Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute Issues an Open Letter to Me

First, a comment to everyone who’s been following this drama… thank you for your support. Your emails and comments have been incredible. Your offers to pitch in for legal defense if needed are so very appreciated. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that so many people have your back in a situation like this.

Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute has issued an open letter to me.

It’s tempting to just ignore it… but if she’s going to go after my character, I feel like I should defend myself.

Dear Mr. Mehta,

You wrote, “The Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins is going after me (and my job) again.”

I have never in any context suggested that you should be fired or that you should resign. In fact, I don’t believe the school has any legal right to fire you. You should have fact-checked before you posted that inaccurate statement.

In addition, I have repeatedly stated that you have a First Amendment right to make whatever public statements you want on any topic. I have also made it abundantly clear that my goal is to provide information to District 204 parents–particularly IFI readers-about the nature of the ideas you express and endorse on your public blog so that they can make informed decisions as to whether they want their children to spend a school year under your tutelage.

In my first brief email to your administrators and school board, I did not, as one of your blog commenters suggested, call for you to be fired. I notified them that you made the public, vindictive, irresponsible, and unprofessional suggestion that the Kiss-In would be even better if it took place in front of my home.

I guess sarcasm doesn’t work for everyone, but if you had a problem with a comment I made on this site, you could’ve contacted me. Instead, you told my employers: “It’s unfortunate that [students at the high school] have math teacher Hemant Mehta as a role model… What more could parents hope for in their children’s teachers than a little old fashioned vindictiveness.”

If all that doesn’t scream “fire him,” I don’t know what does.

You say you want to inform parents about me, but your email didn’t go to them. It didn’t go to the IFI mailing list. It went only to my superiors.

Maybe you expected the district to send an email to parents on your behalf, informing them of my religious and social beliefs.

You fail to acknowledge a central point that I addressed in my two articles, which is that many teens are unduly influenced by emotion or the cult of personality and are therefore predisposed to look favorably on the ideas of teachers whom they find cool or charismatic or funny or kind or iconoclastic.

And what would you like me to do about this… Be bland, boring, and cruel?

If students respond well to my teaching, it’s all the better for them. And, apparently, all the worse for you.

If students search your name and come upon your blog, they will be exposed to your endorsement and promotion of ideas that some parents may find deeply troubling. If students have you as their teacher, like you, and develop a relationship with you–as happens often in high school–they will be more likely to look favorably on and be influenced by your ideas than those students who have little or no personal connection to you. This is the reason that many parents care deeply about role models.

Maybe that’s a key difference between us. My definition of a teacher/role-model is someone who tries to lift all students up and makes them feel confident and good about themselves. You seem to think a good teacher/role-model should share your exact mindset, which involves making students fear thinking for themselves and being honest about their sexuality.

I don’t know why my students would be Googling my name, but if they do, they will see a person who uses his free time to pursue his other passions, a person who has opinions and isn’t afraid to share them, and a person who has done some pretty cool things in his life up to this point.

Why you think that would be bad for my students to see, I don’t know.

There are plenty of teachers in Illinois (and elsewhere) who work closely with their churches. They, too, are “charismatic and cool.” Students love them. I know teachers who used to be counselors at Vacation Bible Schools. They’re openly proud about their work with the church and, by extension, what their church teaches. I often find that disturbing. Do you see me whining to their employers about that? Of course not. As long as they keep their beliefs to themselves while they’re at work, it shouldn’t matter.

I don’t recall your press releases against those teachers. Perhaps you’re only angry because I don’t share your conservative religious and social views…

It’s the reason there were some recent stories about parents being upset that a high school cheerleading coach posed in her private life for Playboy magazine, and why some parents would not want their children in the class of a teacher who in their free time on a public forum promotes racist views or denies the historicity of the Holocaust.

Personally, I don’t care if a current coach posed for a magazine many years ago in her private life. My concern is with what she’s teaching now and if she’s doing her job well. The reason you hear about those stories is rarely because the teachers are discussing their past in the classroom.

You mentioned a cheerleading coach. If we’re talking about the same story, the charge to fire the teacher was led by a mother, miffed by the fact her daughter was kicked off the cheerleading squad for missing practices. Looks like the mother wanted revenge. What happened to the teacher was sad and unnecessary.

As for teachers who harbor awful, bigoted viewpoints, I have no sympathy for them. But again, my concern would be what they’re teaching. If those views don’t come out in the classroom, it’s frankly none of my damn business.

It’s probably the same reason that three years ago a well-known homosexual blogger informed my former superintendent that I had been interviewed on Moody Radio on the topic of homosexuality. During my last three years at Deerfield High School, there were more than a few supporters of the normalization of homosexuality who wrote publicly and contacted my administration about what they believed was my unfitness as a role model for students–and I worked in the writing center where I had no classes.

So you thought it would be a good idea to harass me the same way that person harassed you? To be honest, as long as you weren’t pushing your own views on students, I’d be on your side. The blogger had every right to challenge your faulty and absurd beliefs. But he had no right to go after your job. I would’ve defended you then.

Since that experience seems to have bothered you this much, I don’t know why you felt the need to act the same way against me. Sounds like you and the homosexual blogger have more in common than you might think.

As many commenters noted, two wrongs don’t make a right.

In my second article about you, I concluded by saying that some parents may not view teachers as potentially influential role models for their children, and therefore those parents will be fine with you as their children’s teacher.

I assume you’re a parent. I don’t know a single parent who doesn’t view every teacher as an influential role model for their kids. But at a public school, you’re a role model for your ability to educate and inspire. I am thankful that plenty of parents feel that way about me. Including Christian ones.

I said that other parents may believe that teachers are potential influences but agree with your public promotion of polyamory, homosexuality, and the non-existence of God, in which case they may love for you to become a role model in their children’s lives.

I never personally promoted polyamory, for what it’s worth. I just allowed for discussions on the topic to take place on this site. Is that not allowed anymore?

Anyway, believe it or not, the subjects of polyamory and homosexuality don’t come up during parent-teacher conferences.

I guess I have to remind you that the parents who can vouch for me include ones who share your faith.

But other parents, perhaps some Jewish, Muslim, or Christian parents, may have concerns about the adults with whom their children spend time, develop relationships, and who may potentially influence their children and may also have significant disagreement with the ideas you promote on your public blog. Those parents are entitled to sufficient information to make informed choices about the very public activities of their children’s teachers–something that for some odd reason seems to offend you.

I’ve taught for a few years now. No one’s ever complained. They’re usually more concerned with what they can do to help their children succeed in Geometry.

Other have said this, but if an atheist organization told all of its members to pull their children out of a public school classroom because the teacher happened to be a Christian (who never discussed his faith while at work), you would cry foul, call it discrimination, and complain of victimization.

If the atheist group wrote to all its members that this teacher believed homosexuality was a sin and that evolution was a lie, and justified their email by saying parents just needed to be able to “make an informed decision” about who teaches their children, you would be working overtime on behalf of that teacher.

