This District Is About to Get Sued…

Here’s another high school atheist you’ll want to keep on your radar: Damon Fowler.

I’m catching up on his whole story, so to help me out (and maybe to help you out), I’m just writing up the bulletpoint version of what went down.

  • Damon, a senior, knew that prayers would be said during the graduation ceremony at Bastrop High School, a public school in Louisiana. He shared his concerns on Reddit.

    My graduation from high school is this Friday. I live in the Bible Belt of the United States. The school was going to perform a prayer at graduation, but due to me sending the superintendent an email stating it was against Louisiana state law and that I would be forced to contact the ACLU if they ignored me, they ceased it. The school backed down, but that’s when the shitstorm rolled in. Everyone is trying to get it back in the ceremony now. I’m not worried about it, but everyone hates me… kind of worried about attending graduation now. It’s attracted more hostility than I thought.

    My reasoning behind it is that it’s emotionally stressing on anyone who isn’t Christian. No one else wanted to stand up for their constitutional right of having freedom of and FROM religion. I was also hoping to encourage other atheists to come out and be heard. I’m one of maybe three atheists in this town that I currently know of. One of the others is afraid to come out of the (atheist) closet.

    Though I’ve caused my classmates to hate me, I feel like I’ve done the right thing. Regardless of their thoughts on it, basically saying I am ruining their fun and their lives, I feel like I’ve helped someone out there. I didn’t do this for me or just atheists, but anyone who doesn’t believe in their god that prayer to Yahweh may affect.

  • As he wrote in the letter, Damon contacted Principal Stacey Pullen on Tuesday and said he would be in touch with the ACLU if the prayer happened.
  • Pullen said changes would be made to the program so there would be no legal issues. (YAY!)
  • Mitzi Quinn, a faculty member at BHS for 25 years, decides to open her mouth to badmouth Damon. A teacher publicly trashed a student. Seriously. She said:

    “… what’s even more sad is this is a student who really hasn’t contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates.”

    Quinn is a senior advisor, by the way. A role model of sorts. How about that.

    Quinn also says (I’m paraphrasing here) other non-religious students have kept their mouths shut about the prayer for years, so why can’t Damon? I’m guessing JT Eberhard‘s reaction is the same as yours.

  • Damon’s brother, Jerrett Fowler, had Quinn as a teacher and wrote her a letter that you have to read. Meanwhile, their mother cut off all communication with Damon.
  • Americans United says Damon has indeed contributed to the school:

    He’s taught his fellow students that no matter how hard it is, they should stand up for what’s right. He also represents all those who have been afraid to challenge the unconstitutional practice all these years.

  • Reddit gets involved and alerts the whole world to his story. The Freedom From Religion Foundation gives Damon a $1,000 college scholarship for standing up for what’s right. (All the contacts you need for the school district and school board are at that link. And here.)
  • The graduation rehearsal happened Thursday night and one of the students led the longest prayer you’ll ever hear at a public school event:

  • ***Update***: Reader Lana provided a transcript of the video:

    Teacher: Before we start the program, there are a few housecleaning chores we need to take care of. At this time, I’m going to ask all of you to please turn off your or silence your cell phones. And once the program is completed, I’m going to ask that all of you remain seated until all of the graduates have processed to the end of the program. And one last thing, um, I want to make sure that you please give these young people the respect they have earned. This is their graduation, and a happy time for them, and we don’t want anything to distract from that.

    Girl takes stage.

    Girl: Will you please stand for a moment of silence, and remain standing for the presentation of colors and the pledge of allegiance. Before I get started, though, let me say this. I was initially chosen to deliver the invocation, but I was recently informed that I would be leading the moment of silence. However, before I fulfill my obligation, I would like to say that I am of the Christian faith. Now, I respect those who do not share the same beliefs as I do. But at this time, I would like to give thanks to the god that has made the class of 2011 a success.

    (Crowd cheers from 1:26 – 1:55 mark)

    For those of you who share the same, the same beliefs as I do, I ask that you please bow your heads and pray.

    (Cheers from crowd)

    Our heavenly father, we come with thankfulness and a grateful heart for the friendships and the memories that you have given us as the class of 2011. Even though, for many of us, this’ll be the last time that we gather together as a class, we pray that you will lead us, guide us, and watch over us through all of our endeavors throughout the rest of our lives. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

    (Crowd shouts “amen” @ 2:26 mark, cheers and claps to 2:37 mark).

    And now, for a moment of silence.

    (2:39 – 2:49, loud chattering and noises in crowd).

    Thank you.

    (more hoots and cheers from crowd.)

    I know students are allowed to mention God in their speeches, but this gratuitously? And for this long? What were the school officials thinking?!

    Jen McCreight explains the significance of what happened:

    This girl used prayer as a weapon to separate the Good Christians from The Others. To alienate. To shun. To mock. And even more disgustingly, the community cheers along like a pack of warriors who have defeated their enemy, and laugh condescendingly at the mention of a moment of silence.

    Bastrop High School, prepare to get the living fuck sued out of you. This may not be graduation, but it’s still a school function. It doesn’t matter if you told this girl not to say a prayer – the fact that you let it go on for three minutes is a crime. You should have turned off the mic and pulled her from the stage the moment “but” left her lips.

If that video is any indication of how Friday night’s graduation ceremony will go, they better enjoy whatever prayer is said. It’s about to cost them one hell of a lot of money.

For those concerned, there’s a Support Damon page on Facebook — you can all send your love there.

And I’m going to go ahead and start a scholarship fund for Damon. (The money is going into my personal account, but you have my assurance I’ll send him whatever amount is raised. I’ll provide proof on this site.)



  • dj

    I will make a donation tomorrow, for sure, and post it about to my very limited circle, cause it’s too late tonight, but I don’t want to forget so please keep this one in our faces for a few days. That kid’s a hero.

  • TheG

    Not to be too cynical, but I think the school district of this fair city is going to be providing Damon with a very hefty scholarship for college.

    And grad school.

    And a doctorate.

    And a trust fund for his little free thinking children to go to college, too.

    But I think the fundraising could go to one heck of a kegger once this brave young man turns 21.

  • Shoves

    For crying out loud, America is a big joke when it comes to religion. As hate fuelled as between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq & Afghanistan.

    Well, what do you expect when it’s ‘One nation, under ‘god”….pitiful.

  • ntuxn

    I agree with shoves up there… The way the world works is just sickening… Damon has my support.

  • Liz

    I’ve been following this on Reddit. I didn’t send the info, because I figured another redditor would. That video was horrible!

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    Damon is in my thoughts. I’ll even throw in a few prayers to Thoth (for wisdom) and Sekhmet (for protection) for this kid.

    ETA: Their own god-man, Jesus, had this to say about public prayer:

    And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

    Matthew 6:5-7

  • http://www.AtheistsHelpingtheHomeless.org Joe Zamecki

    To me, a prayer at an event in which we know not everyone there is religious, is just like standing up at that podium and shouting “White power!” It makes just as much sense as “Let us pray.” If only pushy theists could understand that, and I often think they do understand it. But that’s the power of religion. It’s sometimes more powerful than the user.

  • Rich Wilson

    Though I’ve caused my classmates to hate me

    You haven’t caused anyone to do anything (even, it would seem obey the law). It’s their choice to hate you. Don’t take responsibility or apologize for other people taking offense at you insisting on your rights.

  • Tom

    Another story out of Louisiana. Another reason why I won’t be moving there any time soon.

  • AxeGrrl

    Rich Wilson wrote:

    You haven’t caused anyone to do anything (even, it would seem obey the law). It’s their choice to hate you. Don’t take responsibility or apologize for other people taking offense at you insisting on your rights.

    Beautifully said, Rich.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    i have .67$ in my bank account right now. but when i have 10$, they will go to this kid. this rocks.

  • unbeliever

    $10 kicked in, and I hope the display of such character at a young age is further rewarded.

  • John

    “Call the American Civil Liberties Union all you want to, buddy. However, I’m praying at MY graduation. If you do not want to participate in prayer, then don’t bow your head. You may not believe that there is a God above, but I sure do.”
    – Sarah Beth Barlow

    http://i.imgur.com/oToVR.jpg

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/05/never_trust_a_christian.php#comment-3926681

    http://i.imgur.com/bBpzy.png

  • http://jacobblock.com Jacob

    It sounds like there might actually be some good action tomorrow. I predict an atheist ‘rapture’ day tomorrow, when these assholes get the law’s secular foot up their ass.

  • http://atwas911.wordpress.com Atwas911

    *nods* Yep.. It’s about time to start building the deprogramming camps.

  • Ida Know

    I just want to applaud Damon’s brother. Bravo, Jerrett! I wish everyone could have a brother (or a sister) like you.

  • LLoyd

    She has freedom of speech and the government cannot tell her that she is not allowed to pray. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,” Oh, and she should be able to go up and yell “white power” too. She can say what she wants and everyone has the freedom to hate her for it.

    That being said, I completely agree with him petitioning to taking the prayer out of the ceremony. And everyone has the right to hate him too.

  • http://sprinklingsofalice.blogspot.com/ Alice Sprinklings

    Donated, and thanks for posting this story. I was one of those who was afraid to speak up during high school and I admire this young man’s fortitude.

  • Cthulhu

    Just to add I find it really disgusting what is happening in that youtube video. Also I find it disgusting, but not surprising, the reaction that Damon got from his mother. Apparently she is a really extreme fundamentalist. The only upside that I can see is that he has gotten out of that town. Have to say i’d love to see that teacher fired. Anyone that would insult a student like that deserves to be fired.

  • Luther

    We will see what happens to the teacher. It is almost the direct opposite of the Avery Doniger case in CT: http://www.myleftnutmeg.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=9812

    In that case a student was punished in school for what she said on a websjte about school administrators, calling them “douchebags”

    This is worse because:
    1) It is a teacher calling out a student and either libeling her or disclosing evaluations
    2) It is a statement to a reporter not an offhand comment on a blog

  • http://slrman.wordpress.com James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    I live in Brazil, a nominally “catholic country”. Yes, the intrusion of religion into public and private life is far less here than in the de facto theocracy that the USA has become.

    That’s one more reason why I will never again live there or even visit. The country is soon to disintegrate and my efforts are to get my family out before that happens.

  • Walter

    Why don’t we all descend on this little town to be Damon’s escorts to his graduation day!!!
    What do you say? Someone, please give us time and date, and a street address of the school. Thanks.

  • Mark

    $4.95 in my paypal account -> $4.95 towards Damon’s fund. Always good to see kids fighting for the constitution.

  • http://atheistreadsbible.blogspot.com/ Jude

    When atheist kids complained to me about the prayers at graduation at the high school where I worked last year, I said, “Look, I can’t do anything about that–but you could.” They replied, “All our friends would hate us” and they did nothing. School prayers are far more common than you seem to realize.

  • Terri Garrett

    Another thing to keep in mind is that Damon said that during this rehearsal students and TEACHERS were saying cruel things to him. It’s added as a p.s. to his original reddit post.

  • http://www.lawandsausage.com Bill Smith

    The thing is, the Supreme Court has consistently held that school prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment since 1962. All this student is doing, really, is asking the school to comply with the law. Instead, the District is showing nothing but contempt for the Constitution, and they should be ashamed.

    As for the “moment of silence” that is replacing the prayer, that particular scheme for getting around the Establishment Clause has been held unconstitutional since 1985 (see Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38 (1985)). What the school district needs to do is forget about trying to find loopholes, and ACTUALLY COMPLY with the First Amendment.

  • Robert

    It seems that Bastrop,LA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastrop,_LA is a dying town and a fearful and cowardly townsfolk are striking out anyone they can.
    Obliviously locked into praying for better days whilst attacking anyone that threatens that delusion.
    “Bastrop was founded by the Baron de Bastrop (born Felipe Enrique Neri), a Dutch embezzler who falsely claimed to be a nobleman”. Seriously, WTF, no wonder the town is dying, closed minded, ignorance abounds.

  • Kristina

    Thanks for standing up for the law and your rights, for all of us that couldn’t or were afraid to. We’re all there with ya.

  • https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Bastrop,_Louisiana Janice

    It looks like someone has changed the town’s Wiki page to reflect what’s going on now. Not too sure how long it’s going to stay that way before someone changes it back. . .

  • Inthewater

    I chipped in. It wasn’t much, but the best I can do right now.

    Hope this is all resolved, and I’d love to see that smug look wiped off of those faces.

    Probably a pipe dream, though. At least we can try to help this kid out.

    Whole situation has disgusted me.

  • Kurt

    OK, I watched the video, fully prepared to get my blood boiling with righteous indignation. But maybe I’ve spent too much time in religious places–really, I didn’t think it was that bad!

    She went out of her way to say she respected other beliefs, she made it clear the prayer was her own doing and not part of the official school program, and she only asked those who shared her faith to bow their heads. She got a big response, but high school kids on the verge of graduation are so hyped up they will whoop and holler at anything remotely agreeable.

    Was the prayer divisive and unnecessary? Yes. Was the reaction from the flock disgusting and tribal? Certainly. But I think it could have been much, much worse, and any attempted lawsuit will quickly fall flat.

  • Heidi

    Another $10 from me as well. What would Jesus do, right? These people make me sick!

  • http://niftyatheist.blogspot.com/ NiftyAtheist

    This young man has an incredibly daunting array of forces against him. To risk everything – friends, family, safety and any hope of acceptance in the community which “was” his hometown. That takes a kind of courage which is so rare. And young Damon will need the support of all who admired his courage in the coming months as the psychological punch of this brutal experience hits home. So glad he has the firm support of his brother. Damon, you inspired this 50 year old mother of five. Paying for college is hard (I know because we still have two to go!) but you deserve a helping hand as much as any young person I know. I am gladly donating $100 to Hemant’s scholarship fund for you and I wish you a bright and joyful future!

  • Leigh

    @Kurt: The problem is that that was just the rehearsal. No matter what she says, she is speaking as a facet of the school and they are responsible for her speech. If she had not done this at the rehearsal but had at the actual ceremony, they would not be liable. However, now they can reasonable expect her to do it again and ARE accountable.

    They can have a moment of silence during which everyone can silently pray, or the students and parents can get together before the graduation to pray. They cannot do it during the ceremony.

