What Happened at Damon Fowler’s Graduation?

If you need background on the story, go here.

Damon Fowler had his graduation last night. The program listed a “Moment of Silence” as part of the festivities, but this is what actually happened:

You can tell from the audience reaction that this has very little to do with a Christian sincere to “thank god” during graduation. The response is much more of a “Fuck you, atheists.”

Graduating senior Laci Mattice opened her statement with, “I have something to say. I respect the beliefs of other people, but…”

We can stop right there. The word “but” tells you everything you need to know. I’ll paraphrase the rest of it: “I respect other people’s beliefs, but screw you if you’re not Christian. It’s prayin’ time!”

So they said a prayer for Jesus.

Followed by a Moment of Silence (code words for “more prayer”).

Followed by the Pledge of Allegiance (which includes the words “Under God”).

And that’s supposed to be inclusive for all students?

If you’re a Christian wondering what the problem is with all this, just imagine if Laci had said a prayer to Allah instead:

A local newspaper, The Bastrop Enterprise, played down all of this.

Just take a look at the headline and subtitle:

(Side note: I’ve seen some people photoshopping the above image of Laci. Don’t do that. That’s just mean. She’s not the real problem here. The focus should remain on the administrators who directly and indirectly urged the prayers to happen and on Damon for alerting all of us to what was going on there. Ok, rant over.)

The paper goes on to say:

Principal Stacey Pullen said earlier in the day that additional security officers were requested because of the outcry by atheists from across the country who sided with the student who filed the protest.

Right. Because atheists are the violent ones. Damon, the student who brought this to the public’s attention, is getting death threats, but it’s all those Christians hooting and hollering in the background who need the protection.

That makes sense…

The ACLU of Louisiana, probably giddy with excitement at all the video evidence of what happened at the rehearsal ceremony and the actual graduation, sent a letter to the school on Friday (PDF). It’s clear from the video that the principal ignored it entirely:

School officials have a duty to uphold the Constitution and the law for all members of the community. Religious freedom in this country has flourished because the First Amendment prohibits government endorsement of religion. We recognize that the Bastrop High School graduation scheduled for this evening has removed the prayer from the program, in compliance with the law and the rights of the students and their families. We trust that the graduation will proceed as the law requires, that there will be no school promotion or sponsorship of prayer of any kind, and that any moment of silence proceeds as a silent time of reflection by those in attendance.

For those interested, here’s are a few other tidbits from last night (as mentioned on the Support Damon Facebook page):

  • Mitzi Quinn, the teacher who trashed Damon in the local paper, was given an award for her “great service.”
  • Damon wasn’t booed when he walked across stage.
  • Damon cited high school atheist activist Jessica Ahlquist as his inspiration for taking a stand.
  • Damon was supposed to be the last person announced in the graduate roll call (for reasons I still can’t figure out), but after the FFRF sent the district a letter (which I haven’t seen yet), they moved him back to his correct position.
  • Damon will now be moving to Texas to live with his brother. (I’m not sure where he plans on going to college, though.)

If you’d like to contribute to a scholarship fund for Damon — a way to thank him for standing up for church/state separation — you can do it via the ChipIn below:

Or you can make a donation on behalf of Damon to the ACLU of Louisiana and FFRF.

  • Brice Gilbert

    Could they get away with this, because the person who said it was a student who they couldn’t stop? I would argue there was plenty of time to walk up and tell her to stop, but you know how these things go.

  • Cthulhu

    Principal Stacey Pullen said earlier in the day that additional security officers were requested because of the outcry by atheists from across the country who sided with the student who filed the protest.

    Have to say they shouldn’t even call it a newspaper when it is that biased. Also the problem with that phrase is it’s not only biased, but can be taken two ways as I see it. One is the way that i take it in that they are saying atheists are violent and the graduation ceremony needs protection. The other way it could be taken is because of the death threats against Damon and so many people calling for more protection for him that is why they needed more security.

    Obviously though they chose the prior meaning.

  • guest

    Just a question, is the ACLU suing, and could you keep us updated on the lawsuit? I’d love to know how much high school has to fork over for this blatant disregard of the constitution that the southerners love so very much.

  • Cthulhu

    Brice, they allowed her to do it because they thought it was the one way that they could get prayer into the graduation ceremony without getting into trouble. It was prayer by proxy.

  • http://tuibguy.com Mike Haubrich

    “Lead us not into temptation” to do what we know is against the law, but “deliver us from evil” while we succumb to the temptation to do what we know is wrong but makes us feel good about being Americans.

  • SlipperyWhenWet

    What the fuck?

    Do they not realize that this ISN’T atheists trying to say “don’t have religion or prayer”? All we are saying is “maybe we should look at what our country was ACTUALLY founded on for five seconds”.

