Damon Fowler, a senior at Bastrop High School in Bastrop, Louisiana, is graduating this evening. Many people in his community are wishing that he weren’t graduating, or that he kept his mouth shut, or that he went to school elsewhere, or that he simply didn’t exist. You see; Damon is an atheist.
As Damon explained on Reddit, his school intended to have a prayer during the graduation ceremony.
How many times do we have to go over this?
“The Constitution forbids the State to exact religious conformity from a student as the price of attending her own high school graduation.” —Judge Anthony Kennedy Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)., http://laws.findlaw.com/us/505/577.html (accessed: May 20, 2011).
Damon knew that the school was doing the wrong thing. Damon spoke up about it. Damon did the right thing. The school’s principal thought it best to check with their attorney.
“We asked our attorney about it, and we are making changes to the program.” —Principal Stacey Pullen Student challenges prayer at Bastrop graduation Bastrop Daily Enterprise (May 18, 2011). http://www.bastropenterprise.com/features/x2132687894/Student-challenges-prayer-at-Bastrop-graduation (accessed: May 19, 2011).
I’m happy to see that their attorney gave them good advice. When this type of situation happens and it goes to court, the public school system loses money that could have otherwise been spent actually educating students.
The idea that prayer doesn’t belong as part of public school functions is tough to get across to some people. There is something else about this situation that angers me, though. That something can be seen in the remarks of another staff member at Bastrop High School.
Mitzi Quinn has been on the staff at BHS for almost 25 years, much of that time as a senior advisor. In the past, Quinn said there have been students who were atheist, agnostic and other non-Christian religions who “had no problems” with the prayer.
“They respected the majority of their classmates and didn’t say anything,” Quinn said. “We’ve never had this come up before. Never.” Ibid.
I get the idea that Mitzi thinks that those students in the past “knew their place.” She probably thinks it was entirely proper for them to sit down and shut up since they were part of the minority. Mitzi probably doesn’t appreciate it when a member of a minority gets all “uppity” and tries to stand up for themselves.
Worse still is this comment which Mitzi made in direct reference to Damon:
“And what’s even more sad is this is a student who really hasn’t contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates.” —Mitzi Quinn Ibid.
My question now is this: Why the hell is Mitzi Quinn allowed to be an advisor to students at a high school? Why does someone who makes such spiteful, vindictive comments to the press in reference to a student still hold a position where she advises students?
Another article at the same newspaper, using the bulk of the text from the first article, added some comments from other students and community members. It’s my opinion that they all need some remedial education regarding our Constitution.
“I’m wondering why,” said Kari Payton, class valedictorian. “This is something that’s been done for years — forever — and now that we’re graduating we can’t show reverence and honor to our God?” Prayer at graduation nixed by student protest Bastrop Daily Enterprise (May 19, 2011). http://www.bastropenterprise.com/news/x1577065967/Prayer-at-graduation-nixed-by-student-protest (accessed: May 19, 2011).
I’m sorry, Kari, but that’s not a very good argument. Just because something has been done for years doesn’t make it right or legal. One other question: Who is this “we” you speak of? Is it the entire graduating class, or just you and your Christian friends?
“Why does one person get to decide what more than 200 of us do?” Davis said. “It’s obvious (the student) is in the minority, yet the rest of us are being denied to pray to our God.” Ibid.
Why do I see this argument constantly? How many generations will it take before people understand that our Constitution protects the minority from the majority.
“When I was raised here, Christ as the center of our community,” Stuckey said. “I think the children should have the right to pray and shouldn’t be prohibited from sharing their belief in Christ.” Ibid.
Once again: it doesn’t matter if Christ™ is the center of your community. We have a secular government, and the public schools are representatives of that government. End of story. Get the fuck over it.
Who is telling this woman’s children that they aren’t allowed to pray? As far as I know, the students at Bastrop High School (like those at any public school) can pray to whatever God™ they want at any time they desire, just as long as they aren’t being disruptive to the educational environment when they do so.
The school and its staff, however, are not allowed to lead a prayer. That’s what has these people all bent out of shape. That’s the source of the butthurt. That’s where their righteous indignation comes from. They aren’t allowed to bully everyone else into kowtowing to their God™ and their One True Religion™.
So, I have to give a big congratulations to Damon, for graduating from high school, and for standing up for yourself and your rights. It’s been tough, I’m certain, putting up with the community you live in. It doesn’t sound like the type of place I’d like to live, let alone visit. You’ve done a very cool thing, Damon, and I’m proud of you.