  • Inthewater

    Kurt, you should read some of the comments on PZs blog about this.

    Apparently, this sort of thing has come to trial before.

    It’s interesting to read about it, because it reminds me of little kids doing the “I’m not touching him” crap to their siblings, after Mom / Dad tells them not to, then gets assss cloosseee as possible.

    Seems sort of the same mindset.

  • http://barefootnick.com barefootNick

    Thank you for organizing the donation. Hopefully it’ll allow this young man to leave a hostile environment without being at a complete disadvantage.

    @Kurt,

    Do you suggest we sit on our hands and wait for things to “could have been much, much worse” before we react?

  • phil

    I suspect that a student “spontaneously” leading a prayer at a school function would be a whole ‘nother Establishment can of worms. And given the somewhat unpredictable nature of religion clause jurisprudence (seriously, the Court’s all over the place on establishment and free exercise) I don’t know how it would play out.

    I’d imagine that the post-Rehnquist Court would allow the student speech. The student is not a school official or an authority figure. So her prayer might not be held to violate establishment. If it were held to do so, the Court would have to layout some way for school administrators to prevent a similar event from occurring. The school officials’ campaign of harassment might, however, be construed as a wink-and-nudge establishment. Again, don’t hold your breath with the current Supreme Court.

    As a sidenote, Wallace v. Jeffree did not strike down all instances of the “moment of silence.” Rather, it struck down a particular statute where the legislative intent was to encourage prayer, and where prayer was indicated as a “preferred use” of the moment of silence. A moment of silence statute with a more neutral intent could probably pass constitutional muster.

  • mirele

    $25 kicked in, in memory of the Jesus-laden prayer I was subjected to at the Klein High School (Spring, TX) Class of 1978 graduation. I was a born-again Christian believer at that time and mortified at how the prayer excluded people!

  • JD

    “Christianity is love”, my shiny metal bottom.

  • Kurt

    @barefootNick, no, I wouldn’t want to wait until it gets worse and surely do see the value of nipping it in the bud! Even the mere threat of a lawsuit is often enough to put the fear of god (er… so to speak) into people. I was only saying I didn’t think it was “bad enough” that an actual lawsuit would succeed… but I’d love to be proven wrong.

    @Leigh, I like the angle that since this was the official rehearsal, now they know what the speaker has planned, so they are liable. Seems promising to this non-lawyer!

  • dj

    Ditto on ditto of rich wilson’s post. Don’t let them put this on you Damon. They are the ones who have this ‘problem,’ not you! I’ll add to the scripture quoting, as inappropriate as it may be, I, an atheist do find wisdom in the Bible. Such as forgive them, for they know not what they do. The hate is on them, not on you.

    And ditto on the kudos to brother Jerret as well. You know what you two are? You’re stand-up kind of people. Rarer than you may think. NEVER let them shut you up.

  • Saltyestelle

    Donated $$ and sending warm fuzzies to both Damon and Jerret from California….

  • http://www.magpiesmarbles.com The Pint

    Thanks for picking this up as well, Hemant. I saw this pop up on PZ’s blog yesterday and it’s unbelievably sad. While the reaction of the town and students is bad enough, what’s really gotten to me is that the teacher felt it was appropriate to voice that kind of criticism of one of her students. Not to mention that she’s an educator who clearly doesn’t understand the distinction between banning students or teacher from engaging in private prayer in public schools (unconsitutional) and banning public schools and school officials from endorsing, or giving the appearance of endorsing, one religious belief over another (Separation of Church and State), AND seems to have no problem accepting the principle of tyranny of the majority. She’s a TEACHER, and she’s clearly abused her position of authority, giving a green light to others that she won’t protest any poor treatment of Damon because she thinks “he hasn’t contributed anything to the school.”

  • Helena!

    I donated to this very brave guy he will need all the support he can. I fear for his safety though living amongst so many nuts.

  • Dan

    Um, what am I missing here? “The longest prayer you’ll ever hear at a public school event”? “…the fact that you let it go on for three minutes is a crime”?

    The prayer lasted less than 30 seconds. The girl wasn’t even at the microphone for 3 minutes.

    “This girl used prayer as a weapon to separate the Good Christians from The Others. To alienate. To shun. To mock.”

    This is a completely baseless accusation. Any lawsuit based on such an accusations will be thrown out as frivolous in record time.

    Surely there are more substantial issues to get angry about than this?

  • Brandon

    I am a Christian.
    I’m not here to try and inject my beliefs into your lives or scold you for being as narrow-minded and hateful as what you accused these individuals of being.
    I just want to share one idea:
    If there were no Bible and only science, we would still not know where we came from or why we’re here.
    The key word here is “why.”
    You all cannot say you don’t painstakingly try to answer that question on your own. As a Christian who went atheist and back to Christian, I believe I have that answer.
    In college and high school, I was taught evolution. Not once did I try to sue anybody for “projecting” something onto me.
    I didn’t wine because somebody believed something I thought to be absurd and was teaching it to a classroom full of people who shared the mindset of the professor.
    Nope. I accepted that there are many different ideas and beliefs.
    Whether a student says a prayer at graduation or not doesn’t matter. You still have your freedom “from” religion because nobody can make you believe anything you don’t want to.
    So, if somebody wants to say a prayer in public. Let them. Just because you don’t believe the same thing, doesn’t mean they’re wrong, it just means they found a different way to answer the big “why” question of life.

  • Steve

    @ Dan

    “Surely there are more substantial issues to get angry about than this?”

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Concern_troll

  • Carrie

    Sounds like another entitled whiny brat. Good luck in the real world where people don’t give a crap. I am terrified to see where this country goes knowing that every uncomfortable teen gets a thousand dollars. I was fortunate enough to go to a private Catholic high school and of course religion was ever present. I decided Catholicism wasn’t for me and do you know what I did? I privately disavowed the religion and respectfully stood quiet as the others honored it. This kid may well be with in his legal rights to bitch and moan about prayer in public school. But he’s doing himself a disservice by refusing to cope with a real world situation. Adaptability is a skill. And this kid is missing out. Religion, God, etc. We don’t have to agree, but encourage mutual tolerance instead of this one side take all mentality. Damon is going down a divisive path and dragging the rest of us with him. Think of the greater good, Damon, not your bratty self centered ego.

  • Dew

    What happened to “don’t be a dick”. I know schools are not supposed to sponsor prayer, but come on. It sounds like most of his classmates wanted it. He basically threatened his school to get it pulled, why are you surprised to see threats greeted with hostility? It’s nice that people are going to help this kid get an education, but I see no reason to call someone a hero for throwing a fit.

  • phil

    Dan,

    SCOTUS has never held that an establishment infraction was permissible because it was small. If the school principal were to deliver the prayer, it wouldn’t matter if it were three minutes or three seconds, whether it named Jesus Christ or a vague “Higher Power,” it would be considered establishment and it would be struck down. The only difference here is that a student is delivering the prayer. That’s probably more acceptable constitutionally, but given some of the other facts here, I imagine the courts might see the student prayer as backdoor establishment. A potential lawsuit’s outcome might be murky, but it would hardly be frivolous.

  • Athiest_guy

    Why does he have such a problem with a prayer during graduation? I am an atheist as well and have no problem letting people putting their hands together and mumbling to themselves, or listening to someone thank their God for a few minutes. What does it cost me? Pick your fights man; winning this one won’t get you anything other than grief.

  • Lana

    I typed of the text of the video, in case there’s anyone like me out there (I prefer to read an article or a transcript than watch a video). So here’s what was said, if anyone prefers to read it:

    Teacher: Before we start the program, there are a few housecleaning chores we need to take care of. At this time, I’m going to ask all of you to please turn off your or silence your cell phones. And once the program is completed, I’m going to ask that all of you remain seated until all of the graduates have processed to the end of the program. And one last thing, um, I want to make sure that you please give these young people the respect they have earned. This is their graduation, and a happy time for them, and we don’t want anything to distract from that.

    Girl takes stage.

    Girl: Will you please stand for a moment of silence, and remain standing for the presentation of colors and the pledge of allegiance. Before I get started, though, let me say this. I was initially chosen to deliver the invocation, but I was recently informed that I would be leading the moment of silence. However, before I fulfill my obligation, I would like to say that I am of the Christian faith. Now, I respect those who do not share the same beliefs as I do. But at this time, I would like to give thanks to the god that has made the class of 2011 a success.

    (Crowd cheers from 1:26 – 1:55 mark)

    For those of you who share the same, the same beliefs as I do, I ask that you please bow your heads and pray.

    (Cheers from crowd)

    Our heavenly father, we come with thankfulness and a grateful heart for the friendships and the memories that you have given us as the class of 2011. Even though, for many of us, this’ll be the last time that we gather together as a class, we pray that you will lead us, guide us, and watch over us through all of our endeavors throughout the rest of our lives. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

    (Crowd shouts “amen” @ 2:26 mark, cheers and claps to 2:37 mark).

    And now, for a moment of silence.

    (2:39 – 2:49, loud chattering and noises in crowd).

    Thank you.

    (more hoots and cheers from crowd.)

  • Sean

    Rarely do I contribute to online drives. I’m making an exception for this kid. Donation in!

  • Custador

    Nothing says “f**k your Christian privilege” like taking them for a six figure settlement. That brainless little bimbo just did Damon the biggest favour in the world! College fund? No problem!

  • Rich Wilson

    For those of you who share the same, the same beliefs as I do, I ask that you please bow your heads and pray.

    It would be less bad if people who DON’T share the same beliefs got the chance to go up on stage and give their own thanks.

  • Jackie

    The prayer did not last 3 minutes! It wasn’t even a minute. After the moment of silence the student thanked everyone. There is some chatter and the flag being moved after that while waiting for the next speaker or whatever! What about freedom of speech and being allowed to believe in a God? Why must so much insulting go on because of different beliefs? Can’t we all just get along? Maybe schools should start graduation ceremony’s five minutes early for those who want to pray then start the service? It really isn’t that difficult to find answers instead of nit picking at someone who believes differently than someone else!! Why didn’t Damon go to the school asking for a solution instead of threatening to go over their heads if he didn’t get what he wanted?? It’s really not that difficult. “Everything you need to know you learnt in kindergarten”!!

  • Travis Black

    Mitzi Quinn was my high school english teacher. Each day we were to read an assigned Bible passage and write a summary of it to turn in the next day. She said it was using the Bible as a literary work.

    I am glad she is finally getting what is coming to her.

    Also, there are other teachers doing the same.

  • Megan

    I fully support Damon and his cause and contributed to the fund but do we know if he is going to college? Most seniors have made a commitment by now so I was just wondering. If not, what will the funds then be used for?

  • Patches

    This is making a giant deal about nothing. He should have just settled down about the whole thing. Grin and bear the prayer, never have to do it again, go on with your life. It’s high school graduation. It’s irrelevant. In the end, it’s a huge deal about something that’s not at all a huge deal. It’s not bravery. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to a prayer that, while pointless, while unneeded, and while illegal, is just a prayer. Nothing more. It wasn’t going to cause him strife for years to come because there was an invocation at his graduation.

    Then again, that’s what so many American atheists like to pretend: that every single prayer is an affront and insult unto their lives. As if there is some MASSIVE social persecution of atheists in America. I went to a Catholic school in Texas, and no one gave two damns about my atheism. Or anyone’s.

  • Sheila

    “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees you in secret will reward you.” –Matthew 6.5

  • Melanie

    I chipped in $5.00 (not much but hey I’m a student too) and hope that wherever he goes to college that he can surround himself with more intelligent,respectful people. Best of luck and congrats to Damon!

  • Kevin

    I will be donating money soon. Thanks for doing this.

    I fear for his safety and admire him for standing up for what he believes in, and more importantly, standing up for what is right.

  • Jeff Rash

    I’d just like to say that I’m a Christian and I fully support Damon in his stance. It’s so sad that this is happening and it sickens me that a bunch of ignorant people are giving the entire Christian faith a bad name.

  • Sarah

    Huh… I’ve never been a fan of making people participate in anything they don’t believe in, but if most of the school wanted to pray, I wouldn’t mind listening while everyone else did.

    I wouldn’t care any more about somebody else praying during graduation than about any other guest speaker who was addressing ideas that I didn’t really get. Also, the Bastrop High event video didn’t seem hateful or mocking to me- it looked like she clarified that she respects other people’s beliefs, then expressed her personal feelings about graduation. The only thing that bugged me what when she specified only people who share her beliefs praying with her; having a generic ‘anyone who feels they have someone to thank’ sort of thing. I sort of got the impression she was trying to be polite and say people didn’t have to join her if they didn’t want to, but it wasn’t well phrased.

    I mean, I’d be annoyed if I had to sit there and listen all day, but no more so than if I had to sit there and listen to other stuff that didn’t interest me for the same amount of time.

    At the same time, if the law says no, the law says no. :P But if this comes seems hateful and mocking, you’ve clearly never /actually/ been picked on or harassed in highschool.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Guys, please don’t modify the Bastrop article on Wikipedia until this is covered by reliable sources. Once reliable sources like newspapers are discussing it, we can include content. But right now, the sourcing policy limits very strongly what we can say, especially because this involves living people and we have strict policies about what we can say about living people due to libel and other concerns. The content added to Wikipedia was also non-neutral. One might think (and I’d agree) that the behavior is hateful and bigoted, but we can’t say that in a Wikipedia article. For any further issues please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:NPOV and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:RS

  • http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/ Timothy Brannan

    I donated. Thanks for setting this up!

  • Betsy

    As someone who left her high school in the middle of her last semester due to religious differences, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to stand up for your beliefs at that age. I was prevented (by my parents) from stating to my friends and classmates what was going on, and my parents still disagree with my choices (and don’t let me forget).

    Damon (if you ever read this), your generation needs more kids who are willing to stand up not only for what they believe, but for what the law says. It’s hard to do something that makes your parents distance themselves from you and makes your peers threaten you, but it is possible. You’ve found plenty of support online, and I hope that you’ll find more support locally. I wish you the best of luck, and stay strong.

  • Inthewater

    @Patches – That is exactly the sort of attitude they hope for.

    When the Government starts forcing people to pray to someone, then will it be enough to protest?

