High School Atheists Take Part in Anti-Bullying Campaign

The Rutherford High School Secular Student Alliance — the group featured in the New York Times last spring — took part in a simple-yet-powerful anti-bullying campaign this past week:

Pic credit: Robert Cooper of The News Herald

Senior Nick Machuca, 17, brought in the project, which has been pioneered at colleges around the nation, to Rutherford High School last Tuesday.

“I’m president of the Secular Student Alliance and I thought it would be a great project we could do to support other students,” Machuca said Friday. “I think it helps more when the support against bullying comes from a fellow peer.”

The You-Are-Loved Chalk Message Project is to show support for students who are being bullied. Machuca and the Secular Student Alliance teamed up with another student club, Avatar, and its president, 17-year-old Hedda Cooper, to put it on.

“It shows the students who have been suffering from bullying that they are not alone,” Cooper said. “It also gives us a chance to give back.”

Across the courtyard messages of support vary from “Gay is OK” to “It’s OK to be weird.” Principal Michael Kennedy thought the chalk campaign was an ingenious idea.

“When Nick first came to me, I thought it was a great idea,” Kennedy said. “It goes hand in hand with our anti-bullying campaign and overall the response has been great. The students have taken it and done a great job.”

Anyone surprised it was an atheist student taking the lead in making this happen?

Anyone not-at-all surprised it wasn’t a Christian?

Meanwhile, I read this column at the Christianity Today blog for women that talked about the “fine line between tolerance and bullying.” You know things are bad in their world when they can’t even take a firm stance against bullying, as if we’re somehow trampling on their rights. One Christian commenter said it beautifully:

I do not understand what is meant by “a fine line between bullying and tolerance.” What on earth is “fine” about it? I do not understand why “tolerance” is set up as some sort of outer limit of acceptance when it only further alienates the LGBTQ community. As a lesbian professor recently said to me, “Who wants to be tolerated?” It is foolish to expect that hurting LGBTQ individuals will come to us, as Reissig hopes, when the best we have to offer is to put up with them. I agree with Reissig that we need to have a counter voice to bullying, but in my experience it has to be a lot stronger than what’s suggested here if we’re going to make a difference.

Anyway, this You-Are-Loved Chalk Message Project is a wonderful idea and there’s no reason other high school groups can’t replicate it across the country. I hope they do.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Annie

    Awesome.  On another subject- when was the ‘Q’ added to LGBT?  I feel so out of the loop.

    • Anonymous

      I’m not sure, although I have been seeing the acronym QUILTBAG a lot.
      Q – Queer and Questioning
      U – Unidentified
      I – Intersex
      L – Lesbian
      T – Transgender, Transexual
      B – Bisexual
      A – Asexual
      G – Gay, Genderqueer

      Maybe they borrowed the Q?

      • Annie

        Thanks Subterminal and CanadianNihilist.  I googled it and it said the ‘Q’ is for genderqueer.  My town just had it’s annual gay pride event last week and the banners over the streets read “LGBT”.  I’m in Florida, so we may be a bit behind the times… either that or the Q is a recent addition.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DYMQ74VK55RPNRARHMDV5UNFEE V2Blast

        Alright, seriously, this acronym is getting too long.

        • Anonymous

          Yeah and not very inclusive either.  What about the hermaphrodites and enuchs?   Add them and the anagram would be “Equal Bight”.

    • Subterminal

      Both can be used, the Q stands for questioning and is sometimes added, from what I see.

  • Anonymous

    “You know things are bad in their world when they can’t even take a firm stance against bullying…”

    I honestly don’t see why it’s hard to take a stance about bullying. Just don’t fucking do it! done! Problem solved forever. Everybody please go about your life now.

  • Nordog

    I’m against bullies as much as anyone.  I was bullied when I was a kid in school.

    But…

    Is anyone else here left a bit wanting at the sight of sidewalk-chalking-activism?

    As a medium I find “s-w-a”, well, childish.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DYMQ74VK55RPNRARHMDV5UNFEE V2Blast

      It’s one of the most common ways to raise awareness/get people to see your message on college campuses. Everyone (who goes to class) who walks by will see it.

      • Nordog

        Of course, still, I find it difficult to put much stock in chalked sidewalk communications.

  • Anonymous

    Not all Christians are against LGBTQ rights as this article seems to suggest. The You-Are-Loved Chalk Message Project began at Drew University, which is a Methodist campus. 

    • Anonymous

      I might’ve read too much into the author’s words. Sorry about that. It just seemed the “Is anyone not-at-all surprised it wasn’t a Christian” line was implying that no Christian would ever support a campaign like this. Some do!

      Anyway, I think it’s great the schools are supporting students in campaigns like this.