You would defend that Christian teacher.

Yet you still attack me.

Hell, some teachers even wear a cross around their neck. I don’t see you going after them. I’ve seen Catholic teachers wear a cross of ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. I don’t see you going after them. Would it be cool with you if I wore a pin with the atheist A symbol on it?

You also erroneously stated that I sent “out an official press release” about you which I did not. We sent out an Illinois Family Institute email to our subscriber list, which we do once or twice a week.

Mr. Mehta, you have now made two more inaccurate statements(the first was in your blog entry following your attendance at a presentation I gave at Wheaton Bible Church). If you cannot produce any proof from my writing to support your claim that I am “going after” your job, please retract that statement.

Ooh. You got me. I stand corrected. It wasn’t an official press release. It was just an email to every single one of your subscribers. Which, I should point out, media outlets have contacted me regarding. So I don’t really see the difference. It’s all up on your website, anyway.

Speaking of which, you still haven’t mentioned my book in any of your emails/press releases/e-alerts/tirades. I’m getting kind of impatient here. Please ban it already.

  • TJ

    WOW!

    You really gave it to her. I await her response. Should be quite hilarious to see her try and wiggle out of this one. Good job!

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Great response Hemant – and yes, I did just order your book!

  • http://mattcbr.wordpress.com Matt

    The hypocrisy from such groups as above seems as strong as ever. Remarkable.

  • Jen

    I think it’s amazing how open you are, Hemant, given that you are a teacher. I have heard so many things teachers closet themselves about out of fear, and it is entirely dumb. When I was a high school student, I learned many things about my teachers- facts about their spouses and kids, their hobbies, and their pets, and I was not unduly influenced by them. And when I was in high school, it never even occurred to me to google them (mostly because everyone used askjeeves back then).

    Anyway, should it come to it, I am all for holding some sort of lawyer- fundraising event. Teachers should be allowed to have lives outside of school.

  • bananafaced

    Is Ms. Higgins president of the Thought Police? She claims to know “the adolescent mind” and appears to be setting herself up as spokesman for Jewish, Muslim, and Christian parents and their views. Aren’t educators supposed to teach and allow their students to think for themselves? I live in a state where having different views (political, religious, etc.) can get you fired from your job. Great refutation on her less than erudite rant, Hemant!

  • Stephen P

    No indication there that she has read any of the responses that were made to her by commenters here in the previous thread, let alone that she has understood them.

    You also erroneously stated that I sent “out an official press release” …

    Ah the good old tactic of the immature teenager: when losing an argument, start hammering on some trivial inaccuracy of your opponent. I used to do that. My excuse is that at the time I was an immature teenager – I wonder what Laurie Higgins’ excuse is?

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com/ Deen

    Translation: “I’m not saying you should be fired, I just don’t think you should be a teacher”

  • Grimace

    Nicely done Hemant.

  • Matt

    Hemant… if only you WERE my Maths teacher. :P

    Good job with the excellent responses to this unwarranted attack on your private life. :)

  • Luther

    Bravo.

    If every teacher had to agree with every student’s parents then it would be mighty hard to match students, teachers, and schools.

    Even if it were possible, it would be the end of any form of education beyond memorization and indoctrination.

  • Claudia

    You know, it occurs to me that some of the Christian teachers at your school are clearly being insulted in all of this.

    After all, Laurie clearly thinks that their beliefs (even if they were to closely match hers) are unable to influence the students, thereby annulling your evil powers. Obviously Laurie thinks that you are some sort of mega-super-cool teacher and that all the Christian teachers are monumental bores.

    Then again, it could just be that she resents the idea of a well-liked member of society getting on with his life while being an atheist and deeply fears that young people will ever find out that some happy, well-adjusted and good people live without religion. ;)

  • Shawn

    Ugh. I hate dealing with people like this. Their text conforms, under some interpretations, to honesty, but the subtext is SOOOOOOO dishonest and misleading. The extra work in translating is just waste, and you never know if the translation is accurate.

    For example, she obviously wants something to be done about you. But we’re left wondering if she wants you fired, bullied to the point where you quit or “merely” intimidated into giving up your blogging/etc.

    She said “I don’t believe the school has any legal right to fire you”, which, in an honest and open exchange of ideas, would be assumed to mean she doesn’t want you fired. Coming from a person like this it’s only a refutation of one of your points. The only thing this actually means is “I want to win the debate”.

    I wonder if she’s unaware she’s doing it (like my toddler), or if she thinks clearly (like a lawyer), then translates to what we see above?

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  • http://firsttimenovelist.wordpress.com gonovelgo

    I like the part about the ‘homosexual blogger’. I’m pretty sure she was trying to get you to admit to a double standard…but it’s such a transparent ruse that I might be reading too much into it.

  • pete

    Great job. The thing is that something like this is that it is funny and scarry at the same time. Let Mrs. Higgins keep digging herself deeper. It’s only a matter of time when foot is inserted into mouth. And if she does try to make mountian out of molehill, there might be a few more hits to this blog, all courtesy of the Illinois Family Institute.

  • Justin

    Laurie Higgins,

    If parents are so concerned about Hemant’s personal views, they can do a Google search. They don’t need you to “inform” them through press releases and open letters. Not that it should matter. So long as he’s not promoting his personal views in the classroom, it doesn’t matter what Hemant writes (or allows to be discussed) on his blog.

    So, from one Christian to another, I’m asking you to stop. Please, just stop. Next time you have a problem with Hemant, take it up with him. Not his administrators. Not the general public. Him.

  • Baconsbud

    I have to agree with Shawn. It has seemed like she is playing that word game with her emails and letters. She never comes right out and says what she means just implies it. It is a lot easier to defend yourself if you are able to say something without actually saying it. If she had said she wants you fired and it failed, she wouldn’t have a means to defend herself to her followers. The way she wrote it she can easily say she wasn’t trying to get you fired.

  • http://mixtersmix.blogspot.com Mixter

    Your response was excellent.

    Mixter

  • Keith (the pastor)

    Hemant,

    Really good post. I e-mailed Laurie again last night as soon as I saw the open letter (not expecting change … just continuing to ask for an apology and for an explanation of how her actions flow from following Jesus) … the lady has a lot of optometric lumber.

    Please keep focusing on her contacting your bosses. It is the part of her actions that is indefensible by any standards including her warped ones. That she refuses to apologize for that while charging you with such sins as calling a subscriber e-mail/blogpost a press release; exposes the motives of her attack lying much closer to hatred of you than love of children.

    In her letter she claims to have merely informed your employers that you were unprofessional … in Laurie’s e-mails to me she has indicated that she wanted a conversation to take place between them and you. Hold her to that statement. Additionally, she has made many statements to me stating that you are thoroughly qualified to teach math … so if that becomes an issue, hold her to her previous statements. Additionally, I have a point at which her e-mails switched from concern over you being pro-homosexuality to her more specifically chosen targets of hate crimes, polyamory, and Dan Savage. I think it is clear from our conversations that the moment she found that you were pro-homosexuality, she was against you as a role model. Hold her to that as her reason she thinks you are a poor role model. Stay classy :-).

