After High School Teacher Defends Atheist and Gay Students, He Is Forced to Resign

Last February, Lenior City High School senior Krystal Myers wrote an article for the school newspaper called “No Rights: The Life of an Atheist.” The administrators refused to run it because they thought Myers’ exposing the Christian privilege in the school was too controversial. (The Knoxville News Sentinel later ran the full article on their website.)

A couple of months later, the school yearbook featured an article by Zac Mitchell called “It’s OK to be Gay.”

The administrators were unhappy about that, too. Really unhappy.

James Yoakley was at the center of both controversies. He was the school’s journalism teacher, newspaper sponsor, and yearbook advisor — and the only adult, it seems, who openly supported the students against the administration and school board.

James Yoakley

And guess what happened to him after he defended them?

“I’m fairly certain they transferred me so I would quit,” he said.

Yoakley described how, in February, he was first called into the office of the principal to discuss an article on atheism that was deemed too disruptive for the student readership.

The tipping point occurred late in April when the school yearbook that contained an article about a gay student was distributed. He said other teachers complained and opposition in the community began to grow.

“The administration didn’t talk to me for two weeks,” he said.

Shortly thereafter, the principal asked him to resign.

“He said I was improperly influencing my students,” Yoakley said.

I can’t even begin to describe how much my heart goes out to this guy.

Here he is, one of the only voices of reason in a district full of social conservatives, and he gets punished for encouraging his students to be true to who they are and not hide from that. He’s the kind of teacher you want your entire staff to model themselves after… but the administration (with pressure from the school board) wanted him to leave.

There but for the grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster go I…

They transferred Yoakley to Lenoir City Middle School — presumably so he would just get out of the district — but Yoakley says he loves his new job. It looks like he has some support, too:

The [Student Press Law Center] has offered to help support a lawsuit and has nominated Yoakley for the “Courage in Journalism” Award. Yoakley said he has tried to avoid litigation over his demotion for fear it would hurt his chances at employment. Teachers and administrators at the middle school have been very supportive, he said.

I’m glad he’s doing better… but it’s a travesty he’s had to go through any of this.

In a Q&A with the local publication MetroPulse, Yoakley explained what he would do differently if he could do it all over:

I would insist the principal use his right to prior review. I’d never block the publication of the article. It’s student media. They decide on what’s in and what’s not. What’s interesting is that the controversy brought the article national attention. These students had their work read by a national audience. You couldn’t ask for a better education…

And then there’s this question and answer that’s so simple and yet so powerful:

What advice would you give to all the high school journalists out there?

Keep writing. Tackle difficult subjects. Know your rights. Appreciate those who stand up for you.

It’s great advice. As for that last line, Yoakley said it for a reason:

“… I know the young lady that wrote the [atheism] article is going to school. She actually sent me a message this morning saying she’s sorry she never truly thanked me for everything I did for her,” Yoakley said.

Students, if you have freedom to write whatever you think is worthy of publication at your school, thank your faculty sponsors. Yoakley’s paying the price for doing the right thing, but we need more teachers like him.

By the way… don’t bother reading the comments at the News Sentinel. Some of the commenters aren’t any more rational than the Loudon County school board members…

I would definitely not want this man teaching my child! It bothers me that they have transferred him down to middle school. Of course he would love this job cause he is now surrounded by more kids at a impressionable age.

Appears that Mr. Yoakley is using his students to propogate his own beliefs. Seems cowardly to hide behind kids. Kinda like peeking out of the closet and holding a child in front of you as a shield.

(Thanks to Christina for the link)

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.

  • LesterBallard
  • Glasofruix

    The only person in the school who seemed to uphold at least some moral standards gets fired. I foresee more of those if the religious bigots get their dirty Mitts on power…

    • http://www.facebook.com/billyup Jesse Jones

      I see what you did there :D

      • Glasofruix

         ;)

    • anon

      Mitts…hahaha **tips hat*, very clever sir.

  • Rodney

    This is great encouragement for me to keep standing up for what I believe in.

  • A3Kr0n

    The superintendent said how proud he was  about the way school officials handled those situations. Sounds like nothing has changed.

  • Wendy

    I’m from Knoxville, and I agree this is a sad story AND you should never read the News Sentinel comments.  The Metro Pulse is ok, though.

    • Matt in Memphis

      I’m a Knox native too, and I agree. Metropulse is pretty progressive, and even though the comment section of the News Sentinel is nothing less than an orgy of ignorance, the paper itself has some journalistic integrity and has occasionally given local atheist stories fair coverage. 

  • Athiestbob

    No matter what your opinion of unions is… this is a prime case of why we need them… Intellectual freedom needs to be defended and, unlike young Jessica Alquist, teachers’ jobs are on the line and sometimes they are reluctant to sue for the right of free speech.  The NEA should immediately step in and begin a lawsuit against that school district!

    • http://askanatheist.tv/ Becky Friedman

      I am a teacher, and AFAIK I can’t bring a lawsuit on behalf of my students. The students actually have to do so.  

      I don’t have unlimited free speech in my capacity as a teacher.  For example, I can’t wear a button for my favored political candidate on campus.  This is a ruling with which I do not quibble.  

      Students don’t have unlimited free speech in their capacities as students.  SCOTUS has clear rulings on this.  

      Suing on freedom of speech isn’t logical or fruitful on many of these issues; suing on antidiscrimination laws, equal protection, and no establishment of religion makes more sense.  
       

      • amycas

         I think atheistbob was saying that the teacher should sue for being punished, not that the teacher should sue on behalf of the students.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    That comment is disturbing. How do these people get from “students should be who they are and not feel like they have to hide it” to thinking “this man is influencing our kids the wrong way” Of course, ‘the wrong way” means “anything outside my narrow view of the world”

  • Davidtelesca

    As much as I disagree with the administration’s decision (regarding the article about being gay), the reality is that student publications are not independent ventures, and are considered to be school publications. As such, school administrators do have approval rights… This is not a 1st amendment issue.

    I believe that the principal was likely right to restrict the atheism article, just as he would have to restrict an article about a religious belief – the establishment clause works both way.

    • Rory

      1)  If “this is not a 1st amendment issue,” then why does it matter what the establishment clause says?

      2) I don’t think you can claim that the establishment clause works both ways in this case, unless you happen to know that the school also disallows articles about religious belief. I would be willing to bet this isn’t the case; I suspect they would have no problem running an article about Christian belief. But neither of us really knows that from the articles referenced here.

    • http://smoothededges.blogspot.com Matt Borgard

      “This is not a 1st amendment issue.”