    You have to nip this stuff in the bud, and it sounds like it’s gone on far too long.

  • Mikel

    Really? Is this serious? Suddenly this kid’s a hero for threatening to sue the school because they talk about god? And all these people willing to give him money for that? Really? No, like, really? I’m finding this very hard to believe. A good way to make sure you keep the world believing all this religious nonsense is to be so whiny about these stupid things and try to start a crusade. The sooner you start showing that you just don’t care the sooner others will not care. This whole business of “we must cure all the believers of this illusion for the greater good” just makes it sound like another fanatical religion. So what if they say what they want at the graduation? Tons of douche bags say douche baggy things at important ceremonies, and just because it’s legal doesn’t make it any better than someone saying they have a hard on jesus. Really, you guys are doing your best to make atheism look like another fundamentalist religion. If the guy speaks out his mind good for him. Pat on the back, some clapping if you will, I’ll even be ok with the most annoying ones yoohooing but getting him a fund-raiser?? Really? Don’t you have a lot better causes you could help? Doesn’t someone else need that a lot worse than some random kid who stood up at some point in his life to say that something is wrong? I don’t know a single person who hasn’t done that at some point in their life. We’re all heroes! Yey for everybody! We all win! So much for logical clear thinking that you keep telling everyone that you have so much better than everyone else. Starting these senseless dialectical battles only makes the religious more paranoid, more extremist and it gives them a “satan” to fight to make them feel like they’re doing the right thing. I will hear plenty of bullshit in my life just sitting around in a public place but getting all heroic criticizing it doesn’t make me a better person. It makes me annoying. Atheism is not a community, it is not a group, it is not a “special” club only smart people can join, it is not an oppressed minority, it is not a secret group of intellectuals that have a secret handshake. Being an atheist does not make you special. Get it in your head. It just shows you have some common sense. Big golden medal for you. Get over yourselves, please. What a load of arrogance for nothing.

  • Dustin

    Is it just me, or did the comments section get overrun with concern trolls?

  • Chris Leithiser

    Chipped in, kudos go to Damon as well. That teacher’s retirement needs to be part of the settlement the school district will be paying.

  • http://tsbelle.blogspot.com TSB

    As a fellow Bastrop, LA, atheist–I’m behind Damon 100% percent. He’s got serious gonads to take a stand in a place like this!

  • Kristy

    I think your all full of crap!! You will all pay for your non-belief one of these days very soon!! Is all Damon wanted is attention and thats exactly what ya’ll gave him!! I hope his classmates never speak to him again!! He is ruining all of his classmates graduation, he is just thinking of himself, which makes him pretty selfish in my book!!

  • Annie

    Is anyone else really bothered by Mitzi Quinn’s poor grammar? This whole thing saddens me. A child alerts his school that they are breaking the law, and he becomes the criminal here? I think it is also important to point out that these people are not some fringe, fundamentalist christian group. Whenever religious people get wacky, we say things like, “Well, that’s that weird group of creationists”, etc. Not here. These are run-of-the-mill christians (mostly baptists and church of god or church of christ).

  • Dr. Cook

    One of the saddest things about our society is that we have developed such a strong concern for conformity. This inhibits scientific progress, causes the atheist to hide, and weakens us when we need to stand strong and support very reasonable, very necessary American change.

    I implore those of you who are closet atheists to find courage and support your intelligent and accurate findings. There is no god. No heaven above, Jesus was merely a power hungry carpenter with strong fears and an out of control narcissistic personality, and the bible was written by delusional, fearful men, not someone receiving orders from heaven. That concept is silly.

    Today, anyone acting like the figures in history would be on my couch, receiving the assistance they needed to live in society and find reality.

    They could not function in society today. It’s a different time and the ancient myths are of little use to us.

    The followers who support that ancient myth today may not realize how strongly a few need to have them continue believing. These few could not survive if the masses suddenly gained an ability to think independently and question that myth. What would those dependent on religion for an income do?

    When we realize that god is simply a myth supported by the most successful brainwashing in history, hoards of very wealthy, very powerful people will be out of work, and they will be upset.

    The myth of some all powerful god that hears and understands seven billion simultaneously screaming minds is not only useless today, it is harmful. While the myth may have been effective in more perilous times, drawing the masses to one tribe in search of increased security, today it is dangerous!

    Those of us with the courage and intelligence to realize we are not alone as atheists, can assist those who continue to suffer that false belief.

    In truth, all religion is brainwashing that was begun in our formative years with bedtime prayers and weird concepts, then continued throughout life. The brainwashing is supported with once-a-week sessions that strongly deny any opposing thought, and any search for truth and reality.

    Soon we believe that our faith was our own idea, not that of a massive brainwashing effort supported mainly by those who find power and riches selling religion. It is they who need to continue the myth. Without it they would have nothing, and they know it well, but will never tell you.

    We are even taught to continue the brainwashing on innocent and unsuspecting children. Thus the deadly cycle continues forever.

    There are many who know the truth but lack courage and direction, preferring instead to follow because they feel the social expectations of mass conformity, and the strength in numbers. These are the truly weak in society and they need our help.

    We can help them escape that ancient myth, break the bonds of brainwashing, and enjoy the clarity and openness a real world provides.

    Speak up, speak loudly and with conviction! You will find there are many who were not so successfully brainwashed and are willing to join others in support of truth. They do need a bit of assistance. If more of us speak up, more will find courage to think about what it is they believe. They will begin to think in terms of reason, and when religious people are allowed reasonable thought, there can be no religion because it simply doesn’t make any sense.

    Atheism isn’t a religion. It is just a word that identifies those who have broken the bonds of brainwashing to realize the truth. They have come to find that religion is only an ancient myth, much like Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

  • Kenzie

    I have emailed the superintendent and am working on letters to other individuals. I went to a private school in college, so I was unable to ask the school to refrain from the religious. However, I am so proud of Mr. Fowler for putting a stop to this. Bastrop has no excuse for their ignorance. I am just tired of religious people/groups “picking and choosing” the parts of their religion that they wish to practice. It’s not al a carte. If you want to believe in God, that’s fine. But just remember, you have to also believe in tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, charity….

    Mr. Fowler, if you are reading this, be proud of yourself. You are inspiring people. Your courage is incredible and I am so grateful that someone like you exists. Don’t let others bully you into thinking you’ve done something wrong. People fear and hate the things that they do not understand, and some people will never understand atheism. Use your voice every chance you can, but make sure that voice is honest and kind and someone will hear you.

    We hear you.

  • Nicole

    To those who are here to criticize this young hero: I’m sure “the rest of us” wouldn’t feel so very “uncomfortable” if we were absolutely, 100% sure that other beliefs and value systems would also be accepted and respected at a public school function. As it were, I’m a naturalist, so that means I’ll be there in my birthday suit, ‘kay? Pray all you want while I’m airing out the girls… but be sure to leave the mic up there for the devil worshippers, who have a few words to say after your turn.

  • Samuel

    I live in the town of where this event happened, and let me tell all of you this. I’m Catholic and proud of it. I respect other’s and their views, just like Jesus wanted me to. But I couldn’t agree on what Damon dead. He was only ONE of about three or four atheists, and what he tried to do was wrong. Most of the body of the graduating class was Christian. If Damon wanted to have a moment of silence, he could of just walked out or not even prayed.

    Now, before you start bashing me, let me say one more thing. What most of these guys said to him( called him a devil, gave death threats, etc.), I don’t agree with. Jesus wanted us to be Christ like, but what these guys said was hypocritical. I am defending Damon on that part.

    BTW: The school won’t get sued, etc. You know why? Because the prayer was lead by the students, not the faculty. The school’s faculty had nothing to do with it. That is all.

  • Tolpuddle Martyr

    As an atheist teacher I 100% support this kid. I cannot believe another teacher made this statement publicly (from reddit). “[In the past, non-religious students] respected the majority of their classmates and didn’t say anything,” [Bastrop High School staff member Mitizi] Quinn said. “We’ve never had this come up before. Never…And what’s even more sad is this is a student who really hasn’t contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates.”

    This is sickening and unprofessional behavior. Ms Quinn should have her teaching license revoked immediately.

  • http://www.DumbLittleBlog.com Jimmy

    Awesome, good job kid.

  • http://www.sbsoapbox.blogspot.com/ Susi

    There is a Facebook page called Fire Mitzi Quinn, not sure who started it, but if you want to show support, search it and like it!

  • Kenzie

    To all of the readers, Damon’s story needs to be heard. I have contacted cnn.com, npr.com and msnbc.com. I cannot figure out how to submit this story to other sites, their web layouts are too confusing. Please help and contact whatever organizations you can. The more of us there are fighting for him, the better chance he has. And, the more people who are exposed to this story, the more likely they are to stand up for themselves against similar injustices and there could be fewer rights violations in the future!

  • Terri Garrett

    They’re tweeting right now from Damon’s graduation ceremony that not only did the girl say the prayer just as she rehearsed it but that the speaker said in order to be a success in life you have to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior. The second bit is mean and annoying, but the first bit couldn’t be a clearer violation of the first amendment. She’d even rehearsed it that way. Links should be on the support damon fb page and it is also being covered by reddit/r/atheism

  • http://www.reddit.com allenizabeth

    Updates – the high school said the Lord’s Prayer at the graduation ceremony.

    The Honored Guest speaker tonight said (paraphrased), “In order to be successful in life, you much accept the Lord as your personal Savior.”

    The high school had arranged for Damon to walk last before FFRF wrote them a letter, and only then did they put him in line where he belongs. This is an outrage.

  • derp

    Samuel, sorry, but student-led prayer was deemed unconstitutional by SCOTUS in 2000.

    http://www.civilrights.org/monitor/vol11_no4/art2p1.html

    And the fact of the matter is that it wouldn’t matter if 100% of the student body was Christian and wanted to pray, prayer in a public school still violates the Constitution.

  • Megan

    @Terri G’s graduation speaker – tell that to atheists Warren Buffett & Bill Gates. And before you counter w/ successful Christians, it only takes one example to disprove your hypothesis, you jackass.

  • LOLZNET

    I just found video of Damon confronting his mother before she disowned him. Also donated.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8Aq00yJSxo

  • Aeiluindae

    I am a Christian and I donated. What this school has done goes against a laundry list of things that I have been taught from a very early age as tenets of my faith, that I hold to because they have proven to be just laws to live by, one of them being that you try your hardest to show love and respect to everyone, even your bitterest enemy. I feel that I should clarify that I do not see atheists as my enemies (it’s easy to take things the wrong way on the internet), in fact I feel more kinship with many atheists than some of those who happen to share my religion, at least in name. I congratulate this student for having the guts to stand up for his beliefs. I hope that I have the resolve to do the same thing if I am ever in a similar circumstance.

  • LOLZNET

    “I think your all full of crap!! You will all pay for your non-belief one of these days very soon!!”

    I really wish you had received a better education at your school. Specifically, one which was more focused on grammar rather than Jesus.

  • http://www.libertyguys.org LibertyVini

    Easy answer – END PUBLIC EDUCATION.

  • Terri Garrett

    Megan, great. Now please post a quote where Warren Buffett or Bill Gates said anything remotely like the speaker did at Damon’s raduation. I will be waiting for a quote from these gentlemen which says something remotely like “Only if you don’t believe in God will you be a success in life.” THAT would be equivalent. Not “having an atheist speaker.”

    I’ll be waiting for that quote :)

  • Kell

    Here is the YouTube Video of the lord’s prayer being recited at the graduation.

  • Jay Wohlert

    Happy Graduation buddy! Great Job!
    Keep up the fight for right!

  • bob

    Get over it, if you dont like an area or its ideals then move away. I have never understood why its so important to some people to think their doubts are better than another persons beliefs, live and let live, if you know an area is staunchly religious then dont go to that area. You would still have every major city and all the fun stuff along with the best schools are there anyway so let it go.

  • Rich Wilson

    Get over it, if you dont like an area or its ideals then move away.

    He was only ONE of about three or four atheists, and what he tried to do was wrong. Most of the body of the graduating class was Christian.

    He is ruining all of his classmates graduation.

    That’s right! There are plenty of empty seats at the back of the bus, so what’s the big deal?

  • Kenzie

    @bob- he is a kid. what is he supposed to do? he lives with his parents who financially support him. he can’t just simply move away. and running away from things in life, or “moving away”, will never solve problems. besides, what kind of mentality is that anyways? if you can’t fix it-oh well… i’ll just leave everything behind and do something new. pretty impractical and irresponsible.

  • Wayward son

    bob, if you don’t like an area with a constitution that has a separation of church and state than move away from the United States. I have never understood why its so importnat to some people to think that constitution does not exist.

  • Steve Schlicht

    Just saw “Inherit The Wind” being performed at the Biloxi Little Theatre tonight.

    The parallels with current events in Bastrop Louisiana and Cranston Rhode Island are amazing and my son and daughter really picked up on them.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    “As long as the prerequisite for that shining paradise is ignorance, bigotry and hate, I say the hell with it. ” ~ Henry Drummond

    Looks like it’s that time again, but now the students are coming forward to teach the teachers and all of the good people of Hillsboro.

    ;0)

  • Kahomono

    http://www.bastropenterprise.com/newsnow/x1796494554/Just-like-any-other-graduation

    That smug POS of a newspaper basically said, “see? Just like a graduation should be….” I chipped in $42 in honor of Damon and Douglas Adams.

    For all those who said he should just STFU – any position that is in favor of a public force following the LAW (oh, yeah, remember the law?) and results in DEATH THREATS… was MUCH more sorely needed than your trolling.

  • Yuri

    I am actually pretty happy to see even more “good christians” showing up here to spout even more biggoted hate. They dont realize just how well they are making the other side’s point by doing so. Good job mindless haters! You will destroy yourselves and have nobody else to blame.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    I really wish I had something to give other than well-wishes and words.

  • Nathan

    The hell? Surely if not after the girl said “but,” they could have cut her off during the cheering and taken her away from the podium. Sure our constitution allows me to be a man a faith and believe in God, but this is a public school and as such should not further a religious agenda. That was ridiculous.

  • Steve Ride

    So the students went ahead and ‘showed support for their god’ anyhow. What will they do next to ‘show support for their god’? Hijack an airliner and fly it into Damons house?