  • Andrew

    This is funny and scary at the same time, as mentioned above. The real scary thing is that many of the recipients of her non-press release mass email propaganda are influenced by her.

    Teenagers are influenced by others. But parent’s would be fooloish to think that their children are never going to encounter someone who thinks differently than them. The suggestion was made to give parents a choice…to further shelter their chldren to their own beliefs.

    Regardless, you’re teaching math, not pushing ideas. You’re being attacked for what your students might Google about you. Seems ridiculois.

  • Matt

    It’s a shame you don’t teach arithmetic:

    Q: If you have 5 babies, and I eat 3, how many babies do you have left?
    A: None. I mistook you for one of the babies.

  • ???????

    you stand up for Christians all the time in your blogs when most proactive atheists would be calling for blood. the very name of your blog, the friendly atheist, sums it all up nicely.

    it’s sad that she chose to go after a decent and rational man such as yourself.

    by my reckoning you open up very good, open minded discussions. that is the sign of a good educator who is interested in teaching critical thinking.

    there are any number of people whom she could more wisely use her time going after. there are probably many points you both have in common.

    (if there’s any funky english in this post, I apologize. I’m writing from my phone).

  • http://nullprogram.com Chris

    It’s probably time to simply ignore Laurie Higgins and the IFI. They’re just a bunch of attention-whoring trolls with nothing worthwhile to say.

  • Alice

    Great response, Hemant. Along with everyone else here, you’ve got my support.

    It’s a shame – there’s a lot of vitriol out there, and you are always so level-headed and open to the exchange of ideas, and yet you have to deal with this kind of harassment!

  • Alan in CA

    Perhaps if you really want your book banned, you send them a copy with tabbed pages to read, or provide them with a few passages that would really drive them up a wall.

    And Chris, it’s difficult to just ignore them when you have the press trying to contact you. It’s fine to ignore the press if it was a solely personal matter, but it involves his work, and I’m sure they would like to keep a good image of things.

  • http://preliatorcausa.blogspot.com Joé McKen

    Wow … this “open letter” is just as ridiculous as her first non- press release. There’s so much to ridicule … it’s every snarky blogger’s dream. Too bad you’ve already covered all the bases, rendering anything I’d have to say mere repetition. Hmm.

    Dumb Higgins. She isn’t even fit to lick Hemant’s shoes. (Not that she’d get that close – obviously, Hemant’s evil atheist energy rays would fry her as soon as she got within whipping distance.)

    Keep it up, Hemant. You got all the support the IFI will never have, to put it that way. ;-)

  • Ryan Hill

    Were you rocking out to Rage against the machine when you wrote this? Cause it has that “Testify” type of edge to it. Well done I hope she got the point, but probably not.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-10853-Portland-Humanist-Examiner~y2009m8d21-Illinois-Family-Institute-Portrait-of-Christian-hate Micha J. Stone, Portland Humanist Examiner

    I marvel at your ability to remain calm and lucid while under such an unfair and malicious attack.

    The actions of this woman and by extension her hate group are most vile and cowardly.

    You set a great example for everyone, theist and atheist alike.

    Thank you for your contribution, you are deeply appreciated.

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  • justanotherjones

    Is it possible she’s trying to goad you into being less friendly in an attempt to uncover the evil atheist conspiracy?

    Does she have a history of using these kinds of tactics against other individuals whose ideas and beliefs she disagrees with?

    Anyway, as for the kind of role model you might be for your students…. classy, open, courageous, kind, cool, thoughtful, inclusive, direct, responsible and badass is so much better than petty, disingenuous, small-minded and mean.

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com Robert Madewell

    Hemant,
    I wonder if she even knew that you have written a book? BTW, I must have!

    Even though she’s not “officially going after your job”, I bet she’d be none the happier to see you booted out to the street. I think you summed it up nicely. The reason she’s doing this is because you don’t share her beliefs. It’s a misuse of her influence. I’d hope that as a teacher that has been harrassed for her personal beliefs that she’ll understand and have a enough sympathy to stop this smear campaign.

    Hang in there.
    You are in my thoughts, but not in my prayers (because if I can help, I want to do something that works).

  • Richard P

    Laurie Higgins:

    Your actions turn your words into LIES.

    Maybe this lying thing works with your fellow sheep, but you are not dealing with people whose minds are clouded with delusions.
    We see what you are doing. Your word mean nothing.
    LIAR, LIAR, LIAR
    Now go repent, cause your God sees your heart and knows your lying, But I guess that is okay, cause you can just go ask for forgiveness and you don’t need to be responsible for your actions.
    And you talk about Hemant being a poor role model, what a hypocrite you are.

  • Rich H

    @Jen

    I have heard so many things teachers closet themselves about out of fear, and it is entirely dumb.

    I’m starting a brand new job as a physics teacher in a week. I’m changing careers, dropping a bunch of money into my masters degree, and I really love to teach.

    But I have two teenaged kids, one of which (I hope) is going to college next year, and the other the year after that.

    I cannot afford to be fired because someone is upset that an atheist is teaching their kids. I wish I could. But I really don’t want to live in a homeless shelter.

    I think it’s wonderful that Hemant works in a district with such supportive administrators. If and when I get tenure, then I might be a little more open. Until then, I can’t.

  • Rachel

    Keep up the good fight and count me in as someone who would glady contribute to a legal defense initiative should it come to that.
    People like her cannot continue to behave like this, and unfortunately it takes painful incidents like this to spark outrage at this sort of hateful attacks.
    The point is that the onus is on all of us to do everything in our power regardless of background and belief to do what we can to assist those being attacked by this horrid horrid woman and others like her out there.

  • The Professional Iconoclast

    You should know a thing or two about both the Illinois Family Institute and Laurie Higgins.

    The Institute consists of three people in a rented office. The head of the operation, David Smith, has a curriculum vitae that begins and ends with a baccalaurate in political science from U of I/Chicago. Before becoming affiliated with the Institute, his resume was limited to his experiences as a local church school janitor and bus driver.

    Laurie, who loves to claim that she was “a high school educator”, was essentially a teacher’s aid. She has no certification as a teacher whatsoever (although right wing nut groups other than the IFI have referred to her as a “teacher”)and worked at Deerfield High School in their reading program. As far as any bio of her on line indicates, she doesn’t even possess a college degree.

    As with most right wing crackpots, the more you know about Laurie’s lack of credentials, the more you realize what a paper tiger she & her org. really are. I’m a Christian myself, and I apologize to no one for my faith in Christ- but Higgins and her organization are an embarrassment to those of our faith. Liars, hypocrites, frauds, the incompetent, and paleozoic bigots do Jesus no favor by turning Him into a cheesy idol poster boy for their cause de joir.

