."

There's a secondary argument that other people on the thread have made, and that's that "this isn't a big deal." Now, if you really thinking praying is "no big deal" then you differ from 99% of the rest of the world.

Most people think that prayers are a Big Fucking Deal. Clearly the Christian students in that school did; clearly the atheist kid did; clearly the school administration did.

Most religions have rules preventing non-believers from attending at least part of their prayer rituals; many religions have strict rules preventing their followers from participating in or even simply attending the prayer rituals of others.

I'm a non-believer myself and yet I actually rather like a big chunk of the Christian service and have had little problem attending them, enjoyed them every time - but I was doing it by choice.

Yet I too would have a serious problem if they'd had prayers at my graduation (fat chance in Ottawa!)

And in fact those of you who are saying prayers are "no big deal" are clearly very emotionally excited by this issue, enough to write repeated posts on the issue.

So clearly all the direct participants in that graduation find prayer very important, everyone here on this thread does, and it seems that most of the rest of the world does too.

So where are these individuals for whom prayer is "no big deal"?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:15 AM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the critical points about civil rights is protection from the tyranny of the majority. Saying "let's vote on it" or invoking the power of the majority demonstrates a failure to grasp this essential point.
posted by warbaby at 10:16 AM on May 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


One thing I love about New York City is that they suspend parking rules for both Christian and Jewish holy days (and I believe they suspend parking regs. in some neighborhoods for Muslim and Hindu holidays too).

I'll miss this when we flee America for (probably) Germany...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:17 AM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uh you called him a jerk. You also excluded him when you spoke of the desires of the local community so yes you did do something to this kid. You insulted him and excluded him. You have denigrated his constitutional desire to have his religious freedom respected. You are in favor of marginalizing his rights because of the majority view of a clearly hostile community. So yeah, you did something to him.
For whatever reason, even when you admit someone here or there makes a valid point against you, you're still entrenched in your opinion no matter what. I'm disengaging because this conversation has made me so incredibly sad not just because of the attitude towards religious freedom, but because I've seen BB's same attitude leveled towards me as a disabled person as well as at friends of mine for being gay. Honestly I'm really insulted by that viewpoint so how about this-whether you did something to that kid or not, you certainly did something to me.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:24 AM on May 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


There was a recent dust up here in Savannah that kinda relates to this, analogy wise.

I grew up in Savannah. Your parkers are the same douchebags who contributed to my uncomfortable childhood. There is no violin in the world small enough for me to play a sad little song for those people and their parking tickets. The only analogy I see is "majority group gets their way because they are the majority group, no matter what the law says," and that is wrong.
posted by phunniemee at 10:37 AM on May 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, religious freedom is just like parking.

Actually it's more like a sippie cup with wheels on it.

It seem that you're saying: "Christians in our city had special privileges to park that no other religion had. The city tried to take that privilege away and failed - and that's good!"

Nope. I was noting that while illegal to park there, from practical matter, it was one of the situations law looks the other way because of a large number of people and very little space for them to park.

The same thing happens on Saturdays with the parking lot of the downtown post office. Parking is so limited that people park there on Saturday, when the office is close. There are posts on every parking that say ticketing or towing will occur, yet it doesn't happen on Saturday. Seems like a reasonable approach, enforce it on weekdays and on the weekends let it slide 'cause the space is needed and can be used for something else besides postal employees and customers.

Honestly I'm really insulted by that viewpoint so how about this-whether you did something to that kid or not, you certainly did something to me.

It is not and has never been my intention to to make someone feel bad. I'm genuinely sorry if I've hurt your feelings and you have my apologies.

Your parkers are the same douchebags who contributed to my uncomfortable childhood.

Not at all. Some of them happen to go a certain liberal church which is extremely open and friendly and about far from fire and brimestone as the Quakers are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:17 PM on May 28, 2011


Nope. I was noting that while illegal to park there, from practical matter, it was one of the situations law looks the other way because of a large number of people and very little space for them to park.

Yes, like happens with things such as sporting events and does not violate anyone's rights. So why is it relavent at all to anything?