    “Respect the majority”…

    A hundred years ago the majority treated woman like trash and blacks like slaves. Up until recently, the majority was anti-gay. Should I respect them?

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

    Depressing as hell.

  • cbc

    The Lord Prayer has ALWAYS creeped me out when people say it in unison. How do they not know they’re in a cult?

  • Larry Meredith

    (Side note: I’ve seen some people photoshopping the above image of Laci. Don’t do that. That’s just mean. She’s not the real problem here. The focus should remain on the administrators who directly and indirectly urged the prayers to happen and on Damon for alerting all of us to what was going on there. Ok, rant over.)

    I think Damon may disagree with you here. Earlier on Facebook he pointed out how much he enjoyed seeing all the memes about his school, including a particular one about that girl.

  • http://www.tomfarrell.org The Other Tom

    I’m looking at the ChipIn box. It’s a great and growing total, and I notice that the average contribution is actually only about $21. This is a great demonstration of how even a small crowd of people can chip in just a little bit and do a lot of good for someone.

  • http://www.tomfarrell.org The Other Tom

    @cbc: Wouldn’t it be fun to put up a billboard in that town to remind them of what Jesus said about people who pray in public?

  • wilsim

    Do they not realize that this ISN’T atheists trying to say “don’t have religion or prayer”? All we are saying is “maybe we should look at what our country was ACTUALLY founded on for five seconds”.

    Its even less than that. They can have their prayer, all we are asking is to not be trapped into hearing/participating/sitting through a very public prayer during a public event. They could simply pray to themselves quietly… instead they give a giant finger to any non-christian at every opportunity.

    Gotta love how this school district is going to be sued for a kajillion dollars… and if you wonder how the settlement is going to be paid? It will be paid by raising taxes on these praying morons and cutting optional programs for their younger children still in school. They will reap what they sow.

  • Angie the Anti-Theist

    Thanks Hemant for keeping the focus where it belongs (on fucked up school officials) and not on the student who issued the prayer.

    Great job on the scholarship fund!

  • Leo Saumure

    It seems to me that as long as you preface an action by saying “I am of the christian faith”, you can pretty much break the law.

  • Terry

    Recap:
    1) School published programs that listed a prayer as part of the graduation.
    2) Fowler e-mailed superintendant and asked them not to pray at graduation.
    3) School agreed, changed the ‘prayer’ to a ‘moment of silence’, reprinted the programs, and asked the student speakers to respect ALL students. I think the school is totally in the clear (unfortunately).
    4) At both the Thursday and Friday events, a student speaker led a prayer, without school endorsement. This is rude, but not illegal.

    This played out just like the Liberty Counsel’s option#2 in their legal memorandum guiding Christians how to circumvent Supreme Court decisions and insert prayer back into public school graduation proceedings.

    As much as I hate what happened here, they will get away with it. But thank you so much Damon Fowler for making them work for it and for raising the visibility of this issue!

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Atheist MC

    Not a U.S citizen but I would assume that since the prayer was said in the rehearsal and then allowed in the actual ceremony, that makes it a clear church/ state violation. I hope…

  • anAtheist

    I think Damon may disagree with you here. Earlier on Facebook he pointed out how much he enjoyed seeing all the memes about his school, including a particular one about that girl.

    I guess Damon isn’t the “friendly” type of atheist?

    And what is with this blog claiming that the whole school would explode at an apocalyptic scale with the students and faculty turning into red-eyed fire spewing monsters screaming “FU” if they heard a Islamic prayer. Is this blatant disrespect called for even if they really are monsters?

  • Randy Shute

    Thank You Damon!

  • Justin Powell

    So really I want to know…are they going to be facing a lawsuit? I REALLY want to see this school district sued off the face of the earth. This is such a disgrace.

  • wilsim

    I guess Damon isn’t the “friendly” type of atheist?

    And what is with this blog claiming that the whole school would explode at an apocalyptic scale with the students and faculty turning into red-eyed fire spewing monsters screaming “FU” if they heard a Islamic prayer.Is this blatant disrespect called for even if they really are monsters?

    1 – humor is subjective. He could be a very nice guy, i don’t know him, and still find the memes about his school entertaining.
    2 – Damon Fowler received death threats for objecting to prayer at a public high school graduation.
    3 – The comic is simply a characterization. It is a cartoon, hyperbole.
    4 – So, putting up a cartoon equates to disrespect almost the entire town of Bastrop showed to every non-christian at the high school graduation?

    Do you have a sense of proportion, or even a sense of humor?

  • John Freeman

    He should come to Texas A&M! I’m an atheist student here, and we have quite a supportive community of atheists. We even have regular meetings for fellowship every Sunday morning (I lovingly call it “atheist church” :P). We’d love to have him!