  • http://princeofpithy.wordpress.com/ Prince of Pithy

    I bet the next time she writes about you she’ll slam you because it “wasn’t an open letter” but a … I don’t know, unintended blog or something made up on the spot. I know some people are saying to ignore her, but if you ignore idiots they just scream louder.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    I can’t believe I missed this bit:

    Those parents are entitled to sufficient information to make informed choices about the very public activities of their children’s teachers–something that for some odd reason seems to offend you.

    No they are not. Parents are entitled to know what teachers do IN SCHOOL. Outside of school is none of their damn business.

  • Jay

    What a disgusting and ignorant woman.

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    If it makes you feel better, Hemant, I’ll ban your book.

  • http://theframeproblem.wordpress.com Ron Brown

    Hemant: Good job!

  • http://norelpref.com norelpref

    This is almost too absurd for words. I am sick of these self-righteous religious organizations with their rabid concern for the “family.”

    Props to you for standing up to them. We who have decided to think need to be less “forgiving” with idiots like these, and maybe even less civil. Ignoring them is one option, but they seem then to foment even more insipid agendas and target more “atheists” as scapegoats.

    You have my respect and full support as a fellow free-thinker.

  • TJ

    There are certain people who can’t go through life without hating someone or something and whining nonstop about it. It’s what gives them a reason to get up in the morning.

  • valdemar

    Good on you for standing up to her and her kind.

    Why are so many religious people like this? It’s a fit subject for analysis. They can claim to believe in an infinitely loving and forgiving god, yet at the same time dedicate their lives to actions that just come down to plain old human spite and prejudice. Christians like her remain the best argument against Christianity.

    Also, when will these clowns get over the gayness? The Bible has a lot to say about the evils of divorce, but Christians programmed themselves to ignore all that inconvenient stuff years ago. They should do the same with the gay thing and move on, before all our brains implode.

  • http://reanhouse.blogspot.com Sarah

    I won’t say what I want to say because I don’t want to goad Ms. Higgins into another vitriolic attack on you.

    I will say, so far you’ve taken the high road in this exchange. My advice? Let her keep attacking her little heart out, give her enough rope to hang herself (figuratively speaking of course).

    Good luck Hemant, I’d let you teach my kids any day.

  • http://myspace.com/rox1smf Rox1SMF

    This makes my blood boil. Who the hell does this woman think she is? Christian busybodies injecting their views into educational settings BY COMPLAINING about things their small minds find “offensive” is a reprehensible tactic that’s proven effective more often than not.

    The reason the so-called “New Atheist” movement is an absolute necessity (like yesterday), is because these fundamentalist crybabies like Laurie Higgins have enjoyed 30 years of empire-building in the media, accomodation, appeasement and outright, illegal government endorsement allowing them to manipulate public policy in their favor. They insist on their First Amendment rights while seeking to restrain everyone else’s. They’re out of control and it’s long past time to remind them of their place. In church and homeschooling, if they’re so determined to raise generations of Jesus-bots devoid of intellectual curiosity.

    With the sorry state of affairs in American education – in large part due to the dumbing down of our curriculum in order to not piss off Christians – I’m thrilled to have good teachers out there, and what they say or do outside the classroom is none of my concern.

    These bullshit “Family” organizations are an obstacle to our kids’ education and a threat to the First Amendment liberties of every citizen. I consider this attack upon the Friendly Atheist (a teacher, no less!) yet another call to arms for all the rest of us, from closeted to militant. Ladies and gentlemen get those arms in (ergonomically correct typing) position and fire at will. No quarter given.

    (Pastor Keith, “Optometric lumber” is friggin’ priceless!)

  • http://camelswithhammers.com Camels With Hammers

    And what I want to know is—so what if your students love and admire you so much as a good guy that they take an interest in learning about your blog and reading your ideas? That’s part of how we find our role models. We find the people who live in ways we find admirable and then we investigate how they manage to be so cool so we can do the same.

    Everyone agrees it’s inappropriate for a high school math teacher to make his personal religious views a subject for his classroom discussions, but if your students do seek out more of the truth about Hemant Mehta so they can become as cool as he is, then you have earned their respect and you deserve their consideration as a role model. That’s up for the kids to figure out. They’re neither stupid nor mindless. They have powers to discern admirable from contemptible people just okay.

    The truth of the matter is that what you represent to Ms. Higgins is the truth that good people can have ideas she disagrees with. And that kids can have good people who live good ideas that offer alternative perspectives on the world from her own incredibly narrow one.

    But you shouldn’t be concerned at all if your students of their own accord do indeed seek you out online and take you as a credible source of information and a worthwhile source of insight into ideas. You earn that credibility and it’s up to the students to think for themselves whether you can keep that credibility when you expose your fuller view of the world to them online. And if without making them uncomfortable or improperly turning a math class into a religion lecture, you can have an influence in kids’ lives and thinking that goes beyond what they learn in math class, then that’s something you should take pride in.

    I know you can’t dwell on that kind of accomplishment, especially publicly, since then people will worry that it’s your secret agenda to have this effect. But as long as you’re keeping to your professional responsibilities and performing them within their limitations, the extra good of being a more extensive influence and role model in kids’ lives is a great thing.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    For jury trials, the jury is made up of random registered voters from the community. They are given instructions to look at the evidence impartially and objectively. The system does allow each side to dismiss a couple of jurors if there is evidence that they can’t perform the job impartially. An analogy can be made with teachers. They should come from law-abiding members of the community with a dedication to keep their personal religious beliefs out of the classroom. If they can’t keep their religious views outside the classroom, there could be an an argument for their removal. But as members of the community, they should be free to express their personal views outside the classroom. Ms. Higgin’s viewpoint is analogous to wanting one particular side to be able to hand-pick all the jurors in a trial. We all live in a pluralistic society and our education system (like our legal system) is more healthy when there is diversity among the practitioners of the system (as long as those practitioners play by non-partial objective rules). I view these ideas as being central to living in a civilized country and I thus view Ms. Higgins as being uncivilized.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/2009/08/friendly-atheist-under-attack.html MikeTheInfidel

    Hemant,

    I’ve gathered together my thoughts on the insanity and hypocrisy of Ms. Higgins’ actions on my blog (in the web link above).

    Yes, I pimped your book :)

    What it all boils down to is this:

    1. This sort of behavior is the double-edged sword to the phrase “If God be with us, who can be against us?”. On the one hand, it is saying that nobody can oppress you if God is on your side. On the other hand, it is also saying that if God is on your side, nobody can possibly have any real or valid objections to anything you do, since you’ve got divine endorsement. Higgins thinks that anything she does, no matter how venomous or slimy, is justified in the promotion of her beliefs.