It is not and has never been my intention to to make someone feel bad. I'm genuinely sorry if I've hurt your feelings and you have my apologies.

...yes, now take this realization of the kind of pain actions you think are entirely harmless can cause to its logical conclusion....
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:23 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, like happens with things such as sporting events and does not violate anyone's rights. So why is it relavent at all to anything?

Pointing out that in some instances it's reasonable to let it slide even though it's technically against the law.

...yes, now take this realization of the kind of pain actions you think are entirely harmless can cause to its logical conclusion...

I'm certainly going to keep anything you say in mind, oh yes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:32 PM on May 28, 2011


Pointing out that in some instances it's reasonable to let it slide even though it's technically against the law.

Nobody disagrees with that, every poster here has broken the law. You are arguing that a pre-meditated illegal action with a victim should be ignored.

I'm certainly going to keep anything you say in mind, oh yes.

You very well should, you would not have had to apologize to one of the nicest posters here if you had listened before when you were repeatedly informed of the pain exclusionary behavior can cause and how it extends beyond "just five minutes".
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:44 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, BB, if you'd just agreed with everyone as you'd been instructed none of this would have happened.
posted by Summer at 4:06 PM on May 28, 2011


Not everyone, some of these people are wrong all the time.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:10 PM on May 28, 2011


Honestly I'm really insulted by that viewpoint so how about this-whether you did something to that kid or not, you certainly did something to me.

I'm appalled and disgusted by your shaming people that are participating here in good faith.
posted by Dano St at 5:45 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm shocked and revolted by your dishonoring of someone who is explaining their pain with honest intentions.

Seriously, if you need a punching bag I'm right here instead.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:58 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm horrified and alarmed by how much this mole poblano is making my belly swell up.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:21 PM on May 28, 2011


I'm separated and royalist by facebook taking down the Fire Mitzi Quinn page. Go Tyranny!
posted by Dano St at 8:03 PM on May 28, 2011


First they came for the Facebook pages, and I said nothing, because I'm not on Facebook. Then, they came for the LiveJournal pages, and I said nothing, because ha ha, LiveJournal, rite? Then, they came for the MySpace page, and I was like, there are still MySpace pages? Then, they came for the LinkedIn profile, and I said nothing because I already have a job. The point is, thanks for cleaning up the Internet. There's too much shit out there.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:14 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fowler says he's filed a lawsuit to make an example of Bastrop H.S. Apparently "bitches love examples".
posted by Dano St at 8:53 PM on May 28, 2011


I'm not sure if this thread is about parking tickets or Mexican food anymore, but my cat is also named Damon, and I thought that was important to note at this juncture.

Thank you.
posted by desjardins at 9:13 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm quite inclined to go along with Brandon, at least at the start. But then I read of what happened when there was an objection. That changes my view, dramatically.

I'm just sick to death of this shit. I'm weary of trying to tolerate the intolerant. I'm tired of supposed adults that refuse to understand the rules we've made in order to better get along with each other, in spite of differing views about things like religion.

But most of all? I'm mad as hell that this same damned issue has to be brought up yet again. And then I think about it, and hey, Brandon? You know what? This isn't a single incident, in a vacuum. These people know perfectly well where they stand in relation to the Law, and choose to break it. They are, in fact, the ones making the challenge.

Frankly, I get tired of all the times such situations seem to boil down to: "Well, if you're going to be complete assholes about it, you get your way". I think these people need to pay for their crime and stupidity. Fines and torts don't seem to be effective in putting an end to the problem.

Except, then I zoom out further, and discover, in the bigger picture, there are certain folks who seem to take such situations and fan the flames, then bend and twist the crap into their own political advantage. They encourage and insight crimes against the Constitution, to their own political ends. They insight crime against the civil liberties of individuals. They lead conspiracies even.

This really isn't about religion at all. This is like Cold War, between the USSR and the US, done through "client states". Only the clients here are alleged Christians and non-Christians/atheists. The real parties are Big Money vs. The People.
posted by Goofyy at 11:00 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's too bad about his stuff being stolen when it was outside, I hope is Mom starts talking to him again soon.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:25 PM on May 28, 2011


But then I read of what happened when there was an objection. That changes my view, dramatically.