    It is incredible to me that Americans (and others) are fighting wars in two countries to prevent religionists forcing their beliefs on others and yet this group of American religionists are determined to force THEIR beliefs on others.

  • Lee Kearcher

    Donated a few bucks on my part. Congrats on graduating Damon – know that there are many more like you outside of your small town. Good luck with your future endeavors.

  • Ed

    Matthew 6

    1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

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

    This is why I cannot stand most so-called “Christians”. Rarely have I met one that practiced what they preached. I’m sure Jesus is so proud.

  • Masterfitter

    What is wrong with you people? I don’t have any faith yet I believe that they have a right to express their beliefs on the religion that founded this once great nation

  • Mike

    As a secular Jew who complained about Xmas programs in elementary school, I commend Damon. It’s not popular to go against the crowd — which of course is exactly why the 1st Amendment exists.

    However, I doubt a lawsuit would get any money. (I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve paralegal-ed a couple of constitutional law suits.) Don’t get me wrong, I wish he could, but where’s the financial or physical harm? Ongoing harassment would be something, but some snotty remarks in the last days before graduation probably doesn’t count.

    The key is to get a restraining order ahead of time, then if they violate it, it’s contempt. After the fact, it probably can’t be more than a settlement that covers his attorney’s fees, and a “we promise not to do it again.”

    Again, though, I wish him the best. A scholarship fund and pats on the back is the least we can do.

  • Samael

    Let me preface this by saying that I am Christian but I am not a fundamentalist. I don’t believe in pushing my beliefs on others.

    I get the point that this young atheist was making. However, it is a little tiring when a single person tries to countermand the wishes of the majority. I would venture that this student hasn’t participated much in the school community. Being in the same room when a prayer of any kind is being spoken isn’t going to hurt anyone. Grow up, stop being so sensitive and live with it.

  • John

    The Christian Taliban are at it again.

    Why do Christians believe, fervently, that their version of a theocracy is better than the Sharia law and extremist version of Islam? Both are illegal in this country. Just because the US – and Louisiana in particular – has more Christians doesn’t make it right or legal. Please do not use our schools to evangelize.

    If instead this young man had requested equal time for an Islam prayer, what do you think would have happened?

  • Will

    Wow…I’m from close to this area and yes I am a Christian.I’m not stuck up.I dont shun people because of their lifestyle or beliefs that differ from mine.I dont think that I’m better than anyone else.I know that there has been a higher power active in my life.If the other students want to pray…let em!Damon will obviously encounter MANY belief systems and practices that he will disagree with as he enters into the wider world…will he show the same intolerance for them as he has toward Christianity? I mean come ON man!Nobody is forcing you to pray or accept Jesus as your savior so grow a thick skin and suck it up!Its one thing if someone disagrees with prayer and refuses to participate…its quite another to expect a across the board banning of something others want to do and believe in just based on your preference.

  • Jake

    So, if Damon objected to the prayer as an exercise of his constitutional rights, and to give courage to the two other atheists in his town, then he didn’t do it to financially enrich himself.

    If, Damon has any honor, any integrity, he’ll donate any money received as a result of this incident to a neutral charity… like a children’s cancer society.

    If, Damon pockets any money, he will be justly tagged as a money grubbing malcontent.

  • Athiest too

    I’m an Atheist myself, but as far as I am concerned he should just let things be and let them have their prayer. This kid is one person trying to foist his own beliefs on everyone else.

  • RobynS

    I am a Christian art teacher at a public High school, and I support Damon all the way. I cannot believe what the school is trying to pull off, let what Mrs Quinn was thinking. This outrages me, I’ll do what I can to help Damon, and spread the word.

  • tennis.turkey

    I really want to meet this guy. His story seems to have a lot in common with what I’m going through in the south.

  • Tamra

    What are all you people talking about?She said a small prayer that lasted a few seconds,not over 3 minutes.She was not disrespectful to anyone and some of your comments here are just uncalled for.Send this kid all the money you want,in the afterlife his lack of education on God will cost him his soul and a place in heaven.Look at it from my point of view,if I believe and I am wrong,what do I have to loose.If you are wrong,you will spend an eternity burning in a lake of fire.Your choice but I know God is here,all around us and no one will ever deter my beliefs.God bless this kid and all of you,I will pray for all your souls.

  • Matt

    Damon needs an air horn.

  • Walt

    You people are amusing. Most of you are attention whores anyways. The young woman has the right to say anything she wants. Isn’t america great. At my graduation we had a morman give a religious speech. You don’t have to listen. Get a life. All you fine folks backing Damon have bigger problems ahead so let it go.

  • sly

    Bastrop. Isn’t this the same high school that had the hangman’s noose issue some years ago?

  • edbellmcse

    The most disgusting thing to me is the fat woman that sits down during the presentation of the colors.

    As for the student saying a prayer, this will be a non issue. She exonerates the school by stating that she was told not to do a prayer, but that she is exercising HER right to free speech, another inalienable right that has (at several times in the past, been an established precedent as to trumping the separation of church and state (which is still pretty shaky with regards to unorganized prayer in school). What will probably happen is the school councils her again not to do it, and she will still do whatever she deems correct due to her faith. The school will be able to show in court that they followed procedure, and any lawsuit brought against the girl will be dismissed.

    For those saying that the school should have turned off the mic and pulled her from the stage, you are thinking in a very narrow mind. I’m sure that if something along those lines happened, there would be a small riot and could cause bodily harm to some in attendance. To Joe Zamecki- saying “Let us pray” is not akin to shouting “White Powder” or “Fire”, at least under the eyes of the court. Is it offensive to some? Yes. Does it equate to a dangerous situation? No. Would a wildly popular girl being removed from stage during a speech incite an incident….yes. This is the exact same thing as letting a wildfire burn out. It does damage, but less collateral damage (and personal harm) than trying to fight the fire. The risk must be mitigated. Also, the school is not a legal authority. If Damon really had issue with this, he could have filed a restraining order and let this be worked out in the legal system (even with the assistance with the ACLU). Instead, he refrained and unless he got it together quickly (a life lesson that he needs to learn), there is nothing that will come of this.

    Finally, with regards to the students and crowd reaction. It’s funny that the people on this board call them animals for their cheering. The initial cheer is towards the Class of 2011. I’ve seen it at several graduations in the past (including my own) where any mention of the graduation year causes a furor of noise. Is it stupid, depends on where you sit. However, it does not display a faith. The cheering at the end of the prayer could also be equated to the cheering at the end of the National Anthem or God Bless America at sporting events. Again, people cheer in calibration…which is what a graduation is. This would have no part in a lawsuit that goes forward, unless every student were named, as the school (again) would have no way to control this or mete out punishment. Again, those are students exercising their right to free speech.

    The lesson little Damon needs to learn (a few times above he is referred to as a kid, even though he is either legal age or soon to be). While it is his right to express his beliefs, there are going to be people that disagree with them. There are going to be people that will make hiring/firing decisions based on how he acts, looks (is it business professional to have 20 visible piercings and tattoos, or to have pink hair) or even voices his opinion in a public forum (such as this website). There are going to be people who will deny their children playing with his children if he is perceived as a freak, something that his children may resent him for in the long term future. He is now at the cusp of adulthood, and while his parents might not have given him attention or perhaps they taught him to stand up for his “rights”, either way….he is now at a point where he will be held accountable for his actions. There are things I disagree with every day, and I have to choose when I pick my battles. This would have been a great lesson here, where he spent literally 1 minute of “Discomfort”. Where her mention of diety begins at 1:26, a prayer that starts 2:04 and ends at 2:26. This is no more discomforting than what the Christians have to endure when they hear that he is an atheist (to some, this is very uncomfortable). This has no lasting impact, he was not converted, nor was it even attempted. Instead, she said her piece and moved on. Instead of attempting to be part of this litigious society, where everyone is trying to make a buck…..he could just move on, and prove he is a bigger man. But, I doubt he will.

    At no point in this post, did I post my personal belief in deity….instead, I focused on the common sense of the situation. I’m sure there will be replies about me being a bible thumper or whatever, and I shant respond…as my personal faith is just that, mine.

  • Nick

    Keep fighting the good fight Damon! Wish I’d had your courage in high school man!

  • vagabond

    I dont understand you people. I am an atheist, but really couldnt care less if people want to pray at public functions, I am not forced to join in. Just stand there and think your thoughts while those around you do the same and get on with your life you are not being victimized or hurt by it. This kid is making a mountain out of a molehill and all of you going on about what a hero he is are just sad people with no lives. I dont like spinach, but I hardly expect every restaraunt I go to to not serve it just so I wont have to see it.

  • Matt

    Jesus christ people. i am an atheist too, have been ever since i was 10, and this shit is getting idiotic. WHO CARES who says a prayer at school? maybe this idiot kid doesnt realize, but there may have been other atheist kids, or jewish kids, or muslim kids at that school, and none of them cried like a little baby because they had to sit through a few minutes of someone practicing their own religion.

    All of this militant atheism needs to stop. you look worse than the christians you mock for the same exact thing. you dont like god? THEN IGNORE IT. dont waste my tax dollars crying in a court room because someone mentioned something you dont agree with. STFU for the love of my non-god

  • Joe LoPresto

    I find all this just to be pointless!

    Each side is in the wrong when something like this happens. People need to learn to just RESPECT each other. Damon is just a problem causer whether he thinks it or not.

    These people are just trying to do what they believe and keep their tradition. When you attack that you are attacking them.

    I deal with people who believe different stuff than me every day and some times I just have to turn a blind eye to it, and understand it is what they believe.

    “Live and let live” Is a world war 1 phase which I believe could be used here.

  • The Pint

    Wow. I’m stunned by the number of “sit down and shut up” tyranny of the majority responses here. It’s been said upthread multiple times but it bears repeating: Damon is getting slammed for doing nothing more than pointing out that public-school-sanctioned prayer at graduation violates the Establishment clause. If a student wants to give thanks to his/her god during a graduation speech, he/she can do so, but only if the school notes that in doing so, he/she is representing a privately held belief that is not a reflection of the school or school district’s policy.

    It’s a PUBLIC school, not a private school or a Catholic school – whether or not the majority of students/faculty/town residents are Christian isn’t the issue. Just because Damon is in the minority that’s no reason for him to sit down and keep his minority atheist views to himself. He’s not attempting to prevent students from praying TO THEMSELVES, he’s not even trying to pick a fight about whether there’s a god or not or stating that Christianity is wrong. He’s rightly pointed out that the school endorsing or promoting one version of Christianity – much less one religion – over another violates the Establishment Clause, which the school is subject to because it is a PUBLIC institution.

    What’s happened to Damon is a stunning example of the cultural privilege Christians enjoy as the majority. I don’t know what’s worse – the vicious treatment he’s suffered at the hands of fellow students, his parents, the school officials and town residents – who seemed perfectly fine with Damon as long as he meekly accepted his implied 2nd class citizen status – or the mind-boggling number of commenters here who agree that Damon deserves what’s happened to him because apparently as an atheist, he’s in the minority and he should have kept his mouth shut and “let it go.” Shame on all of you!

  • amber

    I am christian and I live in this same small town as daman I went to bhs and had ms quinn as a teacher. she is a wonderfull teacher but I dont agree with wat she did. Im here to let you know that not every christian in this town and this country are not the same. Im not judging any one bc we all have the right to belive in wat we want to. I think the way it was handled viloated everyones rights every student at BHS. I dont agree with how the cummunity reacted and how some of them handled it. Im not tryin g to affend anyone or push my beliefs onto u. But i think that everyone needs to drop. graduation is over a prayer was sd by the students who wanted to say a prayer so ive heard i wasnt there. its over and done. When I heard the news about daman I prayed for him im sorry if that affened him or anyone. I let it be. Thank you for reading. I will not reply to any comments bc i think it should be dropped.

  • amber

    oh one more thing. the reported only put half of her comment in the paper. not that makes me agree with her, she cares for all of her students. even daman.

  • Matt

    Pint- by pointing out, you mean threatening a lawsuit, than you would be right. but when you have to threaten a lawsuit to make other people abide by your own religious beliefs, than he was no better than anybody at that school. maybe if he would have found other students who share his belief, than went to talk to the principal in private and ask that they do not do it, things might have been different.

    I have no sympathy for anyone who tries to tell other people what to do. ive never once complained about having to sit through a prayer because it is religious. i just suck it up and realize that the other people have a right to believe whatever they want to believe. so sit down and shut up

  • Joeh

    It’s not threatening a lawsuit to make other people “abide by your own religious beliefs”, it’s threatening a lawsuit to abide by the law of the country. Why is that so hard to understand?

  • Raised Godless

    when you have to threaten a lawsuit to make other people abide by your own religious beliefs,

    Um, no. It’s against the law. Period.

  • anAtheist

    BOO HISS

    I think it is great that people are willing to be generous and give this fellow money. But I don’t like this litigious brat suing schools. Whats the goddamn plan? to bring the corrupt system down by breaking the American people’s backs? I’m in favor of a more positive proactive solution.

  • The Pint

    How the hell else was he going to get the school district to listen? Respectfully request that they obey the law and refrain from the school endorsing prayer and then kindly thank the school officials for their attention when they told him that majority rules (which is unconstitutional)?

    He wasn’t trying to make anybody abide by atheism – the lawsuit wasn’t attempting to strip anyone’s rights of Christian prayer as PRIVATE CITIZENS. If a student wanted to get up there and thank God in her speech, she’d be fine doing so as long as the school noted it was not a position endorsed one way or the other by the school. If anyone wanted to pray SILENTLY during a moment of silence – or recite the entire Lady of Shallot by Tennyson in their head – that’s perfectly fine. If this were a private institution, or a specifically religious school, that would be one thing, but it’s a public school that is subject to the same rules and regulations as any other government operated institution.

    But no – by pointing out the illegality of school-endorsed prayer at a public school graduation, Damon is a trouble-maker rocking the boat and trying to force his atheism on others. I can’t believe this.

    Just because YOU don’t have a problem sitting through prayer at events isn’t relevant to the issue. What is relevant that this was a PUBLIC SCHOOL event – as in the school is a part of the US government which is prohibited from raising one religious belief over another.

