Young Atheists Are Going Up Against Christian City Commissioners in This Church/State Separation Battle

Guess what this is?

That would be the Hamilton County Commissioners (in Tennessee) praying “in Jesus’ name” at a meeting.

Last month, residents Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones — both college students — filed a lawsuit against their county. They’ve been in court over this, getting cross examined and everything, to determine if they were truly “harmed” by the Christian prayer:

Referencing a prayer given on June 28 by Calvin Nunley, pastor of Christ Family Church in Soddy-Daisy, Coleman said he felt “personally attacked” when reference was made to “unthankful, unholy and ungrateful” people during his prayer — despite never mentioning him by name.

“It was clear he was there to attack us,” Coleman said, adding that the remarks, in addition to other prayers, made him feel “excluded, unwelcome and extremely out of place.”

Jones then took the stand, giving short testimony that fell in line with Coleman’s. Jones said that of the three commission meetings he had attended since June, he felt excluded every time as prayers were made.

Perhaps the more damning testimony came from a local Muslim woman who also attended the meetings:

[Plaintiffs' attorney Robin] Flores then called Amira Laham to the stand. Laham, a Muslim, was examined and cross-examined on her experience of attending 10 commission meetings in the past year at which prayers were offered.

Laham said she observed the prayers becoming “more aggressive” and added that she would not feel comfortable offering a Muslim prayer in the commission chamber if given the opportunity.

“I felt ostracized,” she said. “When a prayer is given, I think that people should feel closer to God — not the way that I felt.”

The County had no real defense. A representative said she invited leaders from all the religious groups in the area to deliver the invocation — See? We’re not discriminating! — even though just about all those religious groups are Christian…

Need more reason to support the atheists? Watch this incredible video of 12-year-old freethinker Maia Disbrow speaking (on her own terms, she says) about how it’s bad enough that kids at school single her out for being an atheist — why are the Hamilton County Commissioners doing the same thing?

That last line is so damn depressing…

Now, it’s up to the judge to do the right thing: Overturn the current policy and recognize that Christian prayers do not belong at a government meeting. He says the ruling will come soon after August 8th, the deadline for both sides to turn in any additional evidence.

What’s amazing about this case is that it wasn’t an organization that filed the lawsuit. It wasn’t the ACLU or FFRF. It’s two college students with the help of an attorney. Especially in a religious area, Jones and Coleman are showing a lot of bravery in taking on this battle.

There’s some hope the judge will overturn the policy, but it’s not solid:

[Judge Harry “Sandy” Mattice] signaled to the parties that upholding the policy on its face could require him to find that some amount of sectarian involvement is constitutional.

“But I have already told you that there is some language from the 6th Circuit, and maybe elsewhere, that that might not be the case,” Mattice said.

So how can you help? Jones and Coleman need to raise money for their legal defense:

Our attorney recently informed us that we’re going to need to raise about $5,000 just to get us started on upcoming filing fees and assorted court costs. We’re going to need this money regardless of whether we win or lose this case in this federal court circuit because both sides are geared to appeal this thing all of the way up to the supreme court if necessary. We are not very wealthy, in fact both of us are poor college students and we need help funding this endeavor for this reason. We can promise you that any money you donate will be well spent. We will be keeping all funds collected in an escrow account managed by our attorney that is only used for this case.

Please help them out. And soon.

Do it for Maia.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • newavocation

    Chattanooga has some batshit crazy fundies. These two guys have a lot of guts! 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBE0DwpO0ts

    • http://www.facebook.com/stevendiz Steven W. Disbrow

      Actually, June lives in the county to the north, Rhea County (google it for a not so surprising tangential, historical connection to this issue). She supposedly owns property in our county and is therefore able to address the commission. Fun fact: one of our county commissioners actually INVITED her to come and speak on this issue.

      Also, look up June’s appearance on the Daily Show from 2007. Classic stuff.

  • Heidi

    The law is there to protect us all. When it’s violated, everyone is harmed. So yes, they were harmed.

  • Val0221

    I don’t understand how it could take the judge more than 30 seconds to render his decision.  It’s against the law. Period.

  • Joe Zamecki

    Excellent activism! We need more of that.  And going it alone, without the help of a group is even better. If more of us did that, we could cover a lot more violations. Thanks also to Hemant for helping them raise funds by sharing that link. Teamwork!

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    This reminds me a lot of David Silverman’s talk at FreeOK… we’re not the dicks! We’re not the ones fighting against religious freedom, they are. We want religious equality; they want religious privilege.