      This is false, actually. Well, maybe not false, but highly arguable. I was personally involved in a situation where the school tried to restrict the newspaper from printing an article, it was printed anyway, and then they removed the editor. The school’s lawyers forced them to back down because of 1st amendment issues.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K632TZJIMGU7TOWACHTKIQPMPA Mutant

      You have a partial point. If a student wanted to publish an article calling for the vicious gang rape of the cheerleading squad, the administration has the power to prevent publication. When the administration uses this power to suppress speech simply because this speech doesn’t support the Christian majority — not because it causes harm, but because it doesn’t support a religion — then this public school administration is violating the constitution in _several_ ways.

      See the difference?

    • Geenius_at_Wrok

      It absolutely is a First Amendment issue. See Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.

    • amycas

       I worked for a student publication, and it’s illegal for the school to institute any sort of prior review policy. The students are supposed to be the publishers, otherwise it’s a school publication and cannot be advertised as a student publication.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Mason/1730306802 Peter Mason
  • Baby_Raptor

    But remember, guys: It’s the evil Liberals who are slowly stripping the True Americans of their freedoms!

    • Guest

       That’s true but so are Religious Zealot Conservatives as this article show. Please do not support the current two party ‘system’ and vote outside the box they have put us in.

      • Guest

         Or, just go all the way and throw your support behind http://americanfascistmovement.com/

      • http://www.facebook.com/billyup Jesse Jones

        It was sarcasm….

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

        We can’t afford that in this election… the conservatives and religious zealots will be voting en masse for Romney, guaranteed.  The worst thing we can do now is split the vote to some 3rd party or even a good liberal party.  We cannot do that!  It would spell certain loss.

        • bbqroast

           Interesting, all the smart upper class high income people are voting for Romney because they understand what he is trying to do. While all the lower/lower-middle class are voting for him despite the fact his plans could drive them into poverty because he seems to have convinced them that following him is the only way to get into heaven.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

            There’s also the sense that the Republican party is holding our ability to get jobs hostage.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Goody/100000254742669 Kevin Goody

       yeah riiiight sure they are did you remember to take you meds??

  • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

    I am both enraged and entirely unsurprised by this. Those who stand up for others frequently get this kind of treatment. (I’m a little amused at the notion that they transferred him to a middle school in the hopes that he’d leave. Some of us don’t think that middle school is necessarily a demotion.)

    • unclemike

       Thank you for that last comment! I love teaching middle school, and i was surprised at the use of the word “demotion” in the article.

      • Aeiluindae

         Interesting. I’m glad someone likes teaching that age of kids. A number of the teachers that I am familiar with really don’t like teaching middle school because they just are fed up with kids of that age.

        • unclemike

           I used to teach elementary grades and swore I’d never move to middle school.

          And then I tried it and loved it.  Wonders never cease, hehehe.

        • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

          To be honest, I think it just takes a certain kind of person. I teach at the high school level, but I volunteered for middle school experience during my undergrad education program because it was something I thought I’d be interested in teaching. I like being able to have serious and sometimes philosophical discussions with more mature students, but there are things about middle schoolers that I prefer over high schoolers as well.

        • http://askanatheist.tv/ Becky Friedman

          I too love middle school.  I find it more conducive to collaborative, interdisciplinary curricular programming since you’re not mired in departments but rather work with grade level teams in most places.  It wasn’t until talking with my partner that I realized that in some states the pays scale for high school is higher than for middle school or elementary school teachers.  Which is BS because we all need the same amount of advanced schooling. I’m wondering whether perhaps there is more opportunity for additional compensation open to high school teachers (overload pay, extra hours tutoring, other school duties, etc.)

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            Actually, I had to do additional coursework to get certified to teach middle school (I teach in Illinois), along with the 9-12 certification that was part of my secondary ed degree. Elementary ed majors had to do similarly to get middle school endorsements. I suspect that any differences in pay scale (which I have not heard before but wouldn’t be surprised to find) is based on the perception that teaching lower grades requires less content area expertise than teaching high school.

    • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

      Something I took away was that the teacher only stood up for others. We get no impression of his personal beliefs or opinions AT ALL. Which makes it strange that the commenters are worried about him ‘pushing his agenda’. 

  • Ecr1971

    I’m not going to lie, I’m a Christian.
    That said, I am HORRIFIED that this teacher was treated so poorly. If this is a public school, all the administration should be educated about the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
    If this is a private Christian school, well, even then, if they are so afraid of having their belief questioned, maybe they need to read their Bible again.
    I will never understand how a country founded of freedom of religion can so easily forget.

    I’m not a good writer and hope this post is understandable…lol

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592191340 facebook-592191340

       It’s understandable. And that’s the thing, if MORE Christians were like you, there wouldn’t be so much of a backlash. However, Fundamentalists are speaking for you.. and that should terrify you.

      • Bre_ane

         Fundamentalists run the entire country… and we  should all be pissed about it, but Americans are a bit too glued to their televisions, ipods, and smart phones to give politics any deep thought. It’s similar to the way the ancient Romans were before the collapse of the Roman empire, far too interested in all the fine things they had achieved by becoming the most successful country in the world to care about serious concerns. But that’s how it always goes, that’s just nature, there’s always the rise and the decline of everything — man made or otherwise, and it would seem our country is on the declining end of it all.

        • Guest

          Fundamentalists run the entire country?  Are you serious?  Do you realize how Germany c. 193os that statement sounds?  If fundamentalists were, in fact, running the entire country, I doubt I would be able to turn on the TV and see any one of a thousand shows celebrating what those country controlling fundamentalists are so strongly against.  Try bringing it down a notch and you might make better points. 

          • maggie

            You’re going to call someone out on making a broad, rash statement and then tell them it sounds like Germany circa 1930s? Really? 

          • Drew M.

            I find your Nazi fetish a bit disturbing, but at least you skipped the Nuremberg reference this time.

      • Proteios

        That’s a good point. The media focuses on the extreme ends of any issue and disproportionately portrays Christians as all a bunch of Westbrook nutcases. Only the extremely biased amongst us who are media indoctrinated believe that. But that is the portrayal. I think most Christians are ‘like that’ referring to the original statement. Point of fact…the media cannot claim 75 % of Catholics disagree with teachings on gays, then turn around and portray the opposite without people noticing. But then again…the media…it’s all pretty bad.