  • anAtheist

    Raised Godless:

    Um, no. It’s against the law. Period.

    Period? Period? Such blind faith makes me sick.

    Oh total acolyte of the law, what benefits it must give you and the other followers.

  • Alan

    I was hoping someone would yell out ‘Allahu Akbar’ during the silence. Bet that would’ve ended very well. After all, they said they respect ALL religions.

    Damon is a true citizen. He is a defender of the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law, not mindless jingoism.

    How did gay people get respect in society? They didn’t do it by sitting down and shutting up. No one respects a doormat. People like winners and want to be on the winning team.

  • TheFro

    I actually applaud the students giving lengthy prayer style speeches. You don’t think these students are also exercising their rights, sure some of it maybe in retaliation for this “minority thinking” student to dictate the “majority thinking” wanting a prayer by threat of lawsuit. I thinks it’s funnier than hell if the school has nothing to do with it but the students themselves give big long prayer speeches, which are protected, can’t sue anyone.. funnier than hell!

  • Rabid

    I get the point that this young atheist was making. However, it is a little tiring when a single person tries to countermand the wishes of the majority.

    You’re right, it’s almost as tiring as when we had to listen to all those uppity niggers whining about how the good, white, christian majority wanted to segregate, oppress and lynch them.

    Am I right, or am I fucking right?

    No, fuckwit, you did not get the point at all.

  • http://brophyfootball.blogspot.com brophy

    thanks for picking this up, Hemant. Donation in and wishing nothing but the best for Damon and his brother.

    Being silent and abiding would be the easy thing here (and not help ANYONE).

  • Alan

    I actually applaud the students giving lengthy prayer style speeches. You don’t think these students are also exercising their rights, sure some of it maybe in retaliation for this “minority thinking” student to dictate the “majority thinking” wanting a prayer by threat of lawsuit. I thinks it’s funnier than hell if the school has nothing to do with it but the students themselves give big long prayer speeches, which are protected, can’t sue anyone.. funnier than hell!

    It will be even funnier if a Muslim student gave a prayer speech.

  • Saltyestelle

    Sure, Damon should just shut up and accept his minority status. How absolutely rude of him to request that his public school follow the law at an important public ceremony. The real reason all these people are so pissed off is because he offers an example of nonconformity, nonbelief. And the very idea of that is threatening to some people. How sad. I’m so happy to see that if Damon’s fellow graduates learned little else during their time in high school, they have at least had this wonderful opportunity be part of a real-life civics lesson.

  • anAtheist

    Rabid, i like your comparison. You truly are a master of logic.

    Now, i have the same option of you guys as you guys have of people who pray in public but that will not stop me from speaking out. You see I’m not the type to sit down and shut up. If you have to resort to the negative action of the law you don’t have much of a society. I think a more accepting and tolerant course of action would be better.

  • anAtheist

    opinion =P

  • Rex Veritas

    Tolerance. It is shouted from the rooftops in The City near where I live. “We are here and you must accept us.” Of course, some are more vocal about their position than others and some extremists take matters into their own, hypocritical hands.

    What results from all this most of the time is ignorance, not as in “uneducated”, as we have been inundated with dogma. Rather, it is “ignore-ance”, as in, “I really have more important things to do with my life than be involved with this.” Those shouting are simply adding to the din of an already busy and hectic world. The end result is that they become a mere annoyance in the grand scheme of things.

    I have to admit that I have a certain degree of sympathy for Damon as well as a certain sense of admiration. He took a stand and expressed his feelings and concerns. It showed a great deal of maturity to stand up for what he believed in. Unfortunately, he went about it in a decidedly immature manner. I would have had much more respect for him if he had requested equal time or maybe started singing the National Anthem or “My Country tis of Thee” during the moment of silence.

    I tried to find all the information I could about what preceded his actions but nowhere could I find anything stating he approached the school administration about a compromise before he threatened to involve the ACLU. He is now paying the price for his actions and lessons are being learned all the way around. I hope he has the maturity to accept the consequences of his actions.

    Freedom of speech does not mean you can say whatever you like without reprisal or consequences. Freedom of religion does not mean that there can’t or shouldn’t be religious expression. The two concepts are intertwined and Constitutionally inseparable. The original authors of the document knew exactly what they were doing.

  • Alan

    It’s always okay for christians to impose their thoughts on others, but when they’re being imposed upon, it’s not right anymore.

    Peace Namaste!

  • V

    So he’s a hero for infringing upon other people’s freedom of religion? Not sure I follow.

    If you don’t want to participate in the prayer, then don’t. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, man up. No one is forcing you to be Christian by practicing their believes, just like you’re -allegedly- not forcing anyone to be atheist. Go ahead and sue the school you spoiled little brat, it’ll set a good example.

  • Raised Godless

    Period? Period? Such blind faith makes me sick.

    Be sick all you like. SCOTUS has a long history of a broad interpretation of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, making displays such as the ones at Damon Fowler’s school against the law. It doesn’t take any “faith,” blind or otherwise, to see that. Until SCOTUS interprets the Constitution differently, schools found in violation of the law will suffer the consequences of their action.

  • Allen

    I would like to point one thing out.

    student-led prayer and/or school-sanctioned/led prayer at a school event; provided the school is public, is ILLEGAL.

    Its not about respecting other people’s rights. It’s about the fact that the school is violating the law. Damon pointed it out say that if they continued he’d report that the school was breaking the law. He’s not doing it because he wants to push his beliefs onto others. He’s doing it because the school is breaking the law and he wanted to warn them before taking it to court.

    If he really wanted to, he could just not have told the school, waited for it to happen, record it or get a record of the event happening, and have the school prosecuted in federal court for breaking the law.

    Instead, he respectfully told the school they were breaking the law in the hopes that they would stop. What did he get? Ostracized by his peers, (pretty much) disowned by his parents, and forced to leave his town.

    Damon,
    Be proud and take solace in the fact that you have stood in the face of adversity and did not bow.

    Allen

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Fowler has now been covered in reliable sources. I’ve therefore added a section to the Bastrop article on Wikipedia discussing the matter. Unfortunately, very few of the more interesting details are yet in the press.

  • anAtheist

    I just cannot be quiet I feel so strongly about this subject. Emotionally this is very stressful to me because as an atheist I believe in the goodwill of people and the power of charity. It is a great tragedy that there is so much fraud in this world but each inidvidual is responsible for their own money, caveat emptor. The only information i can find about the credibility of this Chipin charity is that proof will be provided later that the money will be handed directly to the donee. I Hope that the scholarship title of the Chipin is not a misnomer and none of the money will go to legal fees as an education would seem to be more beneficial to the donee.

  • anAtheist

    Schools do suffer the consequences you pervert of righteousness. Adherence and faith in the SCOUTS is sickening and sadly prevalent. SCOTUS, all praise its name, is but a mere tool that can be abused as is this blog.

    The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!

    If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.

    checks and balances, we should start a scholarship for you

  • crowepps

    I think your concern about legal fees is unwarranted. Just as a for-instance, if the ACLU decides to take up this case, it will do so without expecting the young man to pay anything, knowing that the expenses and their fee can come out of the eventual settlement.

  • anAtheist

    that’s twice as bad. just like wallstreet i guess.

  • Another friendly atheist

    I’m in for $100. This kid is standing up for his constitutional right under very difficult circumstances and I support him. I hope the ACLU steps in quickly — this is an easy win and it looks like the kid needs some help and the school needs a reminder about the constitution. Fortunately, here in America people are not allowed to trample over other people’s rights, even in the name of their god.

  • anAtheist

    does this really happen raised godless? You seem to know the law, can one really sue and have it paid for by the government and yet still win a settlement to keep and spend for themselves? Do you know how the government gets its money? Does this solve the problem?

  • Tiffany

    I applaud this kid. I was raised in a similar town and know how hard it is to get schools to obey the law on this issue. When I asked to simply not participate in team prayers before sporting events I was called a devil worshipper and told I was going to Hell so I didn’t dare stand up about the prayer at my graduation. Glad to see a young atheist being as brave as I should’ve been. Best of luck to you Damen!

  • crowepps

    The government does not provide attorneys for or pay the costs for people to start civil suits. The ACLU is a non-government non-profit organization dedicated to defending the constitution and safe-guarding the rights of ALL of the citizens, both the non-religious AND the religious ones. If a government entity such as a school district is sued and loses, it will have to pay at the END of the suit, legal costs and fees for the other side as well as money to the person whose civil rights were violated.

  • Renee

    All of you people saying “I think he should just be quiet and show respect because he’s in the minority and can’t we all get along” ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You’re what’s wrong with America. Shut up, get along, never mind the rule of law, never mind respect for others who are different, never mind equality, or principle, or reason. I believe the word for you is “appeasers.”

    You’re the kind of people who probably didn’t gas anybody or hold a rifle but who quietly went along when things were going well in Germany because, hey, sure your neighbours disappeared one night, but the economy was doing so great! You’re the ones who probably didn’t own slaves or hit any negroes or participate in any lynchings, but sort of didn’t think slavery was so bad because, well, “they’re” not complaining, are they? At least they get three hots and a cot! And at the most benign end of the scale you’re the ones who couldn’t understand why women would want the vote – more trouble than it’s worth, voting, what’s the big deal anyway, why are you making waves, everything’s not great but it’s fine…

    Your attempt to assert a “pragmatic” morality is disgusting and disingenuous. Because of the liberal institutions in place to protect against you, you haven’t had the chance to be among the tens of millions who tacitly supported the historical evils noted above, but that’s only a technicality. Your sensibility is the reason that, right now, the gap between rich and poor is so great; it’s the reason public discourse is in the toilet; it’s the reason for the financial meltdown; it’s the reason for ever-increasing human rights violations by law enforcement; it’s the reason why the US is a nation who tortures people. And it’s the reason for Reality TV. You’re not terrible people, but you are – in the most fundamental sense – bad people.

  • Ryno

    In all honesty, I think Damon is a tard. Maybe I’m old enough and secure enough in not giving a crap about religion that I don’t actually care what others do with their own beliefs. Should the occasion arise where I’m around a large group of people praying, I’ll walk off, or at least stand silently. It doesn’t matter that I’m not praying, but I firmly believe in being respectful of others. It’s called taking the moral high road. They may not respect me, but I’m man enough to respect them.

    Did I feel my school was rubbing religion in my face during graduation way back when? Not at all. It’s just the way of the majority. I even attended a Methodist university. Took classes on religion and everything. Did I believe a word of it, or feel threatened? Nope. Couldn’t care less.

  • anAtheist

    thank you crowepps, that sounds a little more sane. With no one alive today that even knows how many federal laws exist, let alone what they mean individually or as a whole, it is hard for me to be proud of any of this.

  • Louis

    it never ceases to amaze me how athiesm has become a religion of its own. you seek to force your views on others, which, oddly enough, is exactly what you complain about the various religions doing to you.

    it’s funny. I count myself as an athiest, and yet so many other athiests disgust me. you are the worst kind of hypocrites. “freedom OF religion”, to include your freedom to choose no religion, should not be misconstrued as to mean “freedom FROM religion”, which is simply denying the rights of others

  • Baconsbud

    Samael you said “However, it is a little tiring when a single person tries to countermand the wishes of the majority.” My question to you is, would you go along with the majority if they made christianity illegal? You sound like one of those that is okay with violations of law as long as you have the numbers agreeing with you but when you are part of the minority you will cry fowl and how wrong it is to do this to a minority. You are a hypocrite.

    Walt you must have some kind of magic ears if you believe that someone at a public function can just not hear what is said. I doubt you would like to hear a muslim prayer at a public ceremony and would probably cry fowl just like most christians would. Why do you believe your religion is special?

  • anAtheist

    my concerns about the litigious nature of the donee is warranted. If it says scholarship it should be a scholarship.

  • Zada

    Matthew 6:5-7…tells you to pray in PRIVATE & those who don’t are hypocrites! Amen

  • Rabid

    Period? Period? Such blind faith makes me sick.

    Oh total acolyte of the law, what benefits it must give you and the other followers.

    Your abstention from those benefits you show such disdain for is duly noted. Please be kind enough to leave us your home address so we can ransack your house and possessions at our leisure.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    anAtheist,

    I don’t know if you are trolling but it certainly comes across that way. For example, you wrote:

    With no one alive today that even knows how many federal laws exist, let alone what they mean individually or as a whole, it is hard for me to be proud of any of this.

    What this has to do with complicated federal laws is not at all clear to me. This is a basic constitutional issue.

    As to you and some of the others in this thread who aren’t happy that the money from such lawsuits goes to those who win the lawsuits, this is just ridiculous. If we didn’t have that sort of rule, there would be a terrible burden upon the poor to have any chance of redress for when their rights are violated. And no, there is no such thing as a small violation of one’s rights.

  • Baconsbud

    Louis how is anyone forcing you to become an atheist by not allowing you to push your religion on others? You are another of those that think everyone must do what the majority wants no matter how it affects the minority. I hope I live to see when religion is a minority and all you majority rules whiners change your tone.

  • Chris

    Does anyone else think it’s telling that this is going on at a High School where a teacher apparently incapable of enforcing personal pronoun agreement on her own written words has been teaching for the past 25 years?

  • anAtheist

    rabid you are a fool of the highest degree to threaten me or my property. I only own what i can protect, that is the definition of ownership. Attack me or my possessions and I will not hesitate to defend myself by any means necessary. That includes calling up ppl who have guns and armored cars as well as my own defences. UK government cannot stop city kids from attacking the defenseless elderly but i sure feel safe in my farm house with my family and friends out in the middle of no where. Don’t ever ask to come over and attack me again.

  • anAtheist

    Joshua Zelinsky, there is no money from the government, do i really have to explain?

    What does the adulteration of the law have to do with any of this?

    you said it yourself, there is no right too small to be violated. Might I also be so humble to add there is no job too small for the government, no responsibility too big.

    Go ahead and call me a troll, i will take that scarlet letter from this blog any day if this is what goes on here.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    anatheist,

    I don’t know why you think that enforcing basic civil rights is “adulteration of the law”. I don’t understand the rest of your remark. It might be an attempt at sarcasm but if so I don’t even see what point you are trying to make (size of government has zero to do with this issue). If you have a coherent point to make, feel free to do so.