    • Linda Turnipseed

       Love that comment, Mike D!

  • 1000 Needles

    But, but… how will the FFRF make their boatloads of cash if they don’t get involved in the lawsuit?!

    • Patterrssonn

      They could convert to Christianity and become a church?

  • Tainda

    It doesn’t matter if they were “harmed” or not!  Religion has no business in a government.  PERIOD

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, orphan

    what a brave young woman she is. i’m sure she’ll still have friends. 

    i really pity people who live in places where this goes on, which is lots of america. they don’t pray at our council meetings where i live, thankfully. i suppose i should check in with them more often to make sure that’s still the case, tho. the fundies are everywhere and never stop trying to insert themselves and beliefs in to the state…

    • ReadsInTrees

      I know, every time I see stories like this, I wish I’d discovered atheist earlier in life. I grew up and live in Maine, one of the least religious states in the country. Council meeting prayers are never an issue, we learned evolution in school without hesitation (my 1-3rd grade teacher actually one a national science teacher award while I was with her), and I’d never heard of a kid being ridiculed for being an atheist. I took having a secular school system for granted. It wasn’t until I became an atheist in high school and became really interested in all of this that I ever heard of a kid getting ridiculed in school for being an atheist. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jessica-Jones/100000175481467 Jessica Jones

    That poor girl.  Is there somewhere we could send card, videos and ect for support?  She’s going to need it.

  • Deb

    Do it for Maia, do it for all of us who support SOCAS. What happens in Tennessee is important to everyone. We ARE the United States of America. Keep Religion OUT Of Politics.

  • Adey

    I realise this is a serious matter of separation but…..
    Soddy-Daisy? Really?  The UK has some funny place-names but Soddy-Daisy makes me laugh.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stevendiz Steven W. Disbrow

      We usually just call it “Soddy”, or, if we got a speeding ticket driving through there and are angry at it, “Sodomy-Daisy”. Still it’s actually a very nice place. Beautiful mountains, lovely lake and really great people. 

  • Tony Provenzano

    Prayer – How to do nothing and still think you’re helping.

  • Spooky

    It’s Tennessee, people. This is a state which has people who want to “unvote” for the school voucher program they originally voted for, because they suddenly realized that not all the vouchers would go to xian schools. That vouchers for religious schools would go to schools of ALL religions.

    • Deanna

      Yep, it’s Tennessee, but did you know it runs one of the oldest Camp Quests?This year is its 10th anniversary, with its largest gathering of children, 50 in all.

      http://www.rationalists.org/cq/index.php 

      My kids are there right now.  They’ve gone to five different Camp Quest locations around the country and they love this one.   The camp is actually inside the Great Smoky Mountains on the Tennessee side.  

      CQ Smoky Mountains is always looking for locals to help with the camp each year.  My family would love to do more, but we don’t live in TN.

    • Rational84

      You’d be shocked then, at how many atheists there really are here. This is a big deal for us, because most atheists that I’ve met have remained mostly closeted due to the likelihood of being ostracized in every way imaginable. 
      This very public case of fighting for SOCAS is a big step toward giving all of us a voice, who are afraid or not able (due to their work, etc.) to fight this. TN may seem backward and uneducated, but it’s not true of everyone. Please don’t generalize the entire population of a state based on the stupidity of some of its leaders. Local elections only get so much done…right now in Rhea county, there isn’t even a democratic nominee to vote for and they’re trying to discourage democratic voters from voting. The times are changing for the better, as long as brave people keep stepping forward and voicing this growing opinion. 

      • Rational84

        *changing for the better, as in the fact that people are getting angry about these ridiculous things, instead of just grumbling quietly to themselves. where there is passion to correct injustices, there is room for positive change.

  • Onamission5

    Maia makes me want to start an It Gets Better type of campaign for atheist kids and teens. She is so brave.

  • rlrose328

    That last line of Maia’s speech is exactly why MY 12-year-old won’t do anything like that.  He’s not brave enough to step out of line and possibly lose the few friends he’s managed to keep when they find out he is the son of atheists (he’ll say he’s an atheist, but he really doesn’t know yet).  And THEY’RE the persecuted ones?  Yeah, right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cburschka Christoph Burschka

    Jessica Ahlquist and now this. This year keeps becoming more awesome.

    I wish them success – and fortitude and support in the face of the inevitable backlash when they succeed.

    • Sfugly

      Lets bring up poor Jessica Ahlquist again. The same religious free young lady since she was 10yrs old who suddenly became an activist 40 days after being rejected for an education at a religious institution in R.I.