    • kaydenpat

      I agree with you.  How can this happen at a public school? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=613751245 Alex Manuel

      That’s a very reasonable attitude to have. If anyone’s faith or belief is just going to dry up at the very first sign of opposition, then it’s pretty fickle indeed. Their beliefs must be pretty fragile if they think their kids will immediately “turn gay” or become an atheist on the strength of ONE newspaper article. 

      Fundamentalists are absolute cowards.

      • Jonabel1971

         Actually, I did.   There was a  newspaper article in the Fargo Forum back in the early 1980′s that talked about saving a person’s entire brain into a computer chip.   That was the start of tearing down my Catholic education.

    • TiltedHorizon

       I don’t believe in prayer, but if I did, I’d pray that more Christians would share this attitude.

    • Mycomo

      Your humility is quite refreshing. Your comment is one of the best,”I’m a Christian but…” statements I’ve ever seen:)

    • nosiridontlikeit

       I actually don’t find your reaction reasonable. The fact is, a very, very small percentage of Christians have even a rudimentary understanding of their religion’s history. Your post demonstrates this fact: If you’re “horrified” by something this small, you have no idea of the depths of depravity Christians have inflicted upon the world. Did you know it only took fifty years after Constantine to make Christianity the state religion for the death toll of Christians killing fellow Christians to surpass the previous three centuries’ death toll of Christians executed at the hands of the state?

      It’s nice you’re no longer living in blind ignorance. The only question is, Are you going to go back there & pretend your religion’s history is filled w/ dancing fluffy happy bunnies & cuddles or are you going to realize how far your religion will go to manipulate, dominate & control others?

      • Mhjv

        Well said. Religion has been the most harmful thing to ever happen to this world. The corruption, death, and hate that it produces and spreads is mind boggling. But ya know, as long as the simpleton folks are getting their spirituality fix, and ignoring the reality, the rest of us who are ready to evolve will be forced to wait behind the majority who are truly blind.

        • Clinton

           I am a Christian also, I think you will find there are a lot of Christians who actually positively contribute to the world, the difference is the most Jesus-like Christians do not make a big scene about the good things they do, humble Christians are drowned out by the loud, obnoxious majority. I do not like the label of Christianity because it is so filled with hypocrisy, hate, murder, violence and all the other things that are wrong with the world. But America is leading the way in this disgusting trend with it’s churches that are known worldwide for being hateful. God must be weeping to see the beautiful thing he created turning into something ugly. I realise it has been ugly since the start, unfortunately the silent minority rarely have their voices heard over the babbling of the wicked leaders of the church.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

            If a Christian positively contributes to the world, it’s because they don’t take seriously the book that is the foundation of their religion.  Churches are only following the scripture the way that the clergy thinks it should be.  Religion takes revolution and revision to change for the better.  Something that is harder to do in the age of long memories.

            • Mkgdtbdshuue

              …What? Where did you learn about Christianity?

              I think you failed to realize that there is corruption everywhere (yeah, even in organized religion). Who are you to say that Christians being actual good people aren’t following their Bible?

              If anything, your post reminds me that even athiests can be just as ignorant and diluded as the conservative Christians quoted in the article.

              You give atheists a bad name.

              • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

                 Read your bible.  It will tell you that certain people are not human, slavery is okay, and reinforces an ‘us against them’ attitude.  It’s pretty plain to see, but I won’t bother discussing it any further until after you’ve read it.  There are many charities and outreach programs, but usually they require you to convert or hand tribal people bibles, and not textbooks.  Seems Christians want to give a man a fish, and then teach him how to be beholden to the fisher.

                You may think I give Atheists a bad name.  I am not calling Christians a bad people, as I think there are no bad people.

                It is the religion and the superstition I think is wrong and misleading.

            • Mikedogg13666

               Anthony…you must have been drunk when you wrote this.
              Christianity, Islam and Judaism (the three “desert religions”) are all derived from the same man…Abraham.
              He claimed to have found a deity (Yahweh) that  served him well so he made that deity his “Elohim” (only worshiped god).
              From that point in time, the prison of religion has captured and tortured more people mentally and physically than any other source in the world combined….
              Each of the three claim that there god (apparently the same god but known by three different names), is the only god and that he is infallible.
              Infallible means “perfect” or lacking need for change.
              This means that all of their gods actions, words, etc…are flawless and in need of no change…ever.
              If that is the case then every religious person…including you…are a hypocritical fool.
              You claim to know that religion needs to change in order to be correct for the time?
              Bull…a “perfect” god needs no modification by human interpretation to become a “different perfect” when time changes.
              You have made a terrible mistake wasting your life  pretending to be privy to a “perfect” supernatural deity and making the claim to know what that deity needs in order to modify its perfection by way of the details under which mankind has made up to explain that which is impossible to explain by natural means.
              You sir…are a liar…or a fool.
              Yet, in the end, what’s the difference…if you choose remain as such.

              • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

                 I was drunk when I wrote that?  Then you must have been delirious when you began believing what you just wrote.  You are asserting that because I don’t understand ‘perfection’ I don’t understand God’s work.  Let me pose this question to you – if it’s perfect, doesn’t it suffice to say that someone had to judge it so in the first place?  Who then is the measure of perfection?  If it isn’t something that can be applied, then it should not be a word used in our diction.

                Oh, and try not to insult someone when you leave your house today.

                You sir are a believer of nonsense.

              • Rwilson349

                Great comment Mike!

            • AnnieCat

              Anthony,

              You have this backwards. I am a Christian, an anabaptist to be exact (think Amish-like, Mennonite-like). It is when people who call themselves Christian DO NOT take the Bible seriously that we get these fundamentalist sects. The fundamentalist Christians simply select those things in the Bible, that bolster their prejudices and their dislikes and hatred. They ignore the “hard” parts (like being radically inclusive as Jesus was).

              One of the most agregious example of not taking the Bible seriously is todays attacks on the LGBT community. There is nothing in the New Testament that supports the treatment seen. It is not enough to have a preacher “tell” you what the bible says, you need to actually look at it for yourself.

        • wranglers1947

           I can agree with you only up to a point.  All those sick and dying people in India that Mother Teresa helped might disagree with you.  Having said that, there is certainly a lot of bullshit that all religions have to answer for.

          • Arletta

            I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but the idea that Mother Teresa helped the sick and dying people in India is actually a complete fabrication. Millions of people gave her money and had no idea what she was actually doing with it. Mother Teresa believed that the suffering of the poor would get them closer to god. The sick and dying people that she “took care of” were denied pain meds, were kept in deplorable conditions, and had very little access to actual health care. This was so that they could be close to Jesus. She basically tortured these people in the name of god, while scamming people out of millions. Google “Mother Teresa suffering of the poor” to learn about who she really was.