  • anAtheist

    my point is that government and laws are a negative force, i never said there should be none… but by all means post that i do.

    Let’s try something different and stick with what you do understand. Tell me more about how poor people get redress when their rights are violated. Tell me how lawsuits work. What is an appropriate settlement where they come from, who gets them, and where they go.

  • Karen

    @Kurt
    I didn’t have time to read through this whole thread, but wanted to respond to this comment you made:

    “She went out of her way to say she respected other beliefs.”

    She may have said that, but the very act of including the prayer was an act of disrespect toward anyone with other beliefs, including atheism. That’s why I do think it’s “that bad.”

    Letting people get away with such disingenuous platitudes just reinforces the status quo in a very insidious way. The speaker in this case (and perhaps most cases) probably believes she does respect other beliefs. However, the fact of belonging to a hegemonic and/or privileged group too often gives people an (unconscious) feeling of superiority that frequently negates attempts at showing “respect.”

    This was an act of blatant disrespect disguised as a harmless exercise from which people could (supposedly) remove themselves by choosing not to bow their heads.

  • Cliff Wells

    I think the ultimate failure here is that no one was able to find a compromise that allowed both interests to be appeased.

    I also find the celebrating that the school system will take a significant financial blow to be pretty pathetic. Should the involved administration be reprimanded? Sure. Should students next year lose out on new books, extra-curricular activities, or even lose an hour of school over it? I’m not thinking that’s a good or desirable outcome. In fact, it simply highlights what the real failure here is: human nature.

    People here who are celebrating this polarization and utter failure to respect the views of others are just as responsible for our current state of affairs as the people directly involved in this particular incident. I hope you are proud of yourselves.

  • Jebus

    Kicked in $20. Good luck Damon.

    I’m all about “freedom of speech” from any institution residing in the private sector, but functions funded by taxpayers, hence any public sector institution, should adhere to the laws set forth in the constitution.

    If this was a private school, then by all means pray to The Great Boohoo for all I care.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    anAtheist,

    I don’t know why you think that I posted that you said there shouldn’t be a government. I said that your remarks about the size of government are utterly irrelevant to anything at hand. So far, you haven’t explained their relevance.

    Moving on, how the poor get redress when their rights are violated isn’t at all complicated, although they certainly have fewer options and less success than those with a lot of disposable income. Most major law schools have various clinics devoted to helping all sorts of indigent clients. In cases involving basic rights violations, they may be represented by groups like the ACLU. Some other organizations focus on specific types of rights violations. So for example, Americans United focuses just on specific issues related to the Establishment clause in the First Amendment.

    When such lawsuits are filed, the most common forms of redress are damages and injunctions. Thus for example, in the Dover case, the plaintiffs won a general injunction against the teaching of ID by the school system. Often when such lawsuits occur, when the plaintiffs are successful, the defendants pay the plaintiffs’ attorney costs and pay some amount of punitive damages. The punitive damages goes to the plaintiffs while the attorney costs go to the attorneys. There’s nothing complicated here, so I don’t understand what you are trying to ask.

  • Doug

    The BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW is strong with this jackass.

    As we used to say in the military:

    “You’ll never find an atheist in a foxhole.”

  • Rabid

    my point is that government and laws are a negative force

    As is your silly gibberish. You are either a troll or a crazy. It really doesn’t matter at this point.

  • anAtheist

    Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. WHEREFORE, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows, that whatever FORM thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

    i guess it comes down to weather or not this kid should sue the school out of existence. I don’t think that is going to work because the school is built on the community. I think working with the people in the school to try and come to a compromise is much better. I’m talking on the local level, were the local people work with local problems. Religious people want to go to a publicly paid school and so do the atheists. The community is going to have to figure it out. Both sides will have to try and understand the other.

  • anAtheist

    the law is negative, not in the simple way your mind understands it but it still is none the less. The vice a law prohibits exists before the law. If laws came before the vice or if it started to become positive by nature that would be silly gibberish.

    like i said i wish we could give you all scholarships.

  • Alan

    @Doug says
    The BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAW is strong with this jackass.

    As we used to say in the military:

    “You’ll never find an atheist in a foxhole.”

    You know this old myth? There are no atheists in foxholes.

    While sheltering in a hardened bunker for the third consecutive night of rocket attacks, I turned to my buddy. So, you still an atheist?

    His answer. Yes.

    Myth busted!

    Many times people claim to have seen Elvis since his ‘supposed’ death yet so many of us continue as nonbelievers. Pity that we can’t all accept it on faith.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Religious people want to go to a publicly paid school and so do the atheists. The community is going to have to figure it out. Both sides will have to try and understand the other.

    Yes, and there’s is an understanding. It is the First Amendment. And it is there for very good reason. It doesn’t just make the atheists happy, it helps protects the Jews, and the Muslims, and the Hindus and myriad other groups.

  • anAtheist

    there obviously isn’t an understanding

    you can complain all you want, you can call a spade another name mr. talk about poor people sue for money to protect their rights, you can do all these things but its still a local community issue.

    you’re going to have to win the hearts and minds of the neighborhood if you want to change them or live with them. and if you cannot come to an agreement i guess they will be in trouble and not you?

  • http://aWorldQuiteMad.blogspot.com aWorldQuiteMad

    If I weren’t unemployed at them moment, I would donate to this kid’s education.

    That girl who gave the prayer is an ass. And everyone who clapped in the audience is an ass too. Respect? No one in that place had any respect for those of other belief systems (or lack thereof) or they wouldn’t have done what they did.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    It is a local issue only in so far as there are bigots and theocrats at the local level. Changing their minds would obviously be a good thing. But in the meantime, that isn’t in any way, way, shape or form a reason not to protect our rights.

  • The Pint

    And no, there is no such thing as a small violation of one’s rights.

    QFT

  • anAtheist

    there is such a thing as a small violation of one’s rights.

    i’m about to give up bashing my head against this wall of ignorance. At least rabid isn’t threatening me anymore.

    There is a point when it is too much, we give up the right to murder so as not to be murdered, that is a small violation of my rights i can live with.

    We give up the “freedom” to own another human being because the veil of ignorance shows us it is ultimately wrong.

    I may be an atheist but when i read the friendly atheist and the ppl who post here it only shows me that it is the atheists as well as others who are not ready for tolerance and peace.

    Lets be examples and lets work together make ourselves and those around us better. We as atheists may not be ready but by god I at least am trying.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    anAtheist, it seems like you have skimmed a tiny bit of philosophy and are simply regurgitating that without comprehension. Rawls’s veil of ignorance basis for morality has nothing to do with this at all.

    Moreover, your comment about murder seems to be confusing rights with something to do with some form of Lockeian or Hobbesian social contract. And it still isn’t relevant given that the US has a pre-existing constitution.

    Wanting the preservation of basic rights, and be willing to spend resources towards that end doesn’t make people “not ready for tolerance and peace”.

    I have to wonder if you would have said the same thing to people fighting for civil rights in the 1960s. You may want to consider that the probable ignorance and incoherence is coming from you, not others here.

  • anAtheist

    you’re wrong,

  • Deanna

    When an entire town can be turned against a single young man and children can be brainwashed before they turn ten to firmly believe that non-*insert religion of choice here*-ists go to hell, you know there is definitely something intrinsically wrong with organized religion. :/

  • http://purl.org/NET/JesseW/SundryStuff/ Jesse Weinstein

    To Lana @ May 20th, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Thank you for doing a transcript! I’m one of the people who value this, as do search engines. Thanks! It is appreciated.

    To Doug @ May 21st, 2011 at 5:29 pm, and the watching public,

    Your claim that “there are no atheists in foxholes” is false, and hurtfully so.

    http://www.ffrf.org/outreach/atheists-in-foxholes

    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2010/02/atheists-in-foxholes.html
    http://www.militaryatheists.org

    I salute Damon’s action. It was just, and appropriate, and measured. The reaction he received was not.

  • anAtheist

    it was not a tiny bit of philosophy and i think i’ve expressed my views adequately. Youre being a lame smart ass. The same crap you try to pass off as an argument/response to me i could do to you.

    And yes, the civil rights bill of the 1960 was wrong in many ways. The right of the property owners were abolished. I would rather let people do what they want on their own property and just choose not to give them any business if they enact racist policies…but im an ignorant moran so why are you even interested in asking me?

    im going out now.

  • anAtheist

    You say i dont know what rights are? do you?

    what gives you the right to tell me how to spend my resources? I earn my living through the sweat of my brow

  • Cory Bates

    Damon, you have friends, although you may not be able to see us, we are here standing with you, so hold your head high. Our founding fathers would be so proud of you right now. Here’s 25 bones for college, if enough people chip in, you should have a great head start financially. When you do go to college, you will find that there are plenty of good-hearted people who share your beliefs. Good luck with everything, and congratulations on standing up for what is right and having the integrity and bravery to follow through with your beliefs.

  • Bobalot

    Just pitched in $20. I’m from Australia and the idea of someone getting kicked out of their home for not believing in god (in a rich industrialised western nation) is quite shocking to me.

    Good luck to Damon.

  • Piro

    I am a little bit confused as to what the big issue was in the video. While yes a prayer is illegal in schools it was done by a student,a student who seemed to have the support of a good chunk of the crowd. She did not call anyone out, in fact she said that she respected others beliefs, even if they were different from her own. The real question here is who was the girl? Was she the valedictorian or a student representative in some other capacity? If that is so that is why she was up there and if the teachers didn’t know she was planning it then how can you be mad? From the article it seems like this young man made a large fuss over a prayer that was really about a minute or less long, throwing threats at an already struggling and underfunded education system that will only end up hurting it and many people in the long run.

    I am also confused as to how this was emotionally stressing. This student did not go into the crowd and force bowed heads. She did not threaten the non-believers with hellfire and brimstone. She gave a polite prologue and gave a short prayer. If this young man didn’t like it then he only had to endure for a minute, I can personally think of many things that are far more uncomfortable and last far longer. If he cannot deal with this small thing how are we ever supposed to think he deal with the bigger stresses life throws at us? I think he ended up bringing more of this stress onto himself with his threats, and let’s face it. If you threaten something that is important to the majority then there are going to be members of that majority who will act with hostility no matter how incorrect those actions may be.

    The teacher was in the wrong here. A teacher should not denounce their student publicly.

    Ultimately I believe this is something that has been blown out of proportion, teachers unfortunately bash their students regularly in public. Those teachers are dealt with. What makes this case so much different? Is it because religion was involved? Or was this just the one plucked out of the stack?

    But hey, Damon is getting a scholarship to college and possibly a settlement because he wasn’t able to adapt to a society that will still put these stresses on him, so I guess that is a good thing right?

  • Josh Bailey

    Serious question here…do Atheists not believe in God or just don’t believe in Christianity? Second, if you don’t believe in God why would someone praying make you uncomfortable?

  • https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1658598805 Howard J Barnett

    Just like to point out that the young lady in question has no 1st Amendment rights, at least while on school gr4ounds or participating in a school function. This was the ruling in the Bong hits For Jesus case of a few years back, that students have no right to free speech. So, she loses on every.single.count. There is ZERO legal standing for what she did, and the lawsuit will win.

  • logical

    how can you be so upset about someone expressing their beliefs? This country was founded on Christ, and if you don’t like it, go somewhere else! It’s just a prayer! It’s just someone pouring their heart out to God, and you want to sue them? Even if you don’t believe in God, I know plenty of atheists who are actually respectful to people of other beliefs! And don’t give me any “oh, he doesn’t our understand atheism principles and beliefs n’ stuff” because I do. Like I said…I have friends who are atheists, and they are respectful of my beliefs, and THEY didn’t have any problem at all when we prayed at my graduation! By the way, if you’re an atheist who doesn’t believe in anything…why should you care if others pray at a graduation? if you think it silly, just don’t pray along if you don’t feel like it! I mean seriously! What I sued YOU for expressing your beliefs? or unbelief for that matter? You know why I wont? Because it’s YOUR belief! It’s YOUR choice! You don’t wanna pray? then don’t pray! But don’t ruin it for everybody else…because right now, all you look like is an unaccepting, radical, bigoted, faith killer. And that’s the truth…

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Bailey, atheists don’t believe in any deity. To answer why such prayers can be stressful- humans are extremely social creatures. Having most of a population doing some ritualistic activity while one isn’t doing it can easily create pressure to conform and general feelings of alienation when one doesn’t.

  • James Lane

    Although I have not read through most of these comments, I have read a few of them. The response I’ve seen from them is quite concerning for their disreguard for what has been deemed as the law. Damon is simply requesting that the school starts to follow the law in which they have ignored for years.

    Lets look at this from a differant perspective. There is a law against Murder, there are some people that disobay that law, but they know it’s the law. Lets say someone finally stands up and says, “You need to stop murdering those people it’s the law, and there’s a price to pay for breaking that law.” How many people would disagree?

    As far as I’m concerned there is a price to pay for breaking the law. This school has broken the law many times in the past, and needs to be reprimended for the actions that have taken place not only this year, but for all the years leading up to this year that that law has been broken.

    Good luck to you Damon. There is nothing harder than standing up for whats right no matter how many people disagree with you.

  • Piro

    Wouldn’t the same be true if you were to tell an the majority that they were not allowed to practice how they wish or speak how they wish? The same stress on not allowing them to worship when they wish could cause that group to feel that same alienation I would believe. Weren’t people guaranteed their freedom of speech and freedom of religion when this country was founded? Just playing the Devil’s Advocate here Josh.

  • http://irishgamingnerd.com MickeyG42

    As a semi Catholic I am appalled. This is why I am leaning more and more towards agnostic. These people are forcing their views on others, and persecuting those who don’t fall in line. Once I get paid I am donating. Lets make sure Damon lives like a king.

  • Steve

    Freedom of speech isn’t absolute. It can be restricted in time and place.

    And your idea that a minority can somehow exert peer pressure on a majority is way too absurd to even contemplate. We’re talking about communities, e.g. small towns or also some companies, that literally shun and harass people for not belonging to the club. It’s basically a cult-like behavior. It sounds silly that such a thing would exist in a supposedly free country, but you can read way too many horror stories about it.