  • http://jenny77 JenniferT

    I’ve seen some people photoshopping the above image of Laci. Don’t do that. That’s just mean. She’s not the real problem here.

    Not THE real problem, but still A real problem.

  • echidna

    What’s with this blog claiming that the whole school would explode

    It doesn’t. Many comments have been made to the effect that non-Christians should just be quiet, because Christian prayer is normal and not offensive. They don’t seem to see that a secular mandatory government-sponsored function should not make people feel excluded by prayer. The example of Muslim prayer is designed to educate Christians, not vilify them. But Christians can be willfully obtuse sometimes, and see persecution where there is none.

  • anAtheist

    Here is some more education in the spirit of sharing not hate.

    Muslims and Christians have lived in peace in isolated instances and it didn’t end with the world exploding. Maybe friendly atheists can learn to get along too. If only there was someone to teach atheists how to turn the other cheek and love their enemies.

    (see i got humor , so i’m not all bad =P )

  • LS

    Terry, from my reading it looks like there may still be room for a lawsuit as the school did not enforce the moment of silence (they allowed the prayer) and since the student had also said a prayer during the moment of silence during rehearsal, it’s conceivable they were aware of a plan

    Basically if it is found that the school knew what was planned and didn’t do anything to prevent it, and/or it is found that school officials were negligent in enforcing the moment of silence, they may lose. Student led prayer muddies the waters, certainly

  • http://www.pbase.com/jfinite Justin Bonaparte

    Horrifying.

  • George

    I guess you could call this a bunch of school-praya-hatas.

  • http://yamipirogoeth.blogspot.com/ Sakura

    Its sad to see that they could have taken a positive opportunity to show that “christian love” and instead, as Hemant put it, “The response is much more of a “Fuck you, atheists.””

    The school could have EASILY shut off the microphone to keep her from talking instead the administration did NOTHING to stop it. That, in and of itself, is an obvious endorsement that they ok’d her doing that.

    I hope the school does get sued horribly bad. This way they’ll think twice before letting things like that happen again.

  • Terry

    LS… I agree that if the school is proven to have been “in on the plan”, then they are in trouble.

    However, Sarah Beth Barlow led the “moment of silence” on the Thursday event and then Laci Mattice did it on Friday.

    So it’s even possible that the school intentionally switched the student introducing the moment of silence to try and prevent this from happening.

    I’m an atheist, and hate this crap as much or more than anyone else. It takes me back to when I was a kid 35 years ago, being forced to pledge that America was “under God” every morning in public school.

    The Lord’s Prayer in the video above reminds me of the 1978 ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ movie where the pod people all start shrieking at the real humans.

    But with all that said, I don’t necessarily know that the school did wrong here. And I don’t know that Sarah and Laci necessarily broke the law, instead of exercising their freedom of speech.

    However, I do know that both students lied when they said they respect other peoples’ beliefs. They (and the people who cheered them on) certainly didn’t respect Damon’s beliefs and they don’t respect mine.

  • jon

    i really want to see a Muslim open up a prayer next year. Just to shove it down christian throats.

  • http://twitter.com/achura Rooker

    I think the behavior of the parents need to be highlighted as well. The parents disowned him, which caused his brother to disown the parents and that’s why he’s moving in with him. It’s really disgusting.

    I see too many stories of kids cut off by parents for being gay or atheist or some other thing their parents’ bigotry can’t handle, usually just when they need money for college. We really need a college fund to help people stuck in that situation.

  • Heidi

    Speaker: However, before I fulfill my obligation, I would like to say that I am a practicing Wiccan. Blessed be.

    Christian Audience: *gunfire*

  • Kirk Teeters

    I admire Damon’s stand very much; and I’m appalled by what his school and the people of his home town have done to him. And this from a religion that professes to believe in “brotherly love”?

  • Steve

    I am glad Damon stood up. I am sorry for what he had to go through for being “different”. Growing up non-religious/atheist is not always fun, but I’ll bet good money he ultimately goes further than his prayerful classmates. Good for him and if you have not coughed up, give him a little help with college expenses.

  • Annie

    So icky that someone screamed, “First Amendment Rights!!!” Obviously, they haven’t read the whole amendment…

  • ME

    Annie Says:
    May 21st, 2011 at 7:37 pm
    So icky that someone screamed, “First Amendment Rights!!!” Obviously, they haven’t read the whole amendment…

    They read the Bill of Rights and Constitution the same way they read their bible… cherry pick the parts that agree and justify their ideal. It’s connect-the-dots “logic” with them, make a conclusion then find the parts that support their conclusion while ignoring those that do not. Rational thinkers are intelligent and prefer not to lie to themselves and to others and chose to examine facts/law and using those to come to a conclusion.