            • SeeChao

              She returned a one million dollar check to my grandfather back in the 80′s Because she was “called to poverty”, while hundreds of sick people died in her care from treatable illnesses. That woman disgusts me. Making someone else suffer because of your own personal beliefs, no matter how justified you feel, is selfish beyond what words can describe. She tortured people, let them suffer and die, because she believed it would get her a bigger sky condo in cloudland. Disgusting.

          • Redping

            and what about all the africans who died from the AIDs virus because Mothert Theresa told them wearing a condom was an abomination against god?

          • Stev84

            Mother Theresa let people suffer in horrific conditions because she glorified suffering and thought it brought people closer to god (replicating the crucifixion in a way). The standards in her facilities were worse than in those of other organizations. She had no interest in actually improving people’s living situation (which is the only way to actually help the poor), but only gave them a place to live in pain and die.

        • Proteios

          Not in this century. Atheism is the true mass murderer of our time.
          in the form of hitler a (Nietzsche protege), Mao and Soviet communism, Pol Pot all murdering millions directlyanne who knows how many tens of millionsIndirectly through war. No, I think you are wrong and so does 20th century history.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jake-Khan/100001848432659 Jake Khan

            Oh here we go again.  Let’s see who is worse, the Faithful or the Atheists.  Check your history;  the Nazi’s supported the Christian churches, Hitler prosessed his love of God many times, so don’t go there.  Let’s speak about bad individuals, regardless as to their faith, and lose the religion vs atheism fight because that is a senseless fight and causes nothing but bad feelings.  Stalin was a monster, as was Hitler, as were the Popes who supported the Nazi’s and on it goes.  They were powerful and evil people.  I’m sure you’re a good person, right?

      • Cutbank

        Do you have even a a rudimentary understanding of history?  The history of  civilization isf filled with killing, murder, mayhem, bloodshed, disease, deception, depravity, and death, including this country’s.  I don’t think this person should have to be chastized by you for being a Christian any more than you should have to be chastized for being an  American.  But its a good thing you are no longer living in blind ignorance.

    • http://www.facebook.com/otaku.lonely Pranjal Protim

      Bro the amount of fools in the world out-way the amount of intelligent people. And they will always bring us down but yes truth always gets out. Religion is undeniably the biggest exploiter of human rights and it will keep dragging us down. 

      • Complex Protism

        You just spelled outweigh “out-way” in a sentence about how there are more fools than intelligent people.  And you started this glorious sentence with the word “bro”.  I guess you know which group you belong to.  

        • Guest

          Stop being a grammar Nazi and comment on the actual content. Who cares if he makes a silly mistake.

      • Dennis

        It is the number of intelligent people; it is possible, in theory, to count them.

    • http://unwarr.blogspot.com/ Redmond Jennings

      If I or a child of mine were ever to become a Christian, I hope it would be your brand of Christianity. 

    • guest

      your not only christian, your Christ Like!  

    • 606

      Does freedom of religion also mean freedom of no religion? Anyway ,America is such a litigateous society, only the lawyers will win.

  • Guest

    How many read the student’s article about atheism? Any teacher who encouraged that should be criticized for encouraging sloppy whining masquerading as analysis. They should also have a serious discussion about individual liberties and how to exercise rights. If they did that, they should get a raise rather than a pink slip.

    • unclemike

       I read the article and, considering it was written by a high school student and not a constitutional law professor, thought it was a good, solid piece. Really more of an opinion piece than hard analysis.

      But, obviously, my 22 years teaching experience disqualifies me from having a valid opinion on the matter.

      • Baby_Raptor

        You’re not a christian, so clearly you have no right or expertise when it comes to judging religion maters. (snark)

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

      Do you know what a red herring is? You must, because you just dragged one all over the fucking point of this article, you mendacious asshole.

      • Guest

        I love you guys. /sarcasm. I said the teacher should have talked with the students about how to exercise their rights and you call me names. Guess you can’t stand the thought of gays and atheists actually exercising thir rights instead of sitting around writing about them.

        Enough of this. I have a life to lead and don’t have time for a bunch of people who want to keep others down.

        • amycas

           “Guess you can’t stand the thought of gays and atheists actually
          exercising thir rights instead of sitting around writing about them.”

          Sitting around writing about their rights IS exercising their rights. That student exercised her right to free speech by writing her article.

    • TiltedHorizon

       ” …sloppy whining masquerading as analysis”

      Hit the nail on the head with this comment. This is EXACTLY what I think of all your posts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Coffing/7714027 Tom Coffing

      Someone posting stupid statements as a Guest?  SO BRAVE!

    • Bdmoore001

      As a homosexual, atheist, member of a high school Newspaper, I have to agree. Not only is it not convincing or a particularly informative piece, it’s too long! If I was the editor of this newspaper, I’d never let it through. And, even if i did, it’d have to shred to ribbons to fit the page size.

      A lot of students, myself included, join a Newspaper and think it’s going to be a free, open forum to say whatever you want. No, not at all. That’s entirely incorrect. You maybe get to earn one or two editorials, opinion pieces, or out of school “fun” pieces (As I like to call them.) for every ten football games, school club meetings, or campus life pieces you do.

      The point of the school Newspaper, is, as much as I hate to say it, not to get the people in high school to think. Most of the ones that do think already agree with you, and the ones that don’t aren’t like to read the paper anyway. This piece isn’t informative, doesn’t follow any style of journalistic writing (I like inverted pyramid, but when you’re doing an opinion piece I suppose it doesn’t apply.), and is, frankly, a bit sanctimonious. If you want to provide an opinion on a factual piece, you can do it briefly: but save these kind of articles for college.

    • RobMcCune

      …sloppy whining masquerading as analysis. 

      Project much?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KHNKTA7AX6TM3DWY47CFT2LAWY Michael

    At least this teacher is in good company.  Here’s to the Galileo of modern day Journalism, Mr. Yoakley!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rogi.riverstone Rogi Riverstone

     If anybody lives near this guy, we could organize a school supply fundraiser!

    • nakedanthropologist

      I do!  I would love to get in on that – perhaps we could even find a private business to sponser his class(es) for school supplies, and maybe an educational fieldtrip or something.  Anyone else want to get in on this?