    2. She was fired because of pressure her administrators received over her anti-gay comments on Moody radio. So, clearly, she’s an utter hypocrite. She’s out for revenge. Two wrongs make a right, in her mind. She’s turning the tables, rather than turning the other cheek. What a Christlike thing to do.

  • ccubeman

    You fail to acknowledge a central point that I addressed in my two articles, which is that many teens are unduly influenced by emotion or the cult of personality and are therefore predisposed to look favorably on the ideas of teachers whom they find cool or charismatic or funny or kind or iconoclastic.

    This is nothing but psychobabble. Ms. Higgins is describing the normal development of every teenager on earth.

  • Epistaxis

    Here is why I’m worried: you’re not a tenured professor at a university, where it would be unthinkable to fire a faculty member for expressing unpopular views. You’re at a public school, where (in my experience) the administration is very interested in keeping its collective head down, and the real power rests with a board of locals who may be much less informed than the teachers they govern. You’re doing the right thing by bringing this out in the open, but at the same time I hope you’re taking seriously the threat of being “Expelled.”

  • ccubeman

    Scratch teenager – every human on earth.

  • WCLPeter

    What I find funny about the whole thing is that Laurie is precipitating the very thing she was afraid of.

    By making a big deal of Hemant’s private life she’s effectively standing on a street corner, pointing at him, screaming “Atheist Teacher over there, check out the Atheist Teacher.” Of course this is going to eventually be on the news, especially once the school year starts up. The majority of students / parents that never really cared one way or another are going to Google it, come flocking to the site to see what the big deal is, and generally start making up their own minds.

    Its ironic really. Laurie was so worried that he was going to use his classes to espouse his views, something Hemant has repeatedly said he would never do, so she decided to do it for him in a very public way.

    If she was so worried about teens learning about atheism and gay rights, why is it that she can’t seem to stop talking about them to anyone who will listen?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    I’m sorry to hear about all this nonsense, Hemant. Good job remaining friendly and reasonable in your responses to Higgins.

    What a terribly misguided person she is. Her actions would be pitiful if they weren’t so infuriating.

  • Dave

    My senior year of high school, (I attended New Trier, Hemant) I took a conversational Spanish class because I felt like I had learned plenty of Spanish grammar, but has missed out on actually learning to speak the language. My teacher had been “born again” and spent more time in class trying to proselytize us than teaching us to speak Spanish. One of my good friends in the class, a Mormon, was just as insulted as I was.

    For one assignment, we had to bring into class a song performed in Spanish and translate it for the class. Being into ska music at the time, I was familiar with a band called The Voodoo Glow Skulls that published albums in both Spanish and English. I chose a song called “Monstruo del Gabinete” – “Closet Monster.” It was addressed to the parents of a girl who had become, what I’d generously call, loose, in college. Our teacher was not pleased. I considered it a small piece of revenge for the time I’d wasted in that class.

    That is an example of a bad teacher, Ms. Higgins. The author of this blog is not.

    I find it interesting that you compare your experience as a teacher, seeing as you never were one. Being a teacher’s aide is not the same.

  • http://brielle.sosdg.org Brielle

    Hemant, have you ever thought about teaching writing classes? You have a way with words people could learn alot from.

    Who would have ever thought that an educated and well respected teacher could be considered bad for kids? That woman has some serious problems – if she’s this in a frenzy over you, I wonder what she’d do if she ever ran into Steven Hawking.

  • Heidi

    You know, this whole “oh yeah, well it happened to me” bit is petty and spiteful. Unless it was affecting her work, it is wrong that she was fired for expressing her opinion, no matter how odious I find said opinion. But if a gay blogger jumped off a bridge, would she do that, too?

    The article about the cheerleading coach was infuriating. That school knew damned good and well she’d posed nude when they hired her. They didn’t have a problem with it until the rules-don’t-apply-to-my-kid mommy dragged the self-appointed morality squad into it. Again, this is not ok.

    Also, thank you so much to the Christians who are helping Hemant. We all need to stand together against extremism.

  • Karen

    Just getting back from vacation and very sorry to hear this is happening!

    Hemant, having “known” you online for several years now, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a teacher who is a better role model for teenagers (and I have two of my own).

    I’m sure you’re also an excellent math instructor and the school is lucky to have you on the faculty.

    If there’s a need (I sincerely hope there won’t be), I’m happy to contribute to Richard’s legal fund and do anything else I can to support you.

    Your courage and classiness in this exchange sets you far above the person who would deem herself “morally superior” and anyone can see that easily.

    Keith and other supportive Christians here, thanks so much for living out your faith with integrity. If only more religious people in this country followed your lead, conflicts between theists and non would quickly disappear.

  • Peter Lundquist

    I wrote them a letter:

    I am a former student of Hemant Mehta’s. I worked with him regularly on both the high school speech team, for which he was my coach, as well as the improv comedy club, for which I and another student asked him to be the faculty sponsor, in the 2007-2008 school year. It is not unreasonable to say I was in close contact with Mr. Mehta for about an hour a day two or three times a week during meetings and practices, as well as an additional four to six hours on Saturdays, when speech tournaments took place. In all those hours in the year that I knew him, he never once mentioned atheism, homosexuality, polyamory, or any of your other pet causes- let alone any ethical topics. Teaching mathematics and public speaking requires no mention of any of these, so, being a professional and excellent teacher (who is well aware of his legal rights and of the efforts of people like you to sabotage him), he left them out of the discussion and taught his students to the best of his ability. In fact, I was completely unaware that he was an atheist until I told him, in private and in passing, that I was one myself.

    Your claim that you are not “going after his job” is utterly ridiculous. I have zero doubt that you have the logical capacity necessary to understand what the consequences of your actions may be if they are effective. If parents really do pull students from Mr. Mehta’s class, the relationship between the administration and Mr. Mehta may be damaged. If the pattern continues year after year, or if your actions lead him to teaching an empty classroom, he can easily be fired for reasons that have nothing to do with religious discrimination and everything to do with the fact that the administration has no use for a teacher that reaches only a few students.

    In short, the vitriol you have been directing at an exemplary, professional teacher has been entirely misguided. He has never allowed his private life to affect his teaching, and I strongly doubt that he has plans to do so. It is not my business to comment on what I think of your beliefs or disagreements with Mr. Mehta; you have every right to have them and to proclaim them as loudly as you wish. Going over his head and attempting to damage his professional reputation, however, is more than disagreement. It is an unquestionably unethical and baseless move aimed at ruining the life and career of a perfectly respectable man that you disagree with. Any claim you make that it is not, or that you are not making it, is either a lie or an admission of deep denial.

    I do not know if your attempts will be successful, but I hope sincerely that they will not. Since you claim to stand for the moral Christian citizens of the state of Illinois, I would hope that you consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 7, verses 3-4: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” Mr. Mehta has proven himself to be a moral and ethical person. Through your attacks, you have proven yourself to be something else entirely. I beg you to reconsider.