    A truly intelligent person learns more from their mistakes than from the times they are right, something blasphemous for those religious. Everyone should be very weary of a doctrine that designates a Tree of Knowledge as “EVIL.”

    Tyranny of moronic majority.

  • CanadianNihilist

    What’s Jabba the Hutt doing at the podium?

  • 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.

  • RTH

    Earlier this evening I posted a link to the above on the Facebook page of the Bastrop Daily Enterprise. A few minutes later I noticed that the link was gone. I asked why they deleted it and the admin of the newspaper’s Facebook page wrote:

    Your link was deleted because it contained a fund raising request. The intent of our FB page is not for use in soliciting donations from followers.

    The “fund raising request” they refer to is the ChipIn link at the very end of Hemant’s post.

    I responded:

    So, someone is trying to raise money to provide a scholarship to a member of your community and you don’t think that’s appropriate to post on this page?

    I’ve not heard back from them.

    Apparently, Christian charity only counts when the recipients are Christian.

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

    Thank you Bastrop HS for being such asses and helping to ensure Damon enjoys his college education. Your disobedience of the law has helped kill two birds with one stone… 1) show how truly backwards and foolish you are and 2) give the good guy and the underdog in this situation the privilege of showing the world just how ignorant, mean-spirited and low you are. As loudly as you cry how christian you are, your actions only go to prove that you are anything BUT christian. And with a lawsuit over your heads, you’ll likely also manage to deprive your school of much needed funds. Dumb, just dumb… but again, thank you.

  • Danielle

    So icky that someone screamed, “First Amendment Rights!!!” Obviously, they haven’t read the whole amendment…

    I thought that was Damon’s sister yelling as the hive mind started its droning…

  • Jennifer Lovejoy

    As someone who has been in the spotlight briefly as a spokesperson I want Damon to know that although he should always be safe please don’t take the threats to heart. People fear what they cannot control and do not understand.

    As an atheist mom, I want Damon to know that I am incredibly proud of him for taking a stand for what he believes. Hugs and support. You are AWESOME!!!! You are a beacon for other kids.

  • http://scarletteblues.blogspot.com/ Scarlette Blues

    Matthew 6

    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.”

    Why don’t they ever follow their own doctrine?

  • Aquaria

    3) School agreed, changed the ‘prayer’ to a ‘moment of silence’, reprinted the programs, and asked the student speakers to respect ALL students. I think the school is totally in the clear (unfortunately).
    4) At both the Thursday and Friday events, a student speaker led a prayer, without school endorsement. This is rude, but not illegal.

    No.

    As soon as she did it at the first event, a school official needed to 1) stop her, then and there and 2) remove her from speaking at the graduation and have a school official lead the moment of silence–and keep the crazy nuts off the PA system.

    The adults are the ones in charge. They needed to act like it, and letting students do the prayer will likely come back to bite them on the ass.

  • Aquaria

    Muslims and Christians have lived in peace in isolated instances and it didn’t end with the world exploding. Maybe friendly atheists can learn to get along too. If only there was someone to teach atheists how to turn the other cheek and love their enemies.

    If you can’t offer something constructive, shut up.

    Nobody needs passive-aggressive control freakery trying to tell adults what can matter to them and how they can respond to things, as if you are any kind of authority on–well, anything.

    You’re not helping.

  • The Pint

    Maybe friendly atheists can learn to get along too. If only there was someone to teach atheists how to turn the other cheek and love their enemies.

    In other words, if only atheists would learn to shut up, quit demanding the law be applied equally regardless of religious (or not) affiliation and accept they have no voice as a minority.

    And that same someone you’re alluding to, also had this to say about public prayer: “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.” (King James version)

  • Concerned

    I’m not going to say I’m a Christian, because that word is thrown around so much in today’s culture and society. I am a follower of Christ. I personally believe that during the Moment of Silence, when the “Christians” prayed the Lord’s prayer, they did this out of spite, not love, nor kindness. That is ignorance. I’m sorry that you guys get this narrow-minded view of Christianity that its “my way” no matter what. Instead of bashing on Damon, THEY of ALL PEOPLE should give him respect, love, and kindness. Not all Christians are like this, it just shows you who is “real” and who is a hypocrite.

  • BEX

    A very good summary Hemant. I really appreciate your perspective on things.

  • Michael

    People are making a big deal out of nothing. The kid said earlier that he was one of only three or four atheists in the school…so he was selfish in telling them not to have a prayer service. He essentially said ” first amendment, first amendment! If you have prayer in school I’ll sue! Even though 99% of the school was Christian. Then people who have no clue about the culture from all over the country support him because he is a “hero?” please, he is just a selfish kid who knows that the law is required to be on his side.

  • Nakor

    Graduating senior Laci Mattice opened her statement with, “I have something to say. I respect the beliefs of other people, but…”

    We can stop right there. The word “but” tells you everything you need to know.