  • Dats3

    I live in Knoxville, TN.  Unfortunately, I am not surprised at all by what’s happening. We do have bastions of free thought and reason thanks to the  University and Oak Ridge National Labs, but this area including Loudon County, Knox County, Anderson County, well all of East Tennessee is very conservative.  Dissent isn’t tolorated.  If you don’t buy into the conservative idea then you’d better keep your mouth shut.  For some reason people around here feel threatened by differences and any challenge to their deep held beliefs.  I guess it’s easier to believe the lie.  I’m proud that Yoakley took a stand.  I wish we had more like him.

    • No

       :( I couldn’t imagine living somewhere like that!!!

    • ATennesseeScientist

      I live in Roane County, just about thirty minutes outside Knoxville. Although this definitely makes me angry, it fails to surprise me either. It makes me sad to live in a place where if I were to mention I’m an atheist to the wrong person I’d have the wrath of the entire local Christian community brought down upon me.

  • atheisticallyyours

    Its time for not only a lawsuit, but a NEW SCHOOL BOARD in that community! Perhaps a PERSONAL LAWSUIT AGAINST EACH SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER (for their flagrant First Amendment violations!) would get their attention! 

    • Dats3

      That’s not going to happen.  Don’t let the name fool you. Lenoir City is a mis-nomer.  It is small, rural and there are more baptist churches than gas stations. That should tell you something.

  • Octoberfurst

     A High school teacher defending gays and atheists??? Oh the horror! Why wasn’t this fiend tarred and feathered and run out of town? Didn’t he know that no student should express anything but good CHRISTIAN views??? I’ve got to go lay down now because my brain is traumatized!
      Honestly though, this is an outrage.  This is what happens when you have a school board and administration run by religious nuts. Opposing views? That’s Satanic! Idiots.

  • Alconnolly

    I seem to take controversial positions on issues here so her goes. I rememeber when a ridiculous “documentary” came out called “expelled no intelligence allowed” came out. My problem with it was the hard conclusions drawn from scant data on career issues some ID proponents had (well one of my problems with it). No we have a story on the opposite end of the spectrum with similarly little to no concrete evidence of persecution (although it feels likely to be the case a commitment to sceptic ism requires a suspension of drawing a conclusion with so little data). Very few comments seem to be along the lines of if this persecution it is detestable. I am left leaning but I have just as strong a negative reaction to overstatements manipulations and twistings of truth in Michael Moore documentaries are the numeruos right wing ones, even when I agree with the overal point being made. Let’s not allow our prejudices to accept much smaller data sets as evidence for conclusions that support our belief system, then we would for conclusions we find out of synch with our worldview.

    • Alconnolly

      Stupid iPad auto correct made my post almost illegible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=613751245 Alex Manuel

    “Appears that Mr. Yoakley is using his students to propogate his own beliefs. Seems cowardly to hide behind kids. Kinda like peeking out of the closet and holding a child in front of you as a shield.”

    Oh, the IRONY. Like there aren’t Christians who do this exact bullshit every. Single. Day. And not only are they allowed, they’re ENCOURAGED. 

    Hiding behind “the children”. They’d know about that better than anyone.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Deanna-Jackson/617808744 Deanna Jackson

      My thoughts exactly.

    • Josh

      The sweetest irony is that by saying that his influence over kids is scary, they are in effect saying “but think of the children” and doing exactly what they accuse others of. 

      • Amazonfeet

        Exactly. Just like the Child Evangelism Fellowship….their influence, and their bullying their way into the public schools is scary…

        • http://twitter.com/m_ethaniel Mistletoe Ethaniel

          *INCOMPREHENSIBLE SERIES OF LETTERS TYPED IN ANGER*

          They were at our local town’s annual celebration festival yesterday, handing their booklets out to kids.  I got one (careful to use a potholder so as not to cause my hands to burst into flames) and had a look and ALAS AND ALACK MY TOP HAT HAS FALLEN.

    • pixelcat13

      Exactly. And how insulting to these student writers for this person to infer that the beliefs they wrote about are their teachers and not their own. The exact opposite of what education is supposed to be about. 

  • NewDawn2006

    “Appears that Mr. Yoakley is using his students to propogate his own beliefs.”

    Really?  I haven’t seen any of Mr. Yoakley’s belief’s mentioned anywhere.  The only “belief” I see is allowing students their constitutional right of freedom of the press.  Do you have a problem with freedom of the press sir or ma’am?  Oh wait.  That was a silly question.  Of course you do…

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K632TZJIMGU7TOWACHTKIQPMPA Mutant

      If I’m not mistaken, the “belief” this person is referring to is the belief that people should think for themselves, and the belief that it’s OK for people to hold views even if they aren’t a carbon-copy of the Christian majority. The existence of people who think for themselves is offensive to some theists.

      • NewDawn2006

         I think they find the entire Constitution offensive.  Unless they can twist something in it to fit their own interests.

        • SomePersonHere

          The Constitution offends them and, yet, they always say that the constitution was built around the Bible. I wonder when their pastors will make up their mind for them?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

            Like the bible, these people don’t like to read, they just assume it supports everything they believe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/billyup Jesse Jones

    If atheists and gay people were as bad as christians make them out to be, there would be no christians left in the world. They would have all been tortured to death with anal rape.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Coffing/7714027 Tom Coffing

    This is what happens when a bunch of bigots keep repeating “family and tradition” over and over again.

    If you are openly against homosexuality or openly against the belief that people should not be allowed to be an Atheist, then f*ck you – you are holding the human race back.

    • Arletta

      Agreed

    • Setthatass

      If it were normal for people of the same sex to fornicate god/science would have made it possible for them to reproduce. But because it’s a form of population control, our government will tolerate it.

      • Andtomil

        You sir are an ass. Your stupidity is only outweighed by your bigotry please kindly never speak again.

      • Michael Appleman
      • NLazarus

         “Normal”? What is “normal”?

        Is it “found in nature”?

        Well, most mammal species engage in homosexual sex, as well as many bird species and insect species. Some species actually change their sex at will.

        Is it “historically precedented”?

        Well, we have records of humans engaging in homosexual sex and long term relationships as far back as we _have_ records of human behaviour.

        Is it “common”?

        Well, the general estimates are that roughly ten percent of the population are homosexual. That’s a pretty high percentage, if you compare it to other human behaviours such as attending church regularly, committing adultery, homeschooling, choosing to eat organic food, spousal abuse… I’d say it’s got a pretty average rate. Only, unlike those other things, it’s not a choice. So, we could compare it to… having red hair, or different-coloured eyes, or being above or below the general population’s height ranges.