    Sincerely,
    Peter Lundquist

  • http://defiantskeptic.wordpress.com/ defiantskeptic

    Hemant, I kind of wish you had been my high school math teacher instead of the boring, decrepit old man I had.

  • Josha

    Great response Hemant! Laurie Higgins claims that students are easily influenced by charismatic teachers and therefore we should monitor the social views and personal lives of our childrens’ teachers. Well, I can say that even though all of my high school teachers were openly observant Catholics, I still ended up becoming an atheist (thank his noodly appendage).

  • Delphine

    How long is this crazy bitch going to wait before she bans your book? Seriously.

  • Rest

    Laurie, I wonder if you’d say this stuff to Hemant face to face? Maybe it’d make you think about what you’re doing once you meet the real person and realize that he’s not the evil monster you’ve made him out to be?

    You need to think deeply about what you’re doing with this smear campaign. Look into your heart for once and ask yourself why you’re so full of hate and anger. I know there’s goodness within you deep down, and I have a feeling that you know you’re wrong, but it’s hard to back down once you’ve started, and you’ve been engrossed in IFI for so long that it’s difficult to let go.

    Question yourself! You can change for the better. You can do so much good if you let go of your hate, but the IFI does you no good. You are a better person than that.

    My heart goes out to Hemant, and yet, strangely, I feel for you, too, because I know what it’s like to be be a sanctimonious fundamentalist zealot. I know you probably think (is there any doubt?) what you’re doing is right, but if you’ll just listen to the people on this thread, as well as your “fellow” Christians, maybe you’ll see what you’re doing is terrible hurtful not only to Hemant but, ultimately, to yourself as well.

    Signed,
    Perplexed Atheist

  • Todd

    I’m sorry Hemant, but I think you are doing it wrong. If you want to increase book sales, you’re going to want to get targeted by a more prominent group. Laurie Higgins and the IFI, with there extensive email list of 12 people, just isn’t going to attract national media attention.

    Have you considered contacting Fred Phelps or William Donohue?

  • Mike

    I love how out of all the atheist bloggers on the net, she has to portray the self-acclaimed (and rightly so) “friendly” atheist as a gay-lovin’ radical with a cohort of lovers who will turn your child into a satan worshipper. I mean, really?

  • http://alliedatheistalliance.blogspot.com advertisinglies

    I understand the “just ignore this and it will go away” comments in theory, but I don’t think that would be the right course of action at all. I think you are doing exactly what needs to be done, Hemant – addressing her remarks and actions without fear or undue vitriol and exposing her for what she is – a mean lady. The problem with “ignore it and it will go away” is that when you are being picked on by a bully, and this woman is a bully make no mistake, you can ignore it but that doesn’t stop the bully from picking on you. The bully may get bored and go pick on someone else for a while or decide that you’re not worth their time but that doesn’t help anything. If you don’t stand up to these people, they will continue to mess either with your life periodically or with other people’s lives who may not have the same job stability or social support that Hemant does. What she’s doing isn’t right. It wouldn’t be right if it were one of us doing this to a christian and it’s not right when it’s a (bad) christian doing it to one of us. Hemant can either stand up to her (which I admire you for doing so calmly by the way) or he can ignore her – adding to her momentum and allowing her to go on to potentially harass someone else, and someone else after that, and so on.

  • Tony

    Silly Hemant; she didn’t want to get you fired. She just wanted you to lose your job! There’s a subtle difference you know…

    She does point out a very real danger however. The students may well be inspired by their suave, attractive, charismatic and cool teacher and seek out his blog and find out more about his dangerous views. They would then be exposed to Hemant’s dating problems thus ending the student’s adulation!

  • Jeff C

    You’re one of my favorite stops on the interwebs, Hemant. Thanks for being so awesome. We all stand behind you :)

  • http://you.arehated.com/ John

    I usually don’t like it when smart people smack dumb people around. But this jackass had it coming. Nice job!

  • llewelly

    It’s the reason there were some recent stories about parents being upset that a high school cheerleading coach posed in her private life for Playboy magazine, and why some parents would not want their children in the class of a teacher who in their free time on a public forum promotes racist views or denies the historicity of the Holocaust.

    She’s comparing a bit of nudity in one of America’s most boring magazines with denial of the murder of millions people? Nudity never killed anyone (unless the weather was bad), but the Holocaust killed 6 million Jews, and 3-6 million non-Jews. This woman is insane.

  • http://www.DangerousTalk.net DangerousTalk

    Don’t let her get away with claiming that she wasn’t implying that you should be fired. Of course she was!!! There is no reason to right to someone’s boss otherwise. I call Bull Shit!
    -Staks

  • http://www.SpookyEnglish.com @EvilPRGuy

    Hemant,

    This whole situation makes me very sad. It’s so completely absurd that someone would waste their time launching baseless attacks on a quality educator.

    Your response to her letter is outstanding, and I’m certain that any reasonable person reading it will quickly see what an absurd and biased attack on your character she is perpetrating.

    I’m 100% behind you, and know that clear heads will prevail. Best of luck squashing these shenanigans.

  • The Professional Iconoclast

    One more point to note about Laurie Higgin’s “Illinois Family Institute”: it has likely funding ties to James Dobson’s Focus Action (the political arm of his “Focus on the Family” enterprise). Dobson initially had these state family organizations established in order to mobilize the sheeple at a local level for state and national elections.

    The Illinois Institute does not reveal its annual funding sources, but I’d bet they receive considerable funding from out-of-state sources.

  • flawedprefect

    Alls I can add is: WOOOOO! Go Hermant! Go Hermant! Go go go Hermant!

    *Does P0wn’d Dance all over the internet*

  • jeffcia

    Oh my god – how can they leave a man like you in the classroom!!?

    You openly and unabashedly teach them about your views on GEOMETRY? If I’m not mistaken – that might require some of your students to THINK, and on their own nonetheless. The horror!

    Let me guess – you only teach them Euclidean geometry. Very closed minded in the light of the overwhelming evidence that the world is not flat :)

    What’s next? Physics? Calculus? Maybe Quantum Chemistry, Relativity, and String Theory?

    For the record, we love your sarcasm and support you 100%. Keep up the good work.

  • Holly

    High school kids are curious, and if information is out there on the interwebs they will find it. My daughter had a new science teacher she greatly disliked and some of her friends googled him and discovered that he had founded the first gay organization at a major public university. The news of this immediately shot through the high school student networks, “Can you believe it? Mr. X is gay!” But as the year progressed, the absolutely skillful and engaging teaching by Mr. X won over the students respect. They found out he is a person who is passionate about his teaching. Now he is one of the teachers kids ask for. And not because he is an easy grader, either. As far as I know, no parent challenged his fitness to teach.