I'm curious what you read happened. You know pretty much every claim posted in the OP is bullshit right? Let's revisit the above-the-fold bit of the post and see what's accurate
Student Protests Prayer at Graduation, Gets Divine Retribution Instead [that doesn't even make sense] A high school atheist in Bastrop, Louisiana tried to stop prayer at his graduation by writing to his superintendent and threatening to bring in the ACLU. [He was the first do so at his school and did not make a request before threatening legal action.] The superintendent complied, but the student's name was leaked, and soon he was harassed by fellow students and a former Teacher of the Year "star[ed] at, call[ed] names, talki[ed] about behind [his] back (even teachers)." [One teacher even said he didn't "contribute anything to graduation or to their classmates" in the newspaper.], and was kicked out of his house [ then he moved to his brother's house in Texas and got a $25,000 college fund from the internets].
posted by Dano St at 4:10 AM on May 29, 2011


I hope is Mom starts talking to him again soon.

Maybe after his brother starts talking to her?
posted by Dano St at 4:11 AM on May 29, 2011


Fowler says he's filed a lawsuit to make an example of Bastrop H.S. Apparently "bitches love examples".

Not too surprising, he said he wanted to strike a blow against the school board and America. It'll be interesting to see what happens at next year's graduation.

and hey, Brandon? You know what? This isn't a single incident, in a vacuum.

I'd have zero problem with him complaining about all of those other incident's too. But all he's mentioned, as far as I know, is the prayer at graduation and a biology teacher saying she didn't believe in evolution before she went ahead and taught it.

These people know perfectly well where they stand in relation to the Law, and choose to break it.

Eh they probably didn't or haven't for a while, since it wasn't an issue for years. And now they just don't care. Hell, it's probably delicious red meat to'em i.e. they're giving the finger to what they view as immoral law. A lawsuit isn't going to fix that.

Frankly, I get tired of all the times such situations seem to boil down to: "Well, if you're going to be complete assholes about it, you get your way".

That can be said for both sides in this situation. Of course, each thinks the other is being the asshole, so everyone goes happy that they're in the right.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:11 AM on May 29, 2011


Brandon: except for that little over-arching fact called the Constitution.

But maybe you misunderstood when I said "this isn't a single incident", I wasn't speaking of that location and these people. But perhaps you see some benefit in misdirection. Or maybe it is myself in error, having taken your words as sincere, rather than convenient rhetoric.
posted by Goofyy at 7:17 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eh they probably didn't or haven't for a while, since it wasn't an issue for years.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
posted by rtha at 8:09 AM on May 29, 2011


But maybe you misunderstood when I said "this isn't a single incident", I wasn't speaking of that location and these people.

Yes, maybe he misunderstood. You were not exactly specific regarding which of "these people" you were referring to, and since the thread is about a specific incident and not just some open ended chatfilter to regale against the myriad ways atheists are phonically tortured every second of their miserable, oppressed lives (theoretically at least), then he responded to a different context than apparently intended by your comment. Mistakes happen.

But perhaps you see some benefit in misdirection.

Oh wait, what? This doesn't follow the sentence that precedes it. It suddenly wasn't a misunderstanding, but an intentional misdirection with some ulterior motive?

Or maybe it is myself in error, having taken your words as sincere, rather than convenient rhetoric.

Really? After being repeatedly insulted, condescended to, and attacked ... and not once failing to take the high road in response ... you are going to challenge the sincerity of his rhetoric?

How about this, since miss-lapin had introduced the idea that one can just demand that people change their minds and publicly renounce what they've previously said here, please tell me if your view had changed any since this statement. Do you still think social services should sue the parents for locking Fowler out of his home without notice? If you are engaged so sincerely here, so much more sincerely than BB, will please answer my fucking question about you read happened that "changes your view so dramatically"?
posted by Dano St at 9:24 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Excuse for what? It certainly is an excuse to keep doing what you've always done without problem, which is what Brandon was saying.
posted by Dano St at 9:26 AM on May 29, 2011


It's been a fucking national issue for their profession for years. They knew. They depend on fear to keep people in line, fear of the backlash only a "jerk" would bring down on themselves.

