Christian Complains About Atheist Students at a High School

I don’t know why Jameel Naqvi or his editor at the Daily Herald feel this is worthy of a news article at all… but since it’s on their site, let’s talk about it. It’s another example of how crazy the Christian mentality can be when faced with any sort of opposing viewpoint.

A group of atheists at Larkin High School in Elgin, IL took part in last week’s Ask An Atheist Day. They set up a couple tables in the cafeteria (with permission from the principal). I’m guessing they had something resembling an Ask An Atheist sign visible on the tables:

And that’s it. They didn’t proselytize. They didn’t go around to students eating their lunch. They didn’t make an announcement over the intercom. If students came up to the tables out of their own curiosity, the atheists answered their questions.

So what’s the news story here?

As is so often the case, there was a pissed-off Christian parent:

“They were here to talk about atheism,” said Shavon Stanback of Elgin. “That’s totally unacceptable to me.”

She continued: “I’m a Christian woman. I believe in God. I believe in heaven and hell.”

That’s nice. Guess what? No one cares.

Shavon Stanback doesn’t understand the law or, apparently, the idea that other people have different beliefs.

This isn’t news. It’s just another case of a Christian pretending to be the victim.

At least the principal was sensible:

“I allow Christian groups to do a similar thing,” [principal Jon] Tuin said. “So I feel like if atheist kids want to engage in dialogue with students at lunch time and they do it in a reasonable way, they’re within their rights.”

Tuin said the discussions he witnessed were lively but civil.

That’s all you can ask for. The principal and the students were doing everything right and they deserve to be commended for it.

By the way, atheist students at Larkin High School, I don’t know who you are and I don’t even know if you have a formal group, but if you ever want a speaker for an event, get in touch with me. I’m not that far away and I’ll come for free.

***Update***: I haven’t verified this yet, but it looks like the student who organized the event is telling his side of the story on Reddit:

  • Sully

    A high school with a sensible principal? WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?

  • Ed

    They are so threatened by someone who isn`t afraid of hell and doesn`t believe in heaven .They believe in the here and now and doing the best for the good of others while they are here .They do this for the joy of bringing smiles to the faces of people who appreciate the help…
    What`s so bad about that ???

  • Scarlette Blues

    It’s great to see the principal standing up for everyone’s rights. I would have loved to attend that high school.

    As for the parent, she needs to realize that some people do not share her view of the world.

    & Hemant, good for you for offering to speak. If you are asked, please film it! It would be great to see what our high schoolers are saying these days.

  • Emaj Cirtap

    A high school with a sensible principal? WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?

    Hopefully one where people realize there are people who don’t believe everything you believe.

  • james

    props to the kids who did this,

    this gave me a great idea, i want to make a athiest youth group at my college now, ill make a few fliers pass them out hopefully piss off a bunch for religous parents while doing so, and hopefully find that im not the only openly athiest student at my college.

  • NotYou007

    According to her facebook page she graduated from that school in 1992 so that is most likely why she has her panties in a bunch.

  • Jake

    I sometimes wonder if people like Shavon actually understand what they sound like.

  • Matt Foss

    I’m glad to see that these kids have the courage and support to stand up and say “Hello, I’m an atheist!” and have the administration back them up on it. I’ve read far too many stories of high school kids being blocked from starting atheist groups because no teacher or principal wants to brave the controversy it will stir up.

    Of course, openly saying that you don’t believe something that other people believe so strongly is bound to get at least a few angry reactions. If that parent’s rant is the worst of it, then I’d say the event was pretty successful.

    A campaign of positive visibility like this only helps show the religious types that we atheists are not the scary bogeymen lurking in the darkness ready to suck away their faith like Dementors that many of them imagine us to be.

  • Joaquin

    I was the student who talked to the entire staff to get this thing together. To see my side click the above link.

  • hoverfrog

    “They were here to talk about atheism,” said Shavon Stanback of Elgin. “That’s totally unacceptable to me.”