    I hope this is the trend in the majority of school districts, but alas, not yours. However, I believe Ms Higgins has challenged the wrong person! Her first mistake was that she did not read your blog carefully and figure out what a thoughtful, intelligent, and sensitive person you are, and that you have a hero’s following whose voice can be cranked up pretty loud when necessary.
    You can only hope that she recognizes her “mission from god” for what it is: petty hate-mongering “necessary” to protect children on behalf of her apparently impotent omniscient and all-powerful deity.

  • Jodie

    This is an entirely predictable situation, which makes it all the more sad. Don’t lose faith (in yourself, of course ;)

  • http://bluegrassfool.blogspot.com/ Scott

    This isn’t the first time Laurie has tried to get somebody fired from a school-related job. From her gay pornographer, Peter LaBarbera:

    http://americansfortruth.com/news/chicago-public-schools-new-ceo-ron-huberman-openly-embraces-homosexual-immorality.html

    No wonder Peter and Laurie was up this guys ass – he’s hot! Too bad he wasn’t in the bath-houses when Laurie would send Peter in disguise to film porno!

    Laurie Higgins is truly psychotic!

  • http://theinfinityprogram.com Kevin

    I love how Ms. Higgins is taking advantage of the language tool known as “implication” to passive-aggressively go about trying to get Mr. Mehta fired, so that — as her open letter demonstrates — she can have the advantage of plausible deniability.

    I wonder who she thinks she is fooling about her true intentions. Everybody can see that this is the smear campaign of someone who got butt hurt from being criticized.

  • JulietEcho

    The Illinois Institute does not reveal its annual funding sources, but I’d bet they receive considerable funding from out-of-state sources.

    Well, plenty of us gave money to support Kay Hagen last fall, and not all of us were from North Carolina. I don’t see a problem with political/ideological organizations that operate locally being funded by people from other areas. It seems silly to point fingers when we do it too – and I don’t think anything is wrong with it.

    (Clarifying: I don’t think anything is wrong with the *funding* being from out-of-state – almost everything else regarding the IFI seems very, very wrong!)

  • http://www.twitter.com/skepticalbunny PeggyB

    Hemant:

    Great response. This whole thing is insane.

    It’s been a while since I was in school, but I wish I’d had a math teacher that was the least little bit interested in helping those of us who didn’t have a knack for math. And I wouldn’t have cared at that point if s/he had been an atheist, a Christian or a pagan, for crying out loud! It wouldn’t have mattered to me if s/he liked to dance naked under the full moon with Nutella smeared all over him/her. (It might’ve given me some interesting dreams, though…) If I’d had good math teachers, I would be probably be doing something far more interesting than what I’m doing right now.

    In high school, I had some good teachers. I was particularly fond of two of them. One was a chemistry teacher. It bothered me that I couldn’t take his class because of the math-heaviness of it. I encountered him for another school-related project, and we remained friends even after I graduated. He was fun and funny and irreverent, and he was DJ at all the school dances. I worked with him there, and at his other dances/weddings/bar mitzvahs outside school. I still get in touch with him now and then. He told me at one point when we were working together after school that he’d studied to be a priest. I was an atheist then. I’m still an atheist. His Catholicism didn’t make me change my mind. I still respect him. I still consider him my friend. That was the last time he ever mentioned anything to do with religion. And he still doesn’t know I’m an atheist.

    The other teacher was an English teacher. He was fun, and a great guy. I took his class in Shakespeare, and I was part of several of his after school projects. At one point, he started a new after school club, called His Group. I should have known what that was all about, but because he was the faculty advisor, I got involved. For two meetings. Then I decided that perhaps it wouldn’t be a great idea. But I still liked the teacher. I still stopped in to see him after I’d graduated. And he doesn’t know I’m an atheist, either.

    The thing is, kids will form their own opinions, regardless of who they’re spending their days with. If it’s not in high school, it will be in college. They need to become their own person, and if that means critically examining all their beliefs, then great. Apparently this horse’s patootie can’t figure that out. Or maybe she’s afraid of that happening.

  • Anna

    I just started reading your blog, and I can’t believe someone is doing this. How . . . low. I mean, disagreeing is one thing, but when you take it out of the conversation and into the rest of the room, it is distasteful.

  • http://www.aspectsofphysics.com Jason S

    I haven’t commented before but I have to now. Its really hard for me to believe there are people out there like this. Hurts my feeling that some people waste there time on things that restrict the progress of humanity. I can’t wait humans get over there social hangups and we can get on with a good life.

  • http://saganist.blogspot.com/ Saganist

    Jeez, this is getting ridiculous. By the way, my child’s 1st grade teacher is one of the most conservative, fundamentalist, toe-the-line Mormons I know of. And she’s a great teacher, and my daughter loves her. I have no problem with that whatsoever.

  • Natalie

    I have to agree with everyone else and say that this is getting a little crazy. Don’t worry we will all be here to support you.

  • AxeGrrl

    All I can say is that I hope this garners some very public (and well-funded) attention.

    This is precisely the kind of thing that gets dismissed because of the unearned ‘shield’ that religion and religious beliefs enjoy.

    It feels odd to actually hope that this spins into litigation ~ because if it does, she’s not going to be on the victorious side.

    Also (this is completely off-topic) llewelly wrote:

    but the Holocaust killed 6 million Jews, and 3-6 million non-Jews.

    why don’t we just say:

    ‘the Holocaust killed 9-12 million PEOPLE’ ?

  • http://blog.myspace.com/johnpritzlaff John Pritzlaff

    So for real, when are you going to sue her for defamation? Isn’t that an option?

  • Pingback: Christians Persecute Atheist Teacher « Snippets

  • David Franks

    As I have no doubt that Laurie Higgins is obsessively reading every one of these comments, I’ll address her directly:

    Keep up the good work, Laurie. You’ve managed to become the Fred Phelps of Illinois. And, like Fred, you’re so unabashedly vile, disingenuous and hateful that you actually create sympathy for those you attack. ALL progressives in Illinois are indebted to you and your, ahem “work.” Thanks!

  • Dave

    @ John Pritzlaff –

    So for real, when are you going to sue her for defamation? Isn’t that an option?

    Two things -

    First, Hemant has not yet suffered any tangible damages. Without them, a court would toss his case out. Now, if the school fired him…

    Second, defamation usually requires the statements to be both defamatory and untrue. Technically, Higgins has not lied yet. She’s twisted reality, sure, but she can still claim a defense of truth. There is another cause of action that would fit the situation more closely – public disclosure of private facts – however, Hemant has already disclosed everything Higgins has said on this blog. On rare occasions, a court will consider a true, but misleading statement (as Higgins has made here) in an action called “false light.” Hemant might have a weak false light claim.

    Although I grew up in Chicago, I was educated in Colorado and I’m not familiar with the IL legal system. I don’t know the structure of the defamation statutes. However, I don’t think he’d have a cause of action.

  • http://bluegrassfool.blogspot.com/ Scott

    One thing that might be worth looking into is a lot of these “christians” going after anti-bullying efforts don’t even allow their own children to attend those schools – they’re homeschooled.