I'd have zero problem with him complaining about all of those other incident's too. But all he's mentioned, as far as I know

There's also the other issue you conveniently seem to forget about over and over so we can reset the argument and discuss what a jerk the victim is. You know, the thing about the damage years of othering can do?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:28 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ignorance of the law is no excuse for violating the law. At least, not in the U.S. It really isn't; people get arrested and convicted for breaking laws they didn't know existed.

And since "separation of church and state," as a concept, is much more broadly known than, say, the legal status of hitching your horse to a parking meter (which may or may not be illegal in your jurisdiction), I'm not inclined to be sympathetic to people who want to pretend they've never heard of it.
posted by rtha at 9:34 AM on May 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brandon: except for that little over-arching fact called the Constitution.

Sure, but that just goes back to me letting this specific incident slide and others disagreeing with that sentiment. We'll probably just have to agree to disagree and hopefully there will be no hard feelings. There are none from me.

But maybe you misunderstood when I said "this isn't a single incident", I wasn't speaking of that location and these people. But perhaps you see some benefit in misdirection. Or maybe it is myself in error, having taken your words as sincere, rather than convenient rhetoric.

Since the incident was pretty specific that was indeed what I speaking of, so no, it wasn't an attempt at misdirection. Sure, it makes sense to use said incident as a talking point about something else, but I didn't get that that was where you were going from your comment.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

I would agree, and the law agrees. It wasn't an attempt to excuse but explain. It's quite possible they were ignorant of the law. That they consulted the school's attorney leads weight to that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:01 AM on May 29, 2011


I only taught high school for a couple years but I would be shocked if the administration of the school was not well aware of relevant law, and essentially relied on social pressures/conformity to keep this sort of situation (the exercise of Constitutionally protected religious freedom) from happening. Smugglers know vehicle search law, pimps understand how pandering works, and public school administrations in the US have at least the broad strokes of DON'T PRAY IN SCHOOL ETC down.
posted by jtron at 11:30 AM on May 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Dano St: The words "maybe" and "perhaps" appear in what I wrote. You should read more carefully and consider that words are there for their meanings, not to make my post longer.

And it is so simple to claim that "we're discussing this specific incident", and so attempt to limit the scope of discussion. But my point is, I see a pattern, and I therefore expanded the scope. If you don't like it, too bad. There is a pattern. There are those out to encourage individual incidents in sundry localities. Or are you trying to claim that Wisconsin Republicans don't know what Michigan Republicans, or Ohio Republicans, or Florida Republicans?
posted by Goofyy at 10:52 PM on May 29, 2011


I don't understand what state Republicans have to do with this. If any outsiders are meddling in this situation, I'd point to the people trying to get Mitzi Quinn's fires, referring to Maci Lattice a 'heffer' and posting bullshit about Fowler's parents.

The words following "claim" in your comment do not reflect anything of what I said. I'm not limiting the scope of discussion by pointing out why Brandon may have misunderstood you. And I'm not saying anything about the Republican party. (What? That's as non-sensical as the intimation BB is somehow oppressing handicapped people and homosexuals by his comments here.)

I notice you still didn't answer my question.

posted by Dano St at 4:34 AM on May 30, 2011


Texas: Court lifts ban on graduation prayer

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Medina Valley Independent School District. The ruling allows students at the high school to say the words "amen" and invite the audience to pray during Saturday's graduation ceremony.
posted by mattbucher at 2:55 PM on June 3, 2011


My boss's kids attend that school - they've already removed the word "invocation" from the program, and any prayers that are going to occur will happen during "private" student speeches.

I don't think either side is entirely happy with this, but that's how it goes. I always feel the need to remind Christians who are so desirous of public prayer in secular spaces what their homeboy Jesus had to say on the matter:
Matthew 6:1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven...

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him...."
posted by muddgirl at 3:02 PM on June 3, 2011


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