    Then go and live in a cave and leave the rest of us alone. What is it with people like this that cannot accept even the existence of differing points of view? Is the fact that not everyone believes in God or a god so frightening to them that they have to object?

  • Sharmin

    “They were here to talk about atheism,” said Shavon Stanback of Elgin. “That’s totally unacceptable to me.”
    She continued: “I’m a Christian woman. I believe in God. I believe in heaven and hell.”

    Why do people think “I’m a Christian” is a good argument for why other people can’t do something?

    “I allow Christian groups to do a similar thing,” Tuin said. “So I feel like if atheist kids want to engage in dialogue with students at lunch time and they do it in a reasonable way, they’re within their rights.”

    It sounds like a reasonable rule.

  • Fred

    I don’t know why Jameel Naqvi or his editor at the Daily Herald feel this is worthy of a news article at all

    I would actually say it was a good(tm) thing to write an article about that. It is clearly worth informing people that:
    1/ not everyone is as close-minded as some followers of a religion which is supposed to preach tolerance
    2/ not every civil servant is as constitution blind as those who would put religious motto into state speech.

    The article is what journalism is about… Reporting facts with no overt bias so we, the readers, can make our own mind based on the information provided.

    The fact that a christian mother would actually be outraged that someone, somewhere, would dare to talk about atheism sin’t really a surprise :)

  • The Dol

    What I find interesting about this, even more than the righteous indignation of a Christian (because how is that news?), is the fact that ONE parent being upset warranted a news article. If the reporter hadn’t procured (good) quotes from school personnel, I’d seriously wonder about his/her motives, but as it is, I’m just confused. If he wanted to write a piece about an atheist student group, fine, but why does the headline and thrust of the story have to center around one snitty parent? It’s just bizarre to me.

  • Kahomono

    I still like Bill Maher’s take

    “When I hear people begin saying anything with the words “Well, I’m a Christian… ” I don’t hear they are on some kind of higher moral plane. All I hear is “Well, I have a Neurological Disorder…”

  • chicago dyke

    another weak sauce faith xtian whining about the fact that other people have other views. so pathetic.

    what’s more pathetic is that people in this country are letting idiots like her ruin it for the rest of us. wake up america. we’re not supposed to be a theocracy. i’m with H; this shouldn’t be “news.”

  • InkSlinger

    Wow this is strange. I went to Larkin High (98-02) and I actually started the first bible study at our school in 2001 with a couple of friends. It was a BIG deal. We had the bible study in a study hall room before school and had a teacher sit in just in case anything happened. We would play worship music and then have a “sermon” usually given by me.

    I am now an Atheist. Gotta love it. Wish I still lived in Elgin…would’ve gone and supported this.

  • Skip

    What a great logical principle. I wish more schools would follow his leadership.
    I wish Shavon could realize there is more than ONE religion in the world.

  • Oli

    i wish those idiots would just fuck off..

  • Lizzy

    Not that it’s directly related to the newspaper article, but on the reddit link there were some racial references and implications that made me distinctly uncomfortable.

  • Rieux

    Have to agree with your first sentence, Hemant. It’s hard to see how this is particularly newsworthy, at least with the focus on the one atheophobic parent who complained. If anything, the story worth telling is that (1) some neat atheist kids set up a question-and-answer table in the cafeteria during lunch periods and (2) both the school administration and the bulk of the student body dealt with it in properly respectful and constructive fashion.

    Kudos to all of them. (Except the atheophobe mom.)

  • Joe Zamecki

    This is so AWESOME! I went to Katy High School, the birthplace of “Solemnization,” and to this day, something like this Ask An Atheist table probably wouldn’t be allowed. It sure wouldn’t be safe.

    Now there’s a high school Atheist student group not only doing this, but successfully? Cool! And the principal is actually fair minded about it, to the best possible degree we can ask for? So cool!