        I think the question here is, what is the value in “normal”? Why should we care what’s “normal”? “Normal” is entirely subjective. It may not be “normal” for you to engage in homosexual sex, but I assure you, it’s not “normal” for a gay person to engage in heterosexual sex. It’s not “normal” for me to play basketball. It’s not “normal” for me to pee, standing up. It’s not “normal” for me to pray in a Sikh temple. But, I assure you, those are all perfectly “normal” things for a great many people.

        Also, “science” doesn’t make people anything. Accepting science as a rational and plausible process by which we can understand our universe is not the same as believing in a god. Science does not make stuff. Science is the process of asking questions and seeking answers to them. Very common misconceptions amongst theists and creationists. We who accept science as the best way of establishing truth do not credit science with creating the universe. It’s just our methodology of learning about it. Sort of like “reading” is your methodology of finding out the plot of a book. The book wasn’t created by “reading”. We use reading to access the information in the book. We use science to access the information in the universe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenton.forshee Kenton Forshee

    That’s Tennessee.  I live one county away from Lenior City and it terrible to live here.  They want to silence atheists and they want to silence gays, and I’m both.

    • Guest

      Then you are a stupid gay faggot.

      • IvyLeaguer2012

         You’re an uneducated ignoramus, “Guest”

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K632TZJIMGU7TOWACHTKIQPMPA Mutant

        You are free to express these views, even if they are uninformed, irrational and hateful. And acknowledging your right to express these views is the difference between people like me, and people who tried to silence this teacher because they feared his words.

      • http://antgly.tumblr.com Anthony Glyadchenko

        I’m surprised that you’re actually online in this day and age “Guest”. Go read your Bible. It helps fuel your stupid.

        • Passfilters

          It was a pretty clear (if off-color) joke.

    • nakedanthropologist

      Dude, we have got to form a club for the ‘misfits’ of East Tennessee.  We could include atheists, humanists, lgbts, and so on.  Even better, we will have the best parties…

    • MC

       I’m from Middle Tennessee but I had to move away because it was just too crazy there.  I miss my parents, but now that I’ve experienced the (relative) sanity of California, I can’t imagine living back home anymore.  It’s so incredibly suffocating and emotionally damaging.  The best thing I ever, ever did was move out.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/IY2LC63R33Q4XFNFVJAA5OLQ7M JohnF

    I’m a former middle school teacher of 21 years. I think it’s funny that the admins thought they would make him quit after transferring (punishing? sentencing?) him to a middle school.

    • Stev84

       It seems like they confused school with the Catholic Church

  • Lisabm18

    It disgusts me that something like this could happen at public school. The principal is rea
    Ly the one who needs to be let go. There is no reason high schoolers shouldn’t be able to promote their own thoughts. Good for that teacher for standing up for those kids.

  • Jaime Villalva

    Where do I sign or donate to help him out. Needs to sue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/snoozeri.lostio Snoozeri Lostio

    The fraud of evolution: 

    http://goo.gl/mqObr

  • awaiken

    This is what lawsuits are for. Please sue

  • http://www.facebook.com/NickSantrizos Nicholas Santrizos

    This just makes me so sad. Like, utterly depressed that this country is going this way. 

    • NO

       Yep, while the rest of the world (minus a few other crazy religious countries) is moving ahead, we are going back into the dark ages.

  • nakedanthropologist

    I’m very familiar with Lenoir City (I work at a business there) and the majority of the people there are very conservative.  I’m not suprised this happened, but it disappoints and saddens me all the same.

  • OHRBASSMUS

    bunch of closed minded intolerant christians who can’t accept their way not being the only way, quite rude really

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Deanna-Jackson/617808744 Deanna Jackson

    The administrators of that school are assholes.  I hope this teacher gets hired at a better school.

    • RobMcCune

      Hopefully one with a better union.

  • Serge3444

    people really ought to realize by now this is a matter of young vs old at this point.

    most of us in our 30′s and below who consider ourselves conservative only do so on matters of money.

    im an atheist, and i support gay marriage, and i meet very few people my age who dont.

    i would never stand for something like this happening in my community.   Free speech in every form is a neccesity to personal and economic freedom.  

    even i fear what will come if republicans get ahold of office this time around.    How far are we going to backpedal socially…  its disconcerting. 

    • NLazarus

       I’d also point out that conservative economics don’t have a good record of working, either… ;)

  • http://twitter.com/tccorbett35 Tommy

    Generally, high school aged students are encouraged to stay out of controversial politics.  Even some colleges have won lawsuits exerting control over their student media and newspapers publishing controversial material.   The high school has more leverage, morally and ethically as such students are generally minors.  So this is a more difficult situation than might first be evident.  Children do not indeed have the same access, privilege or understanding of the first amendment and its political consequences in a public school setting that adults do; however, we are in a period of heightened social and political unrest and it’s unrealistic to try and completely neutralize such ideas and opinions in our youth.  

  • Macmac

    Biased reporting in that news video. Why does that robot have to say, “It doesn’t sound like he has any regrets…”??? This is the reason I don’t watch these “news” programs. The robots have to get their own commentary in. Gross.

  • Toadthewetsprocket

    As a gay atheist, I have to say that I agree with the adminstration’s position on this guy. What he’s doing is inappropriate. High school is not college. It is a government entity and political and religious topics should be stifled in favor of reading/writing/arithmetic. 

    • Bdmoore001

      Thank you! Rail against the school district when they print a Christian article and not an Atheist one, but don’t criticize it just for not printing what is, at heart, an article on theology.

      This guy gets it.

      • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

        Yes, because talking about her rights were violated is definitely about theology. I’m beginning to think that you haven’t even read the article in question.

      • Gccaldwell2

        The article was on discrimination based on atheism in this particular school if I understand this article correctly. It wasn’t waving the flag of atheism in front of Christians, it was addressing an inequality in their school favoring Christian students, which is exactly what editorials are for.

      • RobMcCune

        Neither of you get it.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      Are you basically making an argument against having school newspapers, then?

      At any rate, this is the kind of thinking that treats high school students as withering flowers who can’t handle talking about political or religious topics. Advocating for making these subjects off-limits is a recipe for creating ignorant students with the hope that some of them will be confronted with new and different ideas in college. News flash: Not everyone goes to college, but everyone should have exposure to a diverse range of ideas. To suggest otherwise is to devalue the ability of high schoolers to think about controversial issues and to set them up to be unable to form cogent opinions about political or religious issues. Personally, I wholeheartedly condemn that notion.