    Pretty fucking cowardly – they go around making schools unsafe for other kids, but their own kids are too good to be around bullying – or they homeschool them for fear they may be ridiculed by students because their parents are well-known busybodies stirring shit up in public schools.

    Laurie’s gay pornographer Peter LaBarbera has 5 kids, and I believe they’re all homeschooled. It wouldn’t surprise me if Laurie is homeschooling her kids as well, if she has any.

    Cheapo Rick Santorum homeschools his kids as well, because he knows the children of gay parents would ridicule his own.

    If their kids are too good to be picked on, then Laurie needs to keep her nose out of public schools.

  • Rest

    According to this video, on the IFI YouTube channel, she has four children. She’s sitting in the middle on the panel.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQtXxAx9J8k&fmt=18

    Her daughter, who attended a public high school, gave a speech at the conference:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WSN4Oo_gUI&fmt=18

    This next speech from a highschool student reminds me so much of myself as a evangelical teenager. Everything he said I wouldn’ve agreed with 100%. Scary.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-EuomBoF94&fmt=18

  • thilina

    Is it me or is she still trying to play the victim card (the homosexual blogger, you keep misunderstanding me, you’re lying about me).

    She seriously needs to get her head out of her ass and realize just how different people are.

  • thilina

    On the bright side, Hemant, you’re getting a lot of traffic on the website. I’d push for a spot on the daily show or something.

  • NoGurus

    I went to Deerfield High School and remember many creepy teachers with a ruler up their a…. Glad they got rid of this one. A writing instructor with a Christian agenda doesn’t work in this high school, which has a large Jewish minority and sends a lot of bright, intelligent students off to college. I cannot remember any fundamentalist Christian type groups in this high school, and this woman was clearly out of her element. Good for Deerfield to complain about her anti-homosexual views, and good riddance to her. I am sure the students could not be happier to get rid of one more screwed up, vindictive, religiously bigoted high school instructor.

  • Scott Turner

    Nice job, Hemant. If I had kids I’d want them in your class.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    It seems Ms. Higgins is hell bent to support her cause, and it appears at any and all costs.

    She’s a tricky one, as I’m sure someone has already commented on.

    Her wording and verbiage are of such that she’s very careful to not state specifically that she’s calling for you to be fired from your job.

    But, her intentions are to guide people that look to the family values supported by the IFI, as narrowly diverse reasons to avoid anything and anyone that doesn’t exactly share the IFI values.

    This woman is not about giving advice to others. She is all about a movement to remove anything that doesn’t fit her’s and the IFI’s definition of what’s acceptable for a family value. She’s just riding the legal line enough to not spell in out in plain and simple words.

    This is not some sort of back and forth pissing match. It’s a single person who has an issue that someone like Hemant is able to exercise his free speech rights and there is nothing legal she can do about it (but she’s doing her best to dig and find a reason, based on her letters and public emails)

    FWIW, atheists should be the least of her concerns for a family values organization.

    What I find most hypocritical from Ms. Higgins is how she’s free to make various statements about Hemant, but when Hemant counters those with his own statements, this is not acceptable to her. This is typical of the “I’m right and you are not” debate that is common in the world of religious belief.

    Hemant, I understand wanting to defend yourself and your character and you’ve done that very well so far. But defending yourself to a narrow-minded individual falls on deaf ears. This is press for Laurie and the IFI. And until she’s willing to post an email to your readers banning your book, then I say stop giving her more press here. Then she can find another target on the web to satisfy her “focus on negative, nothing positive” way of promoting family values.

  • Danielle

    It blows my mind how the option of letting the children (who, when in high school, are old enough to think for themselves) make up their own minds is totally out of the question. Apparently, if you’re under 18 years old you must believe exactly what your parents believe.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    ‘Twas a great response to IFI’s bigotry & hypocrisy, Hemant.

  • http://angietheantitheist.blogspot.com Angie Jackson

    Those parents are entitled to sufficient information to make informed choices about the very public activities of their children’s teachers–something that for some odd reason seems to offend you.

    Actually, parents *aren’t* entitled to make choices – informed or otherwise – about the public activities of their kid’s teachers. That’d be preposterous. I’m a mother. I have NO idea what my religion my son’s teacher subscribes to, if any. She may know my views, but it doesn’t effect how she treats me or my kid.

    You’re doing a fantastic job dealing with this nonsense. Keep up the good fight with head held high.

  • http://mcwong1948.blogspot.com/ Mac McCarthy

    Keep up the good work, M.

    It is true that being publically atheist can be scary business; discretion is much easier. SO I’m always amazed and titillated when people like you and Sam Harris come out and say what I’m thinking (though you are more eloquent and thoughtful than I). I appreciate it.

    I sent my daughters to Catholic school to protect them from the public schools, but I told them, “Don’t tease the Catholics” (who are pretty tolerant, for Christians) and to be discreet.

    Funny thing: In Freshman (HS) religion class one day, the teacher asked how many kids in the class were Christian; nobody raised their hand. (He then asked how many were Muslim–one hand raised–and atheist–my kids raised their hands, somewhat nervously.)

    So he looked at the rest of them and said, “How many are Catholic?” and all the rest raised their hands.

    There was a long pause. The teacher said, “What do Catholics believe in?” Answer: Jesus Christ. And what do you call someone who believes in Jesus Christ? Looong pause as the dawn comes.

    The Christian right has so demeaned and debased the public image of their religion that the average kid in high school doesn’t want to be associated with the term — even Catholic kids! To them, “Christian” means “mean right-wing religious bullies,” and that’s not them.

    Interesting world, isn’t it?

  • Barbara

    As I read this, all I could think was: Can I ask my school not to have a conservative teach my child? Or maybe I should ask them not to have a skinny blond that looks like an anorexic teach them. I guess my child is “unduly” influenced by the man who teaches bible school on Sundays and since I’m an atheist I should make sure he shouldn’t be teaching my child.

    This woman should be embarrassed by her behavior.

  • JR

    She’s totally a mean biatch! She ruins any chance of getting to heaven by being mean, which is one of the 14 deadly vanities!!

    She can’t fool me, I went to vacation bible school once, and learned all about the deadly vanities. You can’t get a harp and join the heavenly chorus if you’re a mean biatch, everybody knows that.

    I don’t think she’s a chriastian at all, she probably never read the book of thomas OR the book of baruch by justin. So I’m not too surprised she’s given any hope of holy ends by turning so mean. :-(

    (That’s her self-portrait on the last line.)

    Some people think they cal call themselves a christian and that’s all it takes to get to the pearley gates with a password, but, not!

    I’ve know some genuine christians, and they are, without exception, nice. Really really nice, to everyone, even the witches, er biatches. Our host has been pretty nice, considering, and he claims not to be a christian. But I think I know which midnight train he’ll be on. It won’t be the train Ms Higgens is on, now will it? Nope!

    Best of luck, fellow athiest!

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