    What’s even better about this is that usually it’s the Atheist who is featured as all alone with a wild sounding complaint. This time it’s a lone Christian! And she sounds quite intolerant. Beautiful! I appreciate that media outlet. :)

  • marylynne

    I was really impressed with the quality of the comments on the Reddit thread. Lots of teens with relevant, insightful comments and hardly any trolling.

  • ewan

    on the reddit link there were some racial references and implications that made me distinctly uncomfortable

    Do you mean the comments that the most and strongest opposition came from black people? I’m not sure that should really be news, or make anyone uncomfortable. It’s pretty well established that intollerant fundamentalist christianity is stronger in the black community than the population as a whole.

  • Yanni A.

    Should I complain or call the police when people of whatever religion(s) knock on my door weekly, and leave printed religious materials at my door. They come to talk with me about how much better my life would be (and my death too?!) if I just believe what they believe.

    Littering? Trespassing? Harassment? I don’t approach/solicit them. I’m sure Shavon Stanback and many others do not see an issue with people actually being approached and recruited as long as it fit with her/their beliefs.

    Seems so ignorant and arrogant that because she/They believe in GOD, HEAVEN and HELL, that no one else is allowed to believe just as much in anything even slightly different.

    So glad there are good and just people (like the principal at Larkin High School in Elgin, IL) that have principles and do the right thing. That is, allowing all sides to be represented and to be available for dialog for anyone interested or curious.

  • Chris

    Why are the overwhelming majority of American black people so religious? Do they not know that they were indoctrinated in to Christianity and had it forced upon them by their slave masters? Side point I know, but still, the strongest opposition… Strange! What an odd thing to say, “I am a Christian” blah blah blah! What a jerk! I can only imagine if the roles were reversed… There is basically no way an Atheist confronts a religious group at a table with “I am an Atheist and I am offended” Though religion is offensive to most of the senses and a bit insulting to ones intelligence…

  • Drew M.

    I don’t trust anyone who spells Siobhán phonetically.

  • Lizzy

    It wasn’t that they mentioned that African-American women held stronger religious views, it was how several of the commenters were playing on ignorant stereotypes concerning how people of color speak.

  • Dan Lewis

    I just wish there was an atheist talk place set up weekly at that school and most schools!

  • joe-bob

    See as someone with a legal education the Christian mother doesn’t bug me because she’s a twit who hates the idea that her kid might encounter open atheism at school. What bugs me is that so few people like her go on to make the logical leap to, “You know, it pissed me off that a faith not of my own was allowed to advertise at a public school. Heavens to bettsie!! Is that what I have been putting others through by demanding that Christianity be given access to the school? Maybe this is why we have the First Amendment. I’d better go tell all my friends to stop tearing down that wall of separation.”
    If that kind of thing happened more often I’d be much happier.

  • CondescendingMike

    WTF!? I didn’t know that elgin or larkin was full of fanatic christians and im christian myself, I never noticed because most people around me seem to be atheist, agnostics, or pretend christians… I guess that explains the prudes. and I didn’t know that atheists had a hard time around here, because from my experience I cant mention religion without someone making sneak insults before they finally resort to name calling. The thing about christianity is this, its technically unprovable because the bible even says that god will not be tested, you can only point to things that hint at a creator, so trying to ‘scientifically’ prove christianity would be fruitless unless occam’s razor was considered. I dont remember that event being a huge deal, I guess because I was atheist at the time, but Larkin students had real problems to deal with so this story was hyped up, it was an uneventful day. Now Im probably going to take a verbal beating for winding up at an atheist site, but hey it keeps you on your toes.

  • CondescendingMike

    Pissing people off just for the hell of it doesn’t make you a revolutionary leader, it only makes you a jerk, and I doubt that people will take your flyers very seriously because you’re comment is plagued by grammar and spelling errors. If you consider your attempt at trolling a great idea then you have low standards and I reckon you’re a cubicle drone now; seeing as your college couldn’t even save you from illiteracy (what more can I expect from a college that enrolls from the bottom of the barrel?) XD