    • NLazarus

       As much as I LOVE your user name, I have to disagree with you. Elementary school is where we learn reading/writing/arithmetic. By high school, students are learning history, social studies, current events. They’re learning how to present a thesis in an essay or a debate. They’re encouraged towards activism and community involvement. They’re also forming their ethics and their point of view that will be the grounds for their choices for the rest of their lives. It’s the first time in a child’s life when they begin to think independently of Mommy and Daddy, where they start to explore the world for themselves, as proto-adults.

      I think it’s wrong for teachers to use this delicate and sensitive period of developing self-awareness to promote their own religious and political agendas (although I understand that it’s a tight wire walk to avoid doing that), but I think absolutely that high school is the time for this kind of exploration.

      In my high school, which I graduated from in 1990, we had a gay-straight alliance club. We had an environmental club. We had a peace club. We had all kinds of school-sponsored activities from collecting coats for the poor to blood drives to food bank drives, all spreading the students’ awareness of the world outside their self-absorbed little lives. 

      And a school paper is an excellent venue for students to start exploring their world views, sharing ideas, speaking out on issues. They should absolutely be encouraged to express any concern they have, whether it’s social, political, religious or ethical. Shying away from politics and religion as topics of discussion and debate retards the process of actually _thinking_ about politics and religion. And we could all use to think more about these things, in my opinion.

  • Mike

    i think he’s a great teacher

  • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

    I was going to mention Hazelwood and the precedent that public schools do have the right to prior review and censorship given a specific educational or pedagogical purpose. I don’t think that was met in this case, however.

  • Aam55

    That is so wrong of them to do…I am a Christian and don’t understand why people don’t treat each other equally. A lot of religious people act so stupid and give other normal believers a bad rap. If they would just follow what God says, “not to judge others” then it would be fine but they get a God complex themselves and F*ck it all up! He was just defending students, who cares what they believe, it was the right thing to do. I believe in God and don’t give a crap what the next person believes, why? Because it is their right to believe whatever the heck they want! They should not be treated as less for doing so. If they believe that Unicorns made the world with Fairy dust, but they are still a good kind person, then who gives a crap! High five them for being a good person and carry on people!

    • james_dondo

      “I am a Christian and don’t understand why people don’t treat each other equally”

      well, it is quite simple… NO WHERE in the bible does the concept of equality even exist! that comes out of the renaissance and the french revolution that brought humanity out of the darkness that religion had imposed upon it for thousands of years, and the place that america is heading if you people don’t stop the insanity!!

      in the bible, clearly women are treated as chattel at best, and objects to be discarded by society and not people. those concepts were championed almost 2000 years later by men and women who dared defy religious institutions and governments who refuse to keep them out of the political systems that they seek to impose on entire cultures and nations around the world. this is what your bible teaches from genesis to revelation.. go read the book and prove me wrong… you won’t as it is there if you go look for it.

      your equality was born in france and brought to america by men who MAY have been deists (can accept the concept of an impersonal god, not a personal one such as islam or christianity) while a lot of them were atheist in their outlook toward god, that meaning they didn’t believe in one, nothing else!! the french revolution showed the world that there is a cost to desiring true equality for all, and sadly, america is quickly returning to a time when science will no longer be free to explore, thoughts will no longer be free to be expressed, let alone examined for it’s validity… religion desires control and seeks to do so by fear and manipulation and keeping the masses ignorant of truth while claiming to own ALL truth.

      perhaps this sunday if you actually go to your church, take your bible and follow along with the preacher and verify what he is saying is actually found in the bible. then go and read the verses he chose to ignore while making his points… you may be shocked at what your bible actually says. reading your bible may make you an atheist! so be careful, your preacher knows this and wants to show you only the parts he wants you to see…

      cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

    Two comments:

    1) Krystal was the editor; editors tend to earn the right to editorials or opinion pieces.
    2) I wouldn’t be criticizing someone else’s writing, given the atrocious quality of your writing in the above post. If you were one of my students, I’d have marked all over that comment, especially at your inability to punctuate and construct parenthetical statements properly.

  • Cryorkus

    There’s a difference between accepting gays and promoting being gay.
    I do supported gays until they started promoting that you have to try…

    • Glasofruix

      When did that happen exactly?

  • Jack Carlson

    It appears the parents don’t want their children thinking too much. The only time they support “teaching the controversy” is when they try to get creationism taught in the science classroom. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=515209390 James William Jake Frizell

    We need more guys like this. Kids don’t need to spend more time hating and misunderstanding each other, since that’s already bad enough with all the little cliques and hormonal drama. It seems like they interpret the idea of telling kids who are gay or atheist that they have support and are ok people, as some kind of attack on their “right” to re-enforce ignorance and bigotry.

    It is. Their right to teach their own kids to hate other people for something as small as sexual orientation or non-belief stops at making other kids unable to feel welcome or normal. If you don’t think little Tim or Sue will continue hating who you want them to hate if they even get the suggestion that it’s ok, then tough shit. I’ve known so many great people who were terrorized when they were young just because of their own personal private beliefs and preferences, and any school that stops discussion of progressive ideas just to maintain a failing tradition of ignorance that couldn’t possibly survive even talking about it deserves the opposition it rightly earns.

  • jule

    As a Christian I admit I would like to see more Christians in schools.  That said, this was handled wrong.  If any action should have been taken, the school board should have demanded an opposing view article rather than censorship.  This was the perfect opportunity to promote people of differing views getting along.  Agree to disagree and move on.  This was not the way to teach a lesson in freedom of speech or press or democracy.  Now these kids are going to move forward as intolerant jerks.  We don’t need more of them – on either side of the arguement. 

    • Stev84

      Schools are already full of Christians.

      Also, the “Every issue has exactly two sides that are equally valid” thing is exactly what’s wrong with journalism these days. It’s just not how the world works and not something that should be taught to students. Not all arguments are equally valid and not all issues have two sides. Especially when it comes to civil rights one side is simply wrong.

  • David Pratt

    If this town had had someone like this, there might be a few more kids alive today:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/one-towns-war-on-gay-teens-20120202

    After reading this article, I applaud Mr. Yoakley and those who have the courage to stand up for what is right, regardless of the consequences.

  • Webbernomolos

    It is only fair that he is not allowed to preach his atheist views amongst the young minds of the students. Christian related subjects were banned a long time ago in public schools, Atheism is as much a religion as Christianity or Buddhism. 

    I am quite surprised at how many people feel sympathy for this guy, what part of this incident evokes such pathos? So atheists are allowed to preach to the young minds of students while it is considered inappropriate for a worker in the Great Britain to wear a cross necklace to work?  

    Please look at this issue with a bit of intelligence and understanding, if no religions are allowed in public, there should be no exceptions. 