      • http://www.facebook.com/cburschka Christoph Burschka

        Wow, you made a cogent argument backed by well-cited facts.

      • Wintermute472002

         Even if that is true–ever if her motivations were purely punitive and mercenary–the school was still wrong. Understand? They were as utterly wrong on this as its possible to be, and she called them on it, even though it cost her a lot to do it. Personally, I could live with her doing the right thing for the wrong reasons–not that you’ve offered a scrap of evidence that this is the case, of course.

  • Frank

    Enjoy fighting a losing battle.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      I know, right? It’s pointless for people to fight for equal rights for all. I mean, we still have those uppity Negroes in the fields pickin’ our cotton. And women, don’t you get me started on THEM wanting the vote. How ridiculous.

  • Sergio R.coronel

    Where I can sent my donation to help those two kids.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Prayers before public meetings, even prayers that mention Jesus are not unconstitutional.  you should review the Marsh Supreme Court opinion that specifically says it is not the content of the prayer that makes it unconstitutional. Even most recently, in the 2nd circuit court opinion that did find a practice unconstitutional the court said,

      ” We emphasize what we do not hold. We do not hold that the town may not
    open its public meetings with a prayer or invocation. Such legislative
    prayers, as Marsh holds and as we
    have repeatedly noted, do not violate the Establishment Clause. Nor do
    we hold that any prayers offered in this context must be blandly
    “nonsectarian.” A requirement that town officials censor the invocations
    offered—beyond the limited requirement, recognized in Marsh, that prayer-givers be advised that they may not proselytize for, or disparage, particular
    religions—is not only not required by the Constitution, but risks
    establishing a “civic religion” of its own. Occasional prayers
    recognizing the divinities or beliefs of a particular creed, in a
    context that makes clear that the town is not endorsing or affiliating
    itself with that creed or, more broadly, with religion or non-religion,
    are not offensive to the Constitution.”

    • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      They may not be unconstitutional under current law (although the area is a gray one). But many of us feel that they fundamentally violate the spirit of the 1st Amendment, and should be, without excepti0n, forbidden as unconstitutional.

      That’s one of the things that the growing atheist activism movement is all about: seeking the necessary legal changes to make prayer at government gatherings illegal, to repair the U.S. motto, to repair the Pledge, to remove all appearances of religious endorsement from government settings. It’s going to be a long fight, but we can only take it one battle at a time.

      • Rwlawoffice

         No doubt that is the agenda of the atheist movement and there will be more battles to come.  What I like seeing is that Christians are rising to the challenge and responding to the battles.  that is one reason why I fully support Alliance Defending Freedom and the pro bono support they give to those whose religious liberties are under attack.

        • Onamission5

          So not being allowed to continuously dominate the public sphere to the detriment of those who don’t follow your brand of religion equates to persecution in your mind, and you actively support groups which lobby against fairness or sharing. Interesting.

          • Rwlawoffice

             Face it, you live in a nation that is predominately Christian.  You also live in a nation that provides for a constitutional right to practice religion. As such, you will see religion in the public square and people will have a right to express their religious beliefs. Equality does not require that those that are religious need to be quiet.

            • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

              In the U.S. there is no constitutional right to “practice” religion. There is the right to maintain any religious belief you wish. But it is explicitly a part of our law that any action that stems from religious belief is not granted the status of a right, and may be legitimately controlled when it violates other laws. Secular law trumps religious action: that has been the law of the land for over 100 years.

              • Rwlawoffice

                That simply is not the law. Religious practice is protected and even though the state can regulate it, it is the states burden to show the reason. The first amendment says “free excercise thereof” which means practice, not just belief. You should really lookst he supreme court case of hosana tabor that recently came out. It specifically held that the Ada does not apply to churches hiring its ministers. This is more than acknowledging their right to believe a certain way, it is saying their right to practice their religion trumps secular laws.

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  What part of “the state can regulate it” don’t you get? The fact that courts have recognized that the state can regulate religious action means it is not protected more than any other action. In general, you are free to do anything that the state doesn’t regulate, and where anything is regulated, there needs to be cause.

                  Again, the legal standard in the U.S. is that only religious belief is protected, not religious action. The latter is merely a privilege, not a right.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  The fact that the state can regulate it does not mean that practicing religion isn’t a right. In fact, the test is that the state must show that the reulgation does not haves a undue burden on the right and is necessary. In other words, that there is a compelling state interest for the regulation that does not u duly infringe on the right. That is not unusual or u I’ve to the right to practice religion. For example there are limits and regulations on free speech as well. Nit is simply an incorrect statement of the law and secular wishful thinking to say the first amendment only allows for freedom freedom of religious beliefs.