    Yeah, you pretty much nailed it right there. Pretty much any minority group has heard this one before.

    I respect women’s rights, but…
    I respect gays’ rights, but…
    I respect Muslims’ rights, but…

    …but they shouldn’t have the right to vote.
    …but they shouldn’t be allowed to marry.
    …but they shouldn’t be allowed to build a mosque there.

    Every time that “but” is said, it puts the lie to whatever respect the speaker claimed to have.

    “I respect the beliefs of others, but… I’m going to trample their rights all the same.”

    No. You don’t respect the beliefs of others at all. It’s a blatant lie.

  • http://www.lookatthestateofthat.com latsot

    It was brave of Damon to attend his graduation. My respect for him grows and grows. The scholarship fund is a good and thoughtful idea and I’ll certainly contribute.

  • Steve Ride

    The citizens of Bastrop speak.
    (in the comments section) http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2723152/posts

    Source http://www.topix.com/wire/city/bastrop-la

  • wilsim

    Michael said:

    People are making a big deal out of nothing. The kid said earlier that he was one of only three or four atheists in the school…so he was selfish in telling them not to have a prayer service. He essentially said ” first amendment, first amendment! If you have prayer in school I’ll sue! Even though 99% of the school was Christian. Then people who have no clue about the culture from all over the country support him because he is a “hero?” please, he is just a selfish kid who knows that the law is required to be on his side.

    The law is the law, our Constitution is not something that can be taken piecemeal, discarding the bits you don’t like here and there, and the first amendment is arguably the most important part of the constitution, it protects us all, and our constitution shouldn’t, ever, be cast aside to appease a spiteful majority.
    The First Amendment prohibition on government endorsement of religion exists to protect the minority from the majority, freedom of religion belongs to everyone, not just those whose views may be more popular than others.
    The civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, to name but one example, was directly opposed to the ‘culture’ you hold in such high esteem. Let me know how that turned out for you.

  • echidna

    To follow up from this:

    The law is the law, our Constitution is not something that can be taken piecemeal, discarding the bits you don’t like here and there,

    Christianity encourages Christians to both proclaim that the bible is the word of god, with force of spiritual law, and simultaneously to ignore the bits that are clearly inappropriate, and the many conflicts contained within.

    It’s no surprise that Christians have difficulty with civil rights laws that are aimed at protecting others. I would extend this idea to include some Christians who reject the real world (science) on a whim.

  • http://lykex.livejournal.com LykeX

    Not all Christians are like this, it just shows you who is “real” and who is a hypocrite.

    While your sentiment is appreciated, you’re kinda preaching to the choir here. I strongly encourage you to go and say this to those “hypocrite christians”.
    They’re the ones that need to hear it and maybe they’ll listen more to you than us.

    Alternatively, if your only action is to tell us that “not all christians are like that”, then you’re not helping.

  • qwertyuiop

    The First Amendment prohibition on government endorsement of religion exists to protect the minority from the majority

    Unfortunately it’s doing a piss-poor job of it. Gays still can’t marry after all.

  • http://hotmesssundae.blogspot.com Matilda Gage

    I can’t believe there are that many people who hate the Constitution. The Bible commands Christians to follow “Caesar’s” laws. Pretty disgusting set of moral values in that crowd. What bad examples they are.

  • GentleGiant

    Steve Ride wrote:

    The citizens of Bastrop speak.
    (in the comments section) http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2723152/posts

    Source http://www.topix.com/wire/city/bastrop-la

    Wow, those are some scary, uenlightened and seriously misguided comments.
    I’m continually amazed that large groups of people can be so uneducated and willing to parade it around for all to see.

  • Claudia

    The news coverage of this makes me sick.

  • Kawaikunai

    CanadianNihilist says:

    What’s Jabba the Hutt doing at the podium?

    Please don’t do this. The shape of her body has nothing to do with this issue. I’m sure there are plenty of atheists who have similar body types.

  • Mark Patrick

    Thanks, Hermant, for setting up this page and the scholarship fund. I hope Damon is able to look back on this time in his life and realize that he did something important and patriotic, in spite of the fallout with the town and with his mother.

  • Dave

    These knuckleheads need to look up “Baccalaureate Service.” The Graduation can proceed in a secular manner. Those who wish to pray can do so at their local church or synagogue or mosque or whatever at the “Baccalaureate Service.” It is completely obnoxious and unChristian to force a prayer upon people who don’t want it.

  • Earl

    The Graduation can proceed in a secular manner. Those who wish to pray can do so at their local church or synagogue or mosque or whatever at the “Baccalaureate Service.”