  • Ivana

    Though I’ve caused my classmates to hate me..

    Hmph. They must be some gooood christians if now suddenly they hate him because of not being afraid of voicing his opinion, so what if it’s against their beliefs? Some people simply don’t enjoy religion being shoved down their throat. And If you live in a town where everyone is a believer, should you just pretend to pray just because of the pressure of majority? …Come to think of that, in a town where being an atheist is weird and discriminated, I wonder how many of those alleged christians are “true believers”…
    I am an atheist, but generally I have nothing against religion. It’s the people that annoy me.

    • Kelly7404

      I know how you feel. I’m a Christian surrounded by family members that are athiests. I have to pretend I don’t pray. It’s a learned skill around the table at holidays:)

      • Kyle

         That’s sad. Be who you are. Just don’t expect others to go along with you.
        I’m an Atheist surrounded by family members that are Christians of many flavors.

        Most my life I would pretend to pray, just to stop the hate against my belief.
        I still close my eyes and bow my head. I listen and can see what thoughts they have in their minds.

  • Teg

    https://www.laaclu.org/newsArchive.php?id=416#n416

    Here’s the state ACLU page. I’ll be checking back as the case develops.

    Damon: thank you for your courage. I know how hard it is to stand up to bullies, especially at your age. You’re being a true hero by insisting the Constitution be followed. There are a lot of us online who’ve got your back. This must be very hard, and I hope you don’t feel too alone.

  • foosie

    The only point here is that a forced or otherwise coerced public prayer in a government institution has the exact same federal legality as me sparking a blunt during the aforementioned… im not forcing anyone else to smoke… but they still smell it

  • Another Atheist

    Y’all are overreacting. I’m atheist, but I don’t see what’s wrong with saying a prayer. Let them practice their religion. It’s atheists like you guys that make it seem like all atheists are devoted to attacking and defaming other religions. It’s disgusting.

  • http://aWorldQuiteMad.blogspot.com aWorldQuiteMad

    What’s worse than what happened in Bastrop, Louisiana, is the comments from people insisting that Christianity is something that should be enforced here. If you want a theocracy, where prayers are said in public school, and where they kill people for converting away from the state religion, I suggest you move to Saudi Arabia or Iran. They’re very religious societies. I’m sure you’d all be so happy there. They’re also not free.

    Your wish to enforce your religious convictions on your fellow Americans makes you an enemy of freedom. It is absolutely incompatible with democracy for people like this to prevail. Our democracy is on the way out, as it becomes ever more acceptable for the majority to run roughshod over the minority.

    If you wish to worship your god, no one is preventing you from doing that. No one prevented these people in Bastrop, La from praying for hours before or after the ceremony. It is against the law to hold religious ceremonies using tax payer funded equipment at tax payer funded events. If you can’t grasp that, I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry that you don’t have any critical thinking skills.

    As Ron White said, “You can’t fix stupid. There ain’t a pill you can take. There ain’t a class you can take. Stupid is forever.” Unfortunately it seems there’s a lot of stupid here. And there will be no fixing it.

  • pooka

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came%E2%80%A6

    It’s not the act of including a prayer in an official government function, which a school graduation is. It’s the official stamp of government approval that sets the tone of what is officially accepted.

    How long do we sit on our hands & keep our mouths shut before we speak up. When it’s to late or just when it’s inconvenient & uncomfortable. Freedom is a constant battle to stand up for what is right. Damon Fowler is a true patriot in the highest sense of the word. It’s people like him that truly make all of us free, His detractor are the sheep that follow along with the status quo until they become the target of derision. Then who will stand up for them. Atheists have to stand up for christian & vice versa. That’s what joins us & makes us free. We forget that all freedom has it’s limits. There is a time & place for all things under heaven.

    I will state for the record that I patriot that believes in the freedom of all, religious & not. Regardless of the the power of those to push their own views. The power of one should always be supreme when he stands up for what is right. If there were more people like Damon, we would all be more free,

    We often say that it’s a free country. That freedom does not include persecuting those we don’t agree with. Sometimes the price of freedom is high. It should never be so high that we don’t aspire to it. If it is, we are no longer free.

    I believe in the possibility’s of America & freedom. I am often disappointed in the reality of the our freedom in practice.

    Good luck Damon in your future endeavors. Whether they know it or not, you are standing up for the freedom of your detractors too.

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    Wouldn’t the same be true if you were to tell an the majority that they were not allowed to practice how they wish or speak how they wish? The same stress on not allowing them to worship when they wish could cause that group to feel that same alienation I would believe. Weren’t people guaranteed their freedom of speech and freedom of religion when this country was founded?

    But they are free to do so. The key is that they can’t do so with an official state imprimatur using public resources. If a majority religion takes actions not using public resources that makes everyone else feel alienated then that can be dickish, but isn’t a First Amendment issue. The key here is that there’s both a First Amendment issue and actual damage being caused.

  • GRW

    I disagree; the girl can say whatever she wants in her speech. The First Ammendment cuts both ways…Or invocation or whatever you might call it. Point being, if she was the valedictorian and decided to lead a prayer in the middle of her graduation speech I’d imagine there’d be an uproar about that. She should be allowed to comment on her religion. Also, how “noble” is this kid. He got a $1000 scholarship for what he did, I think someone could question his motives as well…

  • pooka

    Let’s turn this around a little & ask yourself who’s wrong. Let’s say Damon was a devout Christian & most of the town were satanists. The law says no religion involvement in government which the school & the graduation ceremony is a part of. If the student speaker said “all hail Satan” should Damon have sit quietly & shut up. Who would be wrong in this case.

  • Nick

    I highly, highly doubt the “sit down and shut up” people on this thread are atheists as many of them claim to be. i smell trolls in disguise. No self-respecting atheists, agnostic, or otherwise would have such a mindset.

  • efrique

    Donated a small amount. Not much, but I guess it adds up.

  • Sweetkraut

    Chipping in my $10 for Damon now. Good luck kiddo!

  • BSG

    I find it shocking that so many Christians would cite freedom of religion while being given exclusive speaking privileges in a building that is paid for by tax dollars well out of the city limits.

    But even if this school were being paid for by city dollars alone, the gross assumption that the visible majority’s values should trump that of the minorities is an offensive, and dangerous precedent to set. You can bet that there are far more closeted non-Christians in that town than any of them would believe.

    School is supposed to be a welcoming place without regards to social and political standings, and the unrelated inclusion of religion is not freedom of speech, but opportunistic showboating. The claims that this student was somehow “ruining everyone’s fun,” and being “disrespectful” would be true if he wanted his beliefs shouted at the audience instead of yours, but he simply reminded the school that it is illegal to prescribe beliefs.

    I wonder if it would have even been okay for the girl to thank her God personally, but not lead a prayer. It’s the expectation and assumption that everyone in the room should shut up for the beliefs of someone else that is unconstitutional. It isn’t that it’s hard to ignore the rot, it’s that the expectation that everyone should that is dangerous and is only harmless from the perspective of those who agree with it in the first place.

    (And as an atheist, I really don’t understand what the functional requirement is for prayer at events. Seems like it’d only serve to neuter the value of the words being said if it is so arbitrarily evoked.)

  • Patches

    @inthewater

    He wasn’t “forced” to pray. No one bent his head forward, shut his eyes, and folded his hands against his will. A prayer before a public school’s commencement, while illegal, is also something quick and painless. He’s not being persecuted or made a pariah for his atheism; he’s just digging himself into a hole by making such a massive deal out of one or two minutes of wasted time. Grin it, bear it, don’t deal with it again.

  • Teg

    > how can you be so upset about someone expressing their beliefs? This country was founded on Christ, and if you don’t like it, go somewhere else!

    Parndon me for a moment. I need to go ROTFL.

    There that’s better.

    For a moment ignoring the pettiness, it sounds like you’ve been getting your “information” about the origins of this country from unreliable sources.

    Why, for example, do you claim that “this country was founded on Christ?”

    Have you actually read the Constituion and related documents? ( Declaration of Indepenedence etc,) You can get the whole set on Kindle for $2.99. There are aboslutely *no* reference to any “Christian docrine. The most promintenet Founders werew Deist – Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, et al. – were Deists, who did not believe in Christian doctrine.
    Most importantly was there experiment to design the first secular state.

    It is not simply a natter of ex[ressomg upir ne;oefe. It is a matter of expreseing them in the wrong contect.

  • you are all dense

    It’s not the point that the prayer is a quick thing and he should just “sit down and shut up”. Holy shit, I don’t know why some of you people do not get it and keep saying that. The point is that there is a separation of religion from state and that is the bottom fucking line. period DOT. Stop pretending like there’s no constitution.

  • Abba Bryant

    @SAMUEL

    I live in the town of where this event happened, and let me tell all of you this. I’m Catholic and proud of it. I respect other’s and their views, just like Jesus wanted me to. But I couldn’t agree on what Damon dead. He was only ONE of about three or four atheists, and what he tried to do was wrong. Most of the body of the graduating class was Christian. If Damon wanted to have a moment of silence, he could of just walked out or not even prayed.

    BTW: The school won’t get sued, etc. You know why? Because the prayer was lead by the students, not the faculty. The school’s faculty had nothing to do with it. That is all.

    First off – it doesn’t matter one tiny insignificant little bit how many athiests vs. how many christians were in attendandce. You are utilizing a public space, public funds and public employees to handle your graduation from a public school. The constitution and the supreme court have said and re-said that you have to keep prayer out of school functions. It doesn’t matter if not a single person is bothered – if you do it you are in the legal wrong. Period. End of story.

    Just because you don’t think the majority would be bothered or that there is enough of a vocal minority to follow the rules doesn’t justify your abuse of other’s rights. Their rights, mind you. Not yours.

    Also, since the rehearsal allowed the prayer, now the school knows it is planned to occur and is tacitly allowing and encouraging it to happen. No longer is that a spontaneous religious expression by a student. Now it is a sanctioned, planned expression and a violation of the constitutional rules.

    Also – don’t you find it hypocritical to claim freedom of speech rights apply to your group alone – and that it matters to you in any way that the group you belong to is the majority opinion? You can’t use the constitution for your own arguments while choosing to blatantly ignore what the supreme court has ruled on the matter. If you want to use the constitution to argue you have rights then you automatically lose – since you don’t get to determine the interpretation of those rights and your position has already be ruled to be on the wrong side of this argument.

    “Well he’s only one of four black people in town so who cares if he wants to exercise his right to not be forced to sit at the back of the bus. He should just shut up and do it because all the rest of the town would be happier at his expense that way – screw what the law says.”

    Your not too far off from what I wrote above. You hate “negros” also?

  • Abba Bryant

    One has to wonder – re: Student led prayer during the rehearsal.

    If she had decided to light a candle, dim the lights and said a pagan prayer how the school would have felt.

    They either allow everyone their viewpoint and restrict all speech or they promote a viewpoint and restrict all other viewpoint’s speech. I bet the administration would have flipped out. Religious freedom my ass. Freedom to be a watered-down Louisiana red-neck christian perhaps.

  • Abba Bryant

    So he’s a hero for infringing upon other people’s freedom of religion? Not sure I follow.

    If you don’t want to participate in the prayer, then don’t. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, man up. No one is forcing you to be Christian by practicing their believes, just like you’re -allegedly- not forcing anyone to be atheist. Go ahead and sue the school you spoiled little brat, it’ll set a good example.

    It isn’t freedom OF religion. It is the freedom to express my own religion in private and the freedom FROM religion in public and especially in government and public spaces. OF and FROM. Each in their own space and context. The first amendment isn’t that long and the SCOTUS interpretations aren’t vague or difficult to understand.

    You all learned to read the bible in your Louisiana public schools – I know you can google and read the constitution. It has longer words but it isn’t much more difficult.

  • Abba Bryant

    Go ahead and sue the school you spoiled little brat, it’ll set a good example.

    Yeah it will – it will let you all know that even if you have an entirely Christian community that the rules pertaining to religion and school still in fact apply to you – no matter how many times you pray they don’t.

  • Samantha

    It amazes me that the “Christian speaker” says, “now I respect those that do not share the same beliefs as I do.” No. If that were true, she would’ve done a moment of silence where her “God” could hear her prayer; however, she decided to follow the moment of silence with a prayer out loud, contradicting herself and basically emphasizing the fact that she does not have respect for non-Christians.
    If I were the school I would be embarassed that someone like her cannot follow orders and basically disprespects any non-Christains by praying and mentioning Jesus specifically – something that alienates and belittles those that do not believe.

  • Memeplex Driving The Humans

    TED 2008: Humans Are Just Machines for Propagating Memes, Susan Blackmore Says http://bit.ly/kP4Qq8

  • Jim

    Send a message to Superintendent Tom Thrower. Demand that he apologize to Damon for failing to control the situation and resign.

    http://morehouse.la.schoolwebpages.com/education/components/scdirectory/default.php?sectiondetailid=2&showprofile=7&showdir=1&email=form

  • Christy

    “Girl” listed in the transcript has a name. While I certainly respect Mr. Fowler’s right to keep prayer out of the graduation ceremony, I also respect the right for Laci Mattice to provide an invocation based on her beliefs. Maybe Mr. Fowler should have offered to stand up after Ms. Mattice and offer up a moment of silence for his beliefs. Nobody asked him to pray with the rest of the graduating class. Even the ACLU should realize that prayer isn’t forced upon anyone—if you want to join in the prayer, then do so and if you don’t, then don’t. A Christian’s beliefs are no less important the the beliefs of all on this site. I ask each of you to step back for one moment and truly read what I have written. It goes much deeper than Atheist vs. Christian. We all have rights, and it is up to US to respect the beliefs of others.

  • http://www.dariablack.com Daria Black

    I agree. I don’t believe that the people who are claiming to be atheists and yet telling another atheist to shut and accept theocratic rule really are atheists.

    But who knows? We are not a monolith and are just as likely as any other group to have our ignorant members. There were a few black people during the civil rights who told the black people fighting for social change to not rock the boat out of a sense of self preservation. Same with the woman’s vote movement.

    Anyway, I commend Damon for his courage. Standing up for what is right is hard especially when you are the only voice in the crowd. It’s a shame that instead of obeying the law and being gracious about it that Christians chose to react according to stereotype. I cannot wait for the day when this country reverts back to the secular nation it was.