            • Ken

              “Face it, you live in a nation that is predominately Christian.”   I guess that settle it — for you.  Your right to “practice” ends when it tries to coerce, intimidate and shame others into accepting your version of reality.  At that point, expect push back and the application of the law.  
              One point: an employer buys into a health insurance plan, which his employees co-pay for.  When an employer gets to decide the specifics of what is in that plan, they will guaranteed gut it on general principles to save a few bucks.  Excluding cardiac, cancer and maternity would assure any company of a nice kickback from the insurance companies, so NO, an employer can never be allowed to cherry pick coverage according to their “beliefs”/economic interests (always the same thing).  In any case, it’s the law for EVERYONE, no options.  Now, the employees are perfectly free to pursue their beliefs by not using the contraception services (and may qualify for a small rebate), but it is not up to the employer to force them to procreate or abstain by withholding coverage that many, many want and will use.Face it, the Inquisition has no power anymore.  That’s not persecution — it’s sanity.

              • Rwlawoffice

                Actually a federal court just today granted an injunction to Hercules industries, a private company that provides insurance for its employees but whose owners are catholic. The injunction prohibits them from being forced to provide contraceptions based on their religious beliefs. The govt. was trying to force them to under the new health care law.

                You are correct in one respect, the right to excercise your religion is a right guaranteed to everyone. When that right is taken away it is indeed persecution

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  The right to have a religious viewpoint does not make a person exempt from secular law that conflicts with their beliefs. It is likely that lower court rulings like the one you reference will be overturned.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=609238798 Peter Eakin

              Express your personal beliefs in public all you want. March with the Westboro nutjobs all day long if that’s your whim. But it is clear, expressing your ‘personal’ beliefs as if they were a part and parcel  of a ‘theocracy’ is exactly what the founding fathers were guarding against. 

            • Wintermute472002

               What is not clear to me is why you think the individual right to practice religion translates into the acceptability of government religious practice. Seeing religion ‘in the public square’ is not the problem. Seeing government endorsement of religion in the public square is.

              But go ahead, keep talking about how you’re defending freedom by making sure your side always gets its way.

              • Rwlawoffice

                Protecting religious liberty is protecting rights guaranteeded under the constitution. It’s that simple. Since when does a majority lose a right guaranteed in the constitution just because they are in the majority?

          • Sfugly

            You are off base on this thread,just as you were off base on the Jessica Ahlquist thread

        • Ken

          And you will, of course, be sponsoring the Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist prayer offerings as well, I suppose.

          • Rwlawoffice

             Absolutely.  All religions in the community should be given an opportunity to provide an invocation. invocations prior to public meetings is a tradition that goes back to the founding of our country including when Ben Franklin called for it during the constitutional convention.

            • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

              So you’d be okay with it if, say, the Branch Davidians wanted to offer a prayer, or Wiccans, or Satanists?

              I’m in! I’m the regional prelate of the Daikon Pikachu Hari-Kari Bento Box religion. Stand on one foot please, and bow your heads…

              • Rwlawoffice

                 I believe that the constitution requires religious liberty for all religions, so sure.

                • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

                  I’m glad YOU think so. You’re going to have to whip a lot of your Christian buddies into line though. Their heads will collectively explode at the idea of anyone other than a Jesus Person offering a prayer at one of their meetings.

                • Ken

                  Pat Robertson’s head exploding on national TV,  like in the Cronenberg movie, Scanners.  That I would record and play back in slo-mo, over and over and over.  And that’s not persecution (Pat does enough of that for all of us), it would just be nice to see God mete out some “justice,” OT-style.

            • SeniorSkeptik

               As I recall, Ben Franklin called for a prayer but that request was voted down by the overwhelming majority of the  convention.

        • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          Well, since the only people in the U.S. whose religious liberties I’ve seen attacked are Muslims and atheists, we’ll have to see how far they get. It’s certainly unusual for Christian organizations to take up support for Muslims and atheists, but if they do so, I’ll be the first to give them credit.