    This is what happened in my high school graduation in 1963, when Engel v Vitale was decided. All of the graduates had a church “Baccalaureate Service” My mother who was religious supported both the Engel v Vitale decision and the church based “Baccalaureate Service”

    BTW I am a longer time lurker and admirer of Hemant having met him several times at various. This is my first posting.

  • Richard Eis

    The kid said earlier that he was one of only three or four atheists in the school…so he was selfish in telling them not to have a prayer service.

    The prayer service was illegal to begin with, and the school already knew this…Is it normal practice for schools to break the law when convenient?

    I do wonder if you thought Rosie Parks was making a big fuss… after all she was in the minority….and no-one had complained before!

    Prayer services are creepy and exclusive to non-christians (ie 90% of the rest of the world). They do not belong in public schools. They should not be forced on children under intense peer pressure. That is what cults do.

  • Another Atheist

    Santa Fe Independent School District vs. Doe again, I guess.

    On a side note, Damon needs to get the 1134 out of Bastrop.

  • MurrayC

    Is it just me, or does the fat chick giving the prayer look like Eric Cartman?

  • Courial

    I just wanted to say that I actually am Christian and I still think what they did was absolutely wrong. It’s bad enough that they prayed at all but to mock the kid like that is just terrible. I just wanted everyone to know that not all Christians are that way and that some of us are actually understanding and accepting of others beliefs.

  • Peg

    I hope the ACLU looks at the facebook posts of the newspaper that covered this, according to parents, they all (parents, students,etc) met up at the church prior to this to figure out a way to get a prayer in, that is going to screw them if there was 1 single school official who knew about this ahead of time.
    It won’t matter if it was removed from the program or if they tried to distance themselves, if they attended a planning meeting, the school was involved.

  • echidna

    Courial,
    I’m glad you are distancing yourself from these people. Is there any good reason to remain Christian? It’s not as if any religion were true.

  • Oregon_Atheist

    I just wanted to say that I am very proud of Damon for taking a stand hopefully this will give more people the courage to do so..

  • Michael

    I do wonder if you thought Rosie Parks was making a big fuss… after all she was in the minority….and no-one had complained before!

    Are you comparing a high schooler, that would have been ever so slightly inconvenienced, to Rosa Parks?

    Maybe I’m not in my element here. As a Christian, if someone told me “you can’t pray during the service!” I would have just said “sure, I’ll just pray at home. No harm done.” I wouldn’t have been out to start a war, as so many others are trying to do. All I meant when I said “he was being selfish” was that he was trying to start a “war” over something that probably wasn’t worth starting a war over…but he wanted what he wanted.

  • Steve Ride

    but he wanted what he wanted.

    ..and what he wanted was for the school to obey the law.

  • John W

    This whole prayer thing in the South especially is downright scary for those of us who don’t live in the US, even more so if you actually have to put up with this kind of stuff everyday.
    To think that Louisiana has a law requiring Creationism to be taught in state schools in the most advanced country on Earth is just bizarre and unconstitutional.

  • echidna

    Michael said:

    Are you comparing a high schooler, that would have been ever so slightly inconvenienced, to Rosa Parks?

    Actually, Rosa Parks would have been only slightly inconvenienced as well – in fact that is one of the points of the story. It would have been easy to acquiesce, but she did not. The real story lies in how a relatively small protest (on top of many other protests) made a difference in a very long battle against slavery and the ensuing relegation of African-Americans to a subclass that meant they could not partake in civil society on an equal basis.

    In this case, there is also a very long history, going back centuries, of the punishment for heresy, including atheism, being the death penalty. There is still a lingering sense in the USA that atheists are a lesser class of human, who should be quiet and pretend they don’t exist. There are still laws on the books that prevent atheists from taking public office in the USA.

    As a Christian, if someone told me “you can’t pray during the service!” I would have just said “sure, I’ll just pray at home. No harm done.”

    That’s not what either Sarah (on Senior night) or Laci (at graduation) did. They displayed the tyranny of the majority, under the auspices of a government institution.

    All I meant when I said “he was being selfish” was that he was trying to start a “war” over something that probably wasn’t worth starting a war over…but he wanted what he wanted.

    You know that you are in a position of power when resistance to your illegal activities is, well, uppity.

  • Richard Eis

    Are you comparing a high schooler, that would have been ever so slightly inconvenienced, to Rosa Parks?

    I don’t know, does being thrown out of your house by your own mother, insulted by your teachers in a public newspaper and given your beliefs the finger by pretty much your entire community in direct contrivance to their own laws count as minor inconvenience?

  • Inthewater

    Wow, the comments from the article linked up above are just scary.

    Many there focusing on the second part of the 1st ammendment, and assuming it means that they have a right to do this.

    I just don’t think they get it.

    It’s not about anyones right TO do something, it’s about the Government NOT endorsing it, either way.