  • Nolan

    You know many on here harp about how much money the school district is going to be sued, and how expensive this prayer is. But there are some things in this world that are much more important than money, money cannot buy truth or happiness. In the bible it tells of those persecuted loosing everything for their faith. If it meant loosing everything I’ve ever owned to say 1 prayer. As heavy hearted as I am in saying it, I would do it.

    And for any of you to agree with harming someone monitarily for their faith as you stand up for your beliefs, well that’s just sad. Just because you believe in say- not eating pig- you should’nt sue someone that sits beside you in the food court eating a pile of bacon. That’s just taking advantage of another person.

    Just because I don’t believe in the Muslim faith doesn’t mean I should stop their prayers, or sue them over it.

    No, you just ignore it. Big deal that someone is acting in a seemingly crazy ritual to you. There’s plenty of seemingly crazy people out there doing seemingly crazy things. They may seem crazy to you but you shouldn’t be able to sue the man that eats at Starbucks for breakfast lunch and dinner just because you don’t believe it helps him in any way.

  • Another friendly atheist

    Even the ACLU should realize that prayer isn’t forced upon anyone—if you want to join in the prayer, then do so and if you don’t, then don’t. A Christian’s beliefs are no less important the the beliefs of all on this site.

    Wrong. It is illegal and immoral for the religious majority to impose their beliefs and practices on others, especially in a taxpayer-funded forum. That rule applies equally to everyone and anyone who wants to pray can do so privately. There is no disrespect anywhere in that arrangement, only respect, fairness, and a recognition of everyone’s rights. The only apparent reason for this particular prayer out loud appears to have been to shame the person who asked that his rights be respected. I consider that shameful and mean-spirited. My dear Christian grandparents would have called it a very un-Christian act.

  • sad to be southern

    It’s funny to me that this has become a religious issue, when it is purely legal in nature. I don’t care what religion you practice, or if you don’t practice at all. The fact still stands that at a public, tax-funded function, there should be no religious proceedings. Also, just because the faculty didn’t “allow” Laci to pray doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have immediately intervened once her purpose was realized. The Constitution gives freedom of speech, but only insofar as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. Freedom OF religion where appropriate, and freedom FROM religion elsewhere. Tax-funded events are part of the latter. Good job, Damon. I wish I had your courage.

  • http://facebook.com a man for christ

    even if the “law” is whatever it is, the original intent was because your against God. and decided that having him mentioned hurts your feelings. imagine how many more people were hurt because you tried to have it removed?
    he is “standing up for what he believes”, so is the girl who started the prayer just both on different sides.

  • dauntless

    a man for christ is right. The law doesn’t matter. See, Christians don’t have to pay attention to “the law”, since Jesus brought them a new covenant.

  • anAtheist

    Ignorant members??!!?
    ooooooohhhhhh yeaaahh@, thats what i like to hear from the proud leaders of our atheist community. Let us shine above the rest in our march to enlightenment. down with ignorance Not going to click your link to your webpage tho, will pass on that.

    Looks like this blog might be infested with fake atheists. I don’t know if i should laugh or cry. Is there a test or a rite or some kind of magic involved? How does one tell if one is really an atheist one’s self let alone all of these pesky anonymous Internet posters. I could very well be a worshiper or Eris the goddess of discord. I’m having a crisis of faith.

  • Jennifer

    This kind of thing makes me so sad. I am a Christian, and the verse where Jesus tells us not to use prayer to publicly bash others is so appropriate here. I hate that this, and the whole “rapture” thing this past weekend, and the Q’uran burning nut end up representing Christians. There are so many regular Christians out here, like all the ones I know (well, most of the ones I know) who just love God and love all the people he made, whether they believe the same or not. We DO want others to believe and come to faith – but really, does anybody think that bashing people over the head with our so-called faith is the way to make that happen? Not likely. So I will live my quiet Christian life, and hope that others see Christ in me, whether they choose to follow my faith, their own faith, or no faith. But I PROMISE not to use my faith publicly to harass anybody! EVER!!!

  • anAtheist

    Piro saidith

    But hey, Damon is getting a scholarship to college and possibly a settlement because he wasn’t able to adapt to a society that will still put these stresses on him, so I guess that is a good thing right?

    I don’t think anyone can argue with your valid points.

    And to answer you’re question, the scholarship is good and we are all to blame for the failures of government not society. As a people, in the long run both the majority and minority, we get the government we deserve. As for society, that is always positive because it is by definition coming together. Demon just choose not to be part of that society.

  • anAtheist

    or he wished to destroy that society because he thought it was against the law.

  • anAtheist

    Joshua

    Bailey, atheists don’t believe in any deity. To answer why such prayers can be stressful- humans are extremely social creatures. Having most of a population doing some ritualistic activity while one isn’t doing it can easily create pressure to conform and general feelings of alienation when one doesn’t.

    How does that work when you are no longer in the minority? Explain that part of the equation.

    And given what you said to be true, what about people like me who hate money. Do i have a leg to stand on if i sue against the ritual of money. It is done in public places and in schools for sure.

    And in addition, is there a difference between rituals involving an explicit deity and those that do not. Remember atheists don’t believe in any deities. I suggest they be judged on their merits.

  • JaneW

    I grew up in the 60s and 70s as the member of a minority Christian religion. I was forbidden to stand or bow my head during the school prayers that were commonplace at that time. I was taunted and shunned by most of my classmates. At that time any other non Christian students, i.e. Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc, probably just stood and tolerated the ritual. I was not given that option by my parents. The law that forbade school prayers came too late to save me from the emotional pain of my childhood but I applaud the lawmakers that have made this needed change. America is a nation of many faiths (and non faiths).
    I am reminded of the civil rights movement and the blatant disregard for the constitution during those same decades by identical Bible-thumping Christians who are today tormenting and castigating people like young Damon. Many of the “Freedom Riders” and civil rights activists back in those days were athiest, by the way, and I am old enough to hear an echo of the ugly words spoken against them in the words of the students and faculty at Bastrop High. What literally boggles my mind is that many of the African American students at Bastrop are joining in the tirade against Damon.

    • Kelly7404

      Martin Luther King Jr. was a devout Christian. His character is a reflection of what the Christian faith can bring.

      • http://profiles.google.com/melanie.vonfange Melanie Vonfange

        It’s too bad that only about 5% of Christians have the fortitude that Dr King had.  And if you want to hold up Dr. King, you have to take the initiative to instead of defending them to atheists, hold your fellow Christians accountable for atrocities committed by them in your God’s name. 

  • you are all dense

    @anAtheist:

    What the hell are you talking about? The point is that being marginalized and feeling alienated when a ritual you don’t wish to participate in is going on around you applies to a minority. And…what the hell are you talking about??

  • anAtheist

    do you feel marginalized and alienated?

  • Jenett

    I’m fine with praying to God as long as we can also give thanks to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We are nothing and we can do nothing without his Noodly Goodness. Damon should have insisted that all religions be honoured during the invocation, and we all know Damon is really a Pastafarian.

  • Greedy Sonofa

    Yep, you guys figured it out.

    Damon was only in it for the money. What a greedy person, willing to get kicked out of their own house and lose all financial support from his parents just to get a $1,000 dollar scholarship.

    Think before you blurt.

  • Brent

    Anybody else care to send Mitzi Quinn a polite message letting her know she didn’t win this one?

    http://www.facebook.com/people/Mitzi-Quinn/695061387

  • http://www.dariablack.com/ Daria Black

    @ anAtheist

    On a blog comment section, there is no way to prove claims to be true or false. Therefore, you have to make inferences from what people say. I’ve been participating on internet forums of one type or another for a long time and it is par for course that people will say they belong to the group in question (when they actually are not) in an attempt to peer pressure someone else into conforming to their point of view or to make it seem like the person does not have the support of members of their group.

    On the other side of it, there are people who do belong to the group but don’t like it when other members of the group rock the boat. So they attack their own members in order to get them to stop raising a fuss. It is pretty typical behavior for any type of social movement and, yes, I think it is ignorant to certain degree.

    You are free to disagree with the issue at hand. You are free to feel that this is a minor incident. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t. The separation of church and state is beneficial to both believers and non-believers and protecting it maintains the rights of both groups. This school has been violating the law for years and eventually someone had to tell them to stop. When do you think that moment should have come and who do you think should have done it?

    Also, you are under no obligation to visit my website. I’m not sure why you seem to think that the existence of a link is a silent compulsion to click on it. Considering the way you handle yourself on this site, I’m glad you chose to stay away.

  • http://www.saraparetsky.com Sara Paretsky

    Is there a way to contribute to Damon’s scholarship by check?
    When I was a senior in a small town midwest high school, it was the year after the Madeleine Murray decision on school prayer. A handful of us objected to the school’s annual pre-Easter mandatory revival meeting. We didn’t have to attend, but we were locked in a small room off the principal’s office for the four hours of the revival. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if there’d been a fire. I don’t think we had to show the same courage that Damon, standing alone, has shown.

  • http://wwwturtlesallthewaydown.blogspot.com/ Dave Gilbert

    It seems to me that Damon is the only one true American in this fucked up community.

    What would their Jesus say to it all?

    • Kelly7404

      It might be a good idea to find out before speaking against things of which you have no knowledge. If you do know the answer then you posted that comment for what reason?

  • Duncan Colluney

    Well done Damon, you get my support for sure.
    I am a UK citizen and in truth, I am more worried about the Christian fundamentalists in the USA than I am about the Taliban and their like. Wake up concerned Americans, don’t let these crazies take over your country.

  • True American Heroe

    People (Atheists) need to get serious with this shit, and quit being such cry baby douches.

    If they don’t believe in god, then by their viewpoint the girl was just wasting her breath praying to some imaginary friend. If talking to imaginary friends a crime all of a sudden. LOL.

    Why should Christians go out of their way to pander to the beliefs of a few atheists? Why do they always HAVE to be the ones to back down? Why is it Atheists are NEVER asked to make any concessions.

    To quote Spock: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

  • wow

    ^^
    To the true American hero, please learn to read. This school broke the law! There is a separation of church and state. It has nothing to do with what group holding which beliefs should “back down”. LOL.

    Read the fucking Constitution. You’re no American hero.

  • pooka

    True American Heroe,
    Whether you realize or not, you just undermined your own argument with the Spock quote. The needs of the many represent that everyone is protected from being subjected to any religion or faith from the government (i.e. the school & it’s graduation ceremony). When it comes to the government & it’s official functions & ceremony’s there should be no religion involved. Religion has no place in government. You can have it anywhere else you like but not in government. I tire of people that claim they have a right to do something. What you don’t understand you have a right until it interferes with someone elses rights. That’s where your rights end. I’ve been taught that I have the right to swing my arms all I want until my fist hits someone elses nose. That’s where my right to swing my arms ends, where the other guys nose begins. No ones rights trumps anyone elses rights. We are all equal under the law.

  • Litesp33d

    It could be that Damon is an atheist. It could be that he is Christian, Muslim or Pagan. It matters not one jot. All he said was that he wanted the school to obey the law. And the result for him was personal persecution. One would have thought that a mainly black audience could appreciate the significance of this matter. Has black history and 200 years of slavery, apartheid and eventual liberation taught them nothing?

    It seems to me that this entire school has failed in its education of the students. The school should be closed forthwith and all the faculty should be forced to be re-educated and take a written exam in Civics 101 which unless they can pass with flying colours should bar them from ever teaching another young mind again.

    This should be a supreme court case and a lesson to teachers across the whole of the USA. Bigots like this should have no access to young minds.

  • Amy

    I am a Christian, but I don’t believe in shoving it down other people’s throats – especially among friends who are Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. Some of us have a healthy respect for those of other faiths – or those who have none at all. It’s called personal choice.

    • Eric Feary

      I do not shove anything down any ones throat but the fact of the matter is we have a right to pray wherever we are and by the way this is a democracy where the majority rules and the majority of us like to pray even out loud. One who doesn’t agree can stand there and be respectful of the others that want to pray. What are they afraid of anyway? If there really is no God as they claim then what harm is it to them to overhear someones prayer. The fact is that there is deep inside everyone the knowledge that we have a creator that God does exist. They try to deny Him, and part of that denial is trying not to hear any prayer, which could insight the feeling of the wrong they have done against God and would have to admit they were wrong. I know I was one of those people. Christians and Jews need to stand tall and proud and pray when ever and where ever they are regardless of who it makes uncomfortable. If there were no God they would not be uncomfortable they would leave us in peace to do our own thing as we do for them. 

  • anAtheist

    Daria Black, you’re an nincompoop for calling anyone a fake atheist. Oh and give up on writing it’s not your forte. As an real Atheist i believe it is important to be brutally honest to people with misplaced faith.

  • anAtheist

    “This school has been violating the law for years and eventually someone had to tell them to stop. When do you think that moment should have come and who do you think should have done it?”

    I don’t know. However, I so hope we as a race can learn to live in peace and harmony at some point. The way I would have been most proud of would be one in which it would have produced more atheists and changed the way the people think and act in the community for the better. Something based on logic, reason, and maybe even fellowship and goodwill. I try to be that kind of positive force in my own life and even here on this blog, not destroying but giving all I can and setting a good example.

    I’m sorry to say it but I disagree with some of views on this site and I am not afraid to say so. In fact, some views here are the same as religion and some are even worse! It just goes to show no matter what banner one chooses to wave, one still has to be on guard against abuse of power. Each generation, each individual, will have to meet this challenge anew in its own form in their own way…

    And so the assault on common sense proceeds, each age performing the task in its own ways.

    “”Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?””

  • Billysquilly

    Boo Hoo Hoo…you athiests will never defeat Christ…He will always win! In fact he already has.

    • Silo Mowbray

      Atheists aren’t interested in “defeating Christ.” Atheists are interested in making sure no religion has any say in public policy or governance. Suck it up, buttercup.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4Y4QLORS6THCGMRD4MHF26XKCE Thyler

    It’s so sad that outright defiance of the law is being called being a “Good Christian.” People cannot pick and choose what laws they want to follow. The law was violated horrifically, and so many people were alienated and forced to listen to 3 solid minutes of psychobabble from these backwoods, pseudo-cultists.


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