          • Rwlawoffice

             Well then you need to look a little closer.  Religious liberties of Christians are under attack in multiple ways and in multiple forums. Just as an example- the Catholic church being forced to provide contraception in health plans they pay for,  photographers being fined for not wanting to provide services to a civil union, bed and breakfast owners being fined for not wanting to rent a room to a gay couple in their home, the Obama administration trying to the ministerial exception  to employment laws, the Obama administration trying to force OB Gyns to perform abortions even if it goes against their religion, Miami Dade school districts refusing to rent schools to churches due to their stance on same sex marriage when other religious groups who support it are provided access, etc….

            • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

              Sorry, I don’t see any Christian liberties attacked in your examples. The Catholic church is not being forced to pay for contraception- Catholic owned businesses are being required to follow the same rules that other businesses have to follow- something that has long been held up by the Supreme Court, and is recognized by the Catholic church itself. Businesses are required to not be discriminatory- a rule that trumps the opinions of the business owners.

              All of these are cases of Christians demanding exceptions to the law, not of Christians having any religious liberties curtailed. The Constitution provides NO protection for religious practice or action, only for religious belief.

              • Rwlawoffice

                 Sorry C, but your last sentence is flat wrong. The most recent Supreme Court decision in Tabor, specifically upheld religious practices as evidenced in hiring decisions and upheld the ministerial exception.  It is also the language in the First Amendment- there shall be no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

                As for these not being an attack on religious freedoms, I know I will never convince you they are, but they are. What you call religious privilege is really religious liberty.  You may not see it because there are no religious expressions you care to follow. But it like free speech- free speech means that some speech i may not like will be allowed to continue because the right to free speech exists. The same holds true for religious practices.

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  Once again, I question the use of the word “law” in your handle, since you seem woefully ignorant of it.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  Show me the case that says your are right and I am wrong.

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  How about Reynolds v. U.S. (1878), which in addition to setting the precedent that civil law trumps religious privilege, also entered into Constitutional law the observation of Jefferson, that religious belief was protected, not action. There have been many cases since that drew on this decision. Despite a few narrow exceptions, U.S. law is solidly based on the concept that religious beliefs cannot be used to escape the requirements of secular law.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  Reynolds didnt hold that religious practices are not protected by the first amendment. It did hold that the state can regulate some religious practices if it has a compelling reason to do so. Allow the test has changed over time, the clear burden is on the state to show that it has a reason to prohibit some religious practices because they are protected under the first amendment.

                • TallKatie

                  You aren’t free to abuse other people as practice of your religion. Try again.

            • Sunnyhorse

               If those organizations don’t want to hew to federal law, THEY CAN QUIT TAKING FEDERAL MONEY. And please quit yammering about how you, as a Christian, are a persecuted minority. It’s insulting in the extreme.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Ugh. Why are you HERE? Go comment on your christ-STAIN “faith” elsewhere, plz.

    • Sfugly

      Well said!!!!!!!!!

    • Sfugly

      We need you in R.I.!!!

    • Edmond

      Why is it so outside the realm of reason to ask these people to GET TO WORK???  Can they not pray to their deities on their OWN time?  Do they have to make a SPECTACLE of their religion, and rub everyone’s noses in it?  They have NOT been hired as pastors, or priests, or as ANY kind of spiritual leaders.  Leading citizens in prayer is NOT part of their job descriptions.

      When you get to work and begin your job, PUT YOUR RITUALS AWAY.  My dentist doesn’t wave a wand over my mouth before injecting novocaine.  My auto mechanic doesn’t sprinkle chicken blood over my engine before giving it a tune-up.  When I sit down at my desk and clock in at 8:30 AM, I START WORKING.  I am not allowed to take 5 MORE minutes for rituals and invocations.  That should have been done BEFORE my start time.

      I’m no constitutional lawyer, so I don’t know… I suppose there MIGHT be some loophole in the Constitution, some twisted interpretation, that allows people to turn their jobs (even government jobs) into some kind of advertising opportunity for their superstitions.  But constitutional or not, this is a gross misuse of EMPLOYMENT.  Exercise your personal needs and your personal beliefs on your personal time.  Once you’re on the clock, do the WORK that you’re paid to do!!

      Why is that so difficult?

  • http://www.facebook.com/salihe66 Christopher Salihe Payne

    If I were to ever have a daughter, that’s how I’d really hope she turned out like.

  • ck03

    My heart just broke.  But even with those possible consequences she still had the stones to stand up for what is fair for EVERYONE, not just a select few.  She has more quality of character than anyone on that commission, and I’m sure her parents are so proud of her!