  • Doug M

    Comparisons to Rosa Parks have always bugged me. Most of the time they are just someone trying to validate their position by calling on a name that everyone recognizes, with absolutely no knowledge of the historical context. Yes, this is one of the closest examples I have seen for a while, and don’t get me wrong, Damon has suffered quite a bit for taking his stand.

    But lets be clear, the difference between Rosa and Damon is that Damon could hide the very thing that caused the prejudice. Rosa could not. Does that make Damon braver, or less brave in this situation? That’s for you to decide. But I, as an atheist do get to use public bathrooms and water fountains.

    Just wanting to add perspective. That being said, I wish Damon only the best and I have contributed to his fund. The young man has shown more bravery and fortitude of character than the vast majority of the rest of his town.

  • Jim

    Let teacher Mitzi Quinn and the rest of the faculty know how you feel! I did. Quinn is a bully, plain and simple.

    mquinn@mpsb.us

    http://www.mpsb.us/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=1044&

    They don’t have any administration emails on their website. I think they did but took them down.

  • Jim

    Here it is – send a message to Superintendent Tom Thrower and let him know what you think.

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

  • Pureone

    I wish a student of a different religion had stopped to pray loudly and invite the crowd to join before or after getting a diploma. like mentioned, that woulda been stopped real quick. I hope someone else does something like that if (when) another event like this occours.

  • Steve Ride

    John W said:

    This whole prayer thing in the South especially is downright scary for those of us who don’t live in the US, even more so if you actually have to put up with this kind of stuff everyday.
    To think that Louisiana has a law requiring Creationism to be taught in state schools in the most advanced country on Earth is just bizarre and unconstitutional.

    It is even more scary to think that from such as them can come a President with his/her finger on the button of the greatest ‘nucular’ arsenal in the world.

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

    @ Micheal

    As a Christian, if someone told me “you can’t pray during the service!” I would have just said “sure, I’ll just pray at home. No harm done.”

    They were told this and they refused to obey the law. Therefore, your point is invalid.

  • Steve Ride

    Liberty Counsel sent a letter offering pro bono representation to Morehouse Parish Schools.

    http://lc.org/index.cfm?PID=14102&AlertID=1274

  • Richard Eis

    But lets be clear, the difference between Rosa and Damon is that Damon could hide the very thing that caused the prejudice.

    …erm…

    Nope, not touching it.

  • Christy

    So much for freedom of speech…I post a comment and it gets deleted.

  • Steve

    Freedom of speech exists only in relation to the government. Private parties can engage in censorship too, but it’s not exactly illegal for them.

  • Xavier

    @Brice Gilbert and anyone else interested….
    NO. No, they cannot get away with this simply because it was student-initiated and student-lead.
    I have made this point on many forums and blogs, and have been using the case of Santa Fe ISD v. Doe.
    The case involved student lead prayer before and after home football games. It was taken all the way to the US Supreme Court and was decided that: “The District’s policy permitting student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games violates the Establishment Clause. Pp. 9—26…[T]he Constitution forbids the State to exact religious conformity from a student as a price of attending her own high school graduation.”

    Another case invovling this is Lee v. Weisman, invovling a Jewish father who said a prayer durin ga school event. The decision was that:
    “What to most believers may seem nothing more than a reasonable request that the nonbeliever respect their religious practices, in a school context may appear to the nonbeliever or dissenter to be an attempt to employ the machinery of the State to enforce a religious orthodoxy.” Kennedy during Lee v Weisman 1992

  • anAtheist

    the pint, that joke went completely over your devoutly shaved head.

  • Alex

    What a sorry group of people these religious wackos are. I haven’t met more self righteous, selfish, ignorant people in my life.
    Thank dog I live in a “modern” part of the country, and not in the bible belt. You couldn’t pay me enough $$ to live anywhere near this many creepy, naive, gullible sheep.
    WTG Damon !!!

  • sheryl

    Why would any of you contribute even a dollar to this guys education.
    I bet he doesn’t get a welcome in Texas.

  • Mike

    This reminds me of the guy selling the service to protect pets of those who didn’t make it past last week. What a brilliant idea this kid has. Manipulate a bunch of Atheist suckers into paying for his college tuition. Morons…

  • http://www.fellowshipoffreethought.org Whitney

    He’s very welcome in Texas. I am pretty sure that every major university here has a Secular Student Alliance group and he should tap into them for support. There are also numerous atheist/skeptic/freethought groups in Texas who would be more than happy to have Damon as part of their group and to lend their support. I know it’s Texas…but it’s really not that bad here (as long as you stay away from small towns). I didn’t catch which city he is moving to; the best way to find the groups is to search on meetup.com. If he needs help finding a group you have my permission to give him my email.

