A Little Lunchtime Reading

Amber Mangum, a seventh-grader from Greenbelt, Maryland, was “threatened with discipline” at her school. What was her offense? Reading her Bible at lunch.

Of course if that’s all there was to it, then there shouldn’t be a problem. She has every right in the world to read the Bible on her own time.

Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, had a response for this, saying:

“What probably happened is this kid, I’ll bet you, was being disruptive. I bet this kid was proselytizing, was preaching, doing something that was annoying other kids and was told to stop. Kids don’t normally want to read the Bible at lunch time-I don’t care who they are. It’s just not something kids want to do,”

Well, I do agree if they’re punishing this girl, she couldn’t have been just reading… If she was, there’s no case. But the rest of that quotation has to be out of context, right? I mean, even I know there are some kids who really do want to read the Bible. I’m not saying I understand it, but still.

So I asked Ellen if this was a misquote. She said it wasn’t. *sigh*

There are so many better ways to handle this. My suggestion:

“If this girl was really just reading her Bible, then she has every right to do so and we support her right to exercise her freedom of religion, even though we disagree with her.”

If you wanted to, you might even add that you wished she was reading something educational.

But don’t assume that the girl was overstepping her bounds without hearing any evidence to suggest this.

For what it’s worth, if the ACLU got involved, they’d be on the girl’s side.

[tags]Greenbelt, Maryland, Amber Mangum, Bible, Christianity, atheism, American Atheists, Ellen Johnson, ACLU, [/tags]

  • Josh


    This is an excellent example of why many non-religious people want nothing to do with the American Atheists.

    I would love to see the AA adopt your style and start handling things in a positive manner. Unfortunately, it would take many years to erase the reputation they have for negativity.


  • Siamang

    Wow, what a terrible quote!

    You’re absolutely right, Hemant. From a first amendment and pro- religious freedom standpoint, her reaction is totally wrong. Politically, pragmatically and every other way of not making enemies, not looking like your out to be a jerk… who the heck publicly wants to be quoted as the person against a presumably cute little schoolgirl reading the bible!?!?!

    All the way around, this person fails the fundamental rules of PR. Yikes.

  • Devika Keral

    [groan] How terrible. I really like your rephrasing of her statement, Hemant. Ellen Johnson’s quote comes off as so brash and unaccepting. We have to accept that people will have different views than us and learn to be respectful of boundaries.

  • http://unapologetics.wordpress.com/ Jesse

    Thanks for being an advocate for fairmindedness. Ellen’s comments are precisely the thing that provoke simple-minded vitriol from her “Christian” counterparts.

  • http://www.prayershake.blogspot.com Chris Ferguson

    Thanks for looking at it objectively. Just read an article about you in Leadership Journal. My neighbors were athiest. My four year old daughter made me pray for them every night. I was resolved to “live and let live.” She was not, we never preached to them. God drew them to Himself. Eventually we did have spiritual conversations; but I never initiated the conversations they did. Today the whole family believes. So my daughter and I will start praying. If you are right…it makes us feel better. Iwhen God reveals Himself to you, you’ll forever be changed.