    • Richard

      I’ll add my voice to those saying, “we all admire you Maia” - so much courage at such a young age. If only more were like you the world would be a better place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stevendiz Steven W. Disbrow

    Just wanted to post here and thank everyone for the kind words about my daughter, Maia. She is indeed an extraordinary young woman and everyone around her is extremely proud of her. (And, yes, she is telling the truth, I did NOT put her up to that. She saw me speak a couple weeks prior and then wrote her own speech in response to the treatment we received at that meeting.)

    Maia is currently at Camp Quest in the Smokey Mountains (which Deanna mentioned above [Deanna! Look for me at at pickup tomorrow! Would love to meet you and your kids.]). It’s her 5th year there also and she absolutely loves it (and hopes to be a counselor some day). We learned about CQ here on Friendly Atheist, so thank you for that Hemant!

    When she gets back (tomorrow), I’ll be sure to show her this comment thread.

    Oh, right, just wanted to add, no death threats yet, but the day is young…

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Steven,

      Please let Maia know that her actions and thinking have impressed a Canadian on the west coast. She has my admiration and respect. It seems to me you’re doing a great job of parenting.

    • Deanna

      Steven, you’ll be able to meet my kids but not us.  My daughter is a CIT, and my son, a counselor, so we aren’t picking them up until much later, once the site is all cleaned up and after they’ve had lunch with the rest of the counselors & staff.  I can’t wait to hear the stories from my two.  And, yep, I’ll be showing my kids this post, and Maia’s YouTube video.

      • http://www.facebook.com/stevendiz Steven W. Disbrow

        Maia is back and reading through this with me… She’s pretty sure your kids are “Val” and “Gregory”. Is that right?

        • Deanna

          Yep!

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Give Maia a hug (or five) from us — she is one awesome kid!

    • Nikolai T

      I am extremely impressed with you and your daughter. Please, give her my regards. She’s awesome!

    • Matthew

       Steven,

      I was the speaker after Maia during that meeting, and I neglected to thank her afterwards for standing up in the courageous and mature manner that she did.  I was honored to have my speech entirely eclipsed by hers.  Please convey my admiration and appreciation.

      Regards,

    • ReadsInTrees

      Maia is an incredibly strong young woman!  Let’s see, she’s 12 now, which means in 23 years she’ll be 35. The next election year after THAT will be…..Maia for President, 2036!!

  • John Hawkins

    When I was 12 years old I got endlessly picked on for being an atheist. A youth pastor had convinced a good portion of my middle school that the Earth was 6000 years old and the Flintstones was a documentary so every day they tried to convert me, which always took the form of me being told I’d go to hell when I tried to point out the logical flaws like “Wouldn’t the T-rexs just eat everything else on the Ark?”

    I went to a public school where they regularly forced the entire student body to pray to Jesus so the teachers never tried to stop the harassment. I can believe a 12 year old would feel strongly about this issue.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QPVVPRJ7QKLPU6TF5B4IZTENTI No

    Sick and tired of religious people trying to take the victim torch for themselves by assuming it’s just about offense. They do this so they can claim “See?!! They are offended by our existence, not by what we say! They want us gone! Well, we want YOU GONE!” It’s a transposing of the stridency a great many conservatives express when talking about the zero-sum game of dealing with Islam in the ME, into situations at home. 

    Apparently to a lot of them, following the Constitutional law they claim so often to defend, means they as an identity and/or group will be forcibly dissolved and erased from memory. Which means they as a privileged majority do not like being challenged on those grounds.

  • coreypaul

    LAWYER fees are so expensive, i just finished off paying 30 grand in legal fees and i did not win anything and feel that in the usa u are guilty until proven innicent, not the other way around. im hoping to have some money i can send these brave student for legal fees. this could change all of america and that is important.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1424074519 James Robert Crumpacker Harbou

    Do you know how much more effective it is to point out Christian hypocrisy in the face of people praying in government rather than to stop them from doing it?  The former can conquer the slaves they brainwash, the latter just makes people hate you.

  • MMargate

    Don’t Prey on Me!

  • http://www.facebook.com/stevendiz Steven W. Disbrow

    Just went through all of this with Maia and she’s overwhelmed by all the support. Thanks guys! 

  • FallonisI

    Maia is a very good friend of mine! Go MO!

  • GraceisDarthVader

    Go Maia! SO SO PROUD OF YOU!

  • SharkLasers

    The FFRF is giving Maia a scholarship and an award!  Congratulations!  Maybe while they’re at it they could give those two boys a scholarship too, they’re both in college, neither are well of, and I know at least one of them is paying for it out of pocket.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Do you have a citation for that?


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