  • AndreH

    I can’t believe not a single person here is seeing that the school actually did the RIGHT thing…stopping the student who opted to pray during the ceremony would’ve been an infringement on her 1st amendment rights, and would’ve constituted an endorsement by the school of a particular religious view.

    I’m a staunch, active atheist who has begun fighting to have the words “under god” removed from my child’s Pledge of Allegiance (when led by school officials), but I wouldn’t fight to disallow any student from professing their faith in god if they choose. If Damon chose to verbally express his non-belief in god during his acceptance, would you all be saying that the school should turn off his microphone at that time or in any way forbid him from saying what he wishes?

    Please don’t let your disgust at the way Damon is being treated by his [former] community slant your judgment; students have a right to express their views, even during a school-sponsored event.

    André

  • echidna

    If Damon chose to verbally express his non-belief in god during his acceptance, would you all be saying that the school should turn off his microphone at that time or in any way forbid him from saying what he wishes?

    But it wasn’t personal speech during an acceptance. Laci was speaking as a representative of the school introducing the moment of silence.

    I’m not sure that the microphone should have been turned off, but it shouldn’t have happened, and it needs to be made clear that it must not happen again.

    Instead, people seem to be crowing about the apparent end-run around the law.

  • echidna

    Mike said:

    What a brilliant idea this kid has. Manipulate a bunch of Atheist suckers into paying for his college tuition. Morons…

    If anyone manipulated the atheist suckers into helping out this kid, it was the first Bastrop Enterprise article, in which a teacher of BHS vilified Damon because he was not willing to acquiesce to BHS’s illegal activities.
    After that, the instinct to protect a child from being attacked by a horde of savages religious zealots kicks in.

  • Mr Z

    A note to Damon

    I live in McKinney Tx. I am very close to Collin College. I have a room open for rent right now and will discount that price. I’m not trying to take advantage of the situation but want you to know that there are places friendly to your world view. It’s a family environment and you are welcome here. I cannot give the room away for free, but it’s well equipped and priced nicely… the discount makes it very nice if collin college fits your desires. Not free, but cheap and close to collin college. The discount is only for Damon because he’s had such a rough ride recently. I can at least offer a break of some kind if he is interested in Colling college. All you need in a family environment.

  • ARW

    Jeez, it must be lots of fun, being part of a mob! Maybe it’s time to start believing…?

  • http://tangenttalk.blogspot.com Rob

    AndreH – I understand your point. However, based on what happened the night before at the award ceremony, the school should have had a faculty/staff member stand in during the moment of silence. If another speaking student had done this during, say, the valedictorian speech, I would be inclined to agree with you even though I wouldn’t like it.

  • Ashley

    What bothers me, perhaps not the most, but what really seems to irk me is what his teacher said. I want to be a teacher and if someone is attacking one of my students for their belief if I agree with it or not I’d stand up for my student!

    It seems that teaching to this Mitzi Quinn abomination is just a platform to pit her beliefs and network with other happy believers. If that is her focus then there are plenty of private Christian schools where I’m sure she would be welcome. But for an adult to judge the rights of a child as invalid because he didn’t “contribute” is shameful and a little horrifying.

    I sincerely hope Damon finds support somewhere else and finds professors, employers, and a community that is not as hostile to any who don’t share the majority opinion. Good luck Damon!

  • Kieran

    I’m an Irish atheist and I never experienced any form discrimination in my life. It seems to me that America is an intolerant, fundamentalist nation. Many of forefathers of today’s Americans came to America to escape religious intolerance. Perhaps the best option for many American atheists would again be migrating to a country that treats them better.

  • Barbara Barrett

    If one validictorian student has the right to pray to Jesus, the next Validictorian has the right to pray to Satan. If the school Allows her to pray to her god, they MUST under the same authority allow another person to pray to their own god, bar none. If the Courts and the school allow her to pray, they have set a precident that allows all students to pray aloud to their god/demon/devil/preference of choice.

    Every Christian who praises and spports this prayer are supporting public prayer to Satan at the next graduation ceremoy. The law either allows prayer (without exclusions) or excludes it entirely. EVERY person, regardless of their belief has the same religious rights. If a prayer to Jesus is allowed than a prayer to Satan is allowed. As an atheist, Damon could Pray o money if he chose, or to knowledge or to science. Prayer is a constitutionl right to an individal.

  • JimmyBoy

    To all those liberal Christians who came here to say how disgusted they were by the other ‘bad’ Christians…I do hope you’ve made an extra large donation to Damon’s fund? Something to make up for your sick fellow believers’ behaviour, say?

    After all if it were just words you were posting here…that would be utterly meaningless, self indulgent hypocrisy wouldn’t it?

  • JimmyBoy

    Hi Hehmant: could you give us an update?

    Thanks.

    (Hemant says: It’s coming later this week!)

  • JimmyBoy

    Apologies for my spelling there Hemant…


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