    • Glasofruix

      Atheism is as much a religion as Christianity or Buddhism.

      Since when? Btw, secular values are all about equality and diversity, if you have something against that, you are a sick fuck.

      He wasn’t teaching or preaching about atheism, he showed his support to kids that don’t fit into brainless christian idiot mold set by the religious majority, why is it bad? Oh yeah, it makes kids think.

      Also you’re mixing apples and snakes here, the worker in the UK got wrist slapped because she wore dangling jewelry, not because it was a stupid cross.

      Please look at this issue with a bit of intelligence and understanding

      We’re already doing that, you obviously are not.

    • RobMcCune

      Allowing students to express their views is not preaching. He allowed students freedom of speech to publish articles about being gay and being an atheist, that’s what got him in to trouble. Since when is allowing students to voice opinions ‘preaching’?

      Please look at this issue with a bit of intelligence and understanding, if no religions are allowed in public, there should be no exceptions. 

      It might help your case if you got the facts straight.

    • NLazarus

       All the students questioned made it clear that he was not preaching any of his views to them. These articles came _from_the_students_. All he did was support their freedom of expression. And if Christian related subjects were _actually_ banned from public schools, why is this student writing about Christian prayer as a regular part of her school experience? The whole reason she felt the need to write her article is because she was encountering Christianity in her school on a regular basis. But her letter was suppressed.

      Athiesm is not a religion. We have no organization, no structure, no temples. We do not pray or worship. We have no code of ethics.  Athiests are simply people who don’t believe in supernatural beings. Which is why we tend to be treated like second-class citizens because we don’t have a representational lobby. We don’t have leaders or ranks. We aren’t _together_. But we still have the right to be protected from discrimination, including being told, in a variety of ways, that we do not belong, are not welcome, are not included in our public schools, BY the schools. Highschool kids get enough of that nonsense from each other. The schools should be encouraging and promoting a sense of unity, of acceptance, of tolerance and a celebration of diversity, not estranging some of their students, based on their beliefs or lack, thereof.

  • No

    fuck everything about these people

  • NLazarus

    It’s obvious that Yoakley is heavily influencing these innocent
    children, right under the noses of the school boards and headmaster. He’s clearly got them under his
    spell. He’s obviously infecting them with the ideas of freedom of
    speech, freedom of expression, tolerance of others and the courage to
    stand up for what you believe in. That monster.

  • Jen

    Thank you, Mr. Yoakley

  • ConorPF

    That’s absolutely awful that he was treated badly. I *wish* I had teachers like him. As a side note, that “impressionable age” comment at the end of the comment is pretty ironic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1392585140 Major Tom

    I support this man. However using the word “travesty” in regards to “what he’s gone through” might be a bit over the top. IMHO this man knew what he was doing and probably suspected at the type of outcry. I applaud his courage, and I wish him the best.  This type of thing isn’t a tragedy. It’s the tough road of the human rights activist. Stay strong brother.

  • Delkomatic

    I actually book marked this website for the sole reason of the people commenting on here. Its been awhile since I have scrolled through a comment board and actually had some faith in humanity restored. The article is also pretty well written and I like the fact the writer is not afraid of providing their own opinion because well to me that is what is missing from journalism. It seems today, which is evident for what happened to this poor teacher, that journalists are forced into fear of what they write so they write sup par crap that is usually not even the truth. Thanks for not being ignorant fools! 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XPBN37HU46ZF7VG4RCHBE4XFSU ☼☁☂☃WEATHERMAN☃☁☂☼

    I’m going to take a guess and say that Lenoir City H.S. doesn’t have a gay-straight alliance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

     Read a bit more on Mother Teresa.  She may have been responsible for more starvation than she actually stopped.  There is a sense that she was sainted too soon.  Some articles have outright called her a fraud, and for good reason

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Edwards/100000295343345 Anthony Edwards

    On the contrary, it seems Mother Teresa was quite possibly a fraud.  There are a slew of published articles on the subject.  For example, she called herself ‘Mother’, rather than being given that name by others.  In spite of her apparent ‘good will’ she often flew to california for her own medical issues.

  • Malcolm Mor

    I’m an atheist, brought up an atheist, and have never understood the need to belong to a support group, nor why so many of my fellows react like a vampire when presented with a cross.

    Grow up and stop letting something imaginary run your life.

    • NLazarus

       Nobody’s reacting like a vampire presented with a cross. The original objection was to a clear breach of the division between church and state, which has been backed up in numerous court cases. She had every reason to object; having the school present any faith ostracizes those who don’t share it. And suppressing her  letter on the issue was a clear act to silence this concern, and an infringement on her freedom of speech. Her letter wasn’t rude or profane; it was concise, well-researched and well-written. I have no issue with Christianity, or with Christians practicing their faith, but when anyone abuses the system to promote their religious (or non-religious, or political) agenda, that’s a problem.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      Congratulations to you, but you don’t get to dictate how people feel or what their personal desires are.

  • http://askanatheist.tv/ Becky Friedman

    Why is teaching middle school characterized as a demotion?  Was it that he was a HS teacher AND had the extra jobs of paper and yearbook advisor, and now he doesn’t have those extra (presumably paid) duties?  

  • Shellz

    I’m sorry, I’m christian, Southern Baptist at that… I don’t see a problem with the girl putting a paper out there like that or the gay boy for that fact… what is the big deal. If we are not allowed to express our opinions then why the hell do we live in “America Land of the Free”? Just because they express their feelings in writing that doesn’t mean you idiots that take it offensively or how ever you may take it… And for the Teacher I give you a lot of respect for supporting those who don’t believe how a lot of people in this world believe we should. Much love to you and I hope you continue to support those that are as people would say “different” although I look at is as we are all the same!

  • Brannan007

    I’m not going to lie either, I’m a Reform Jew and I enjoy my religion. However, this story is just another example of why the NAP and other similar groups who have similar purposes- ( I belong to the Secular Coalition for America), to not only keep religion out of politics and limite religious groups overt influences over politicians and thereby having legislative power visa vie those so called politicians who don’t represent the people of the State that elected them but rather represent their Partys’ interests and those interest groups that donated the most. How can this country preach to other countries with fledgeling democracies the importants of seperation of Church and State when we don’t do it. Just read the back of any bill and it states “In God We Trust”. Also, every President or other high politician ends their speach on equality or even what they had for breakfast with ” and God please the United States of America.” Wow, what a hipocratic country we live in. We say, protect those who can’t protect themselves but we only utter the words and then do nothing or we try to justify why we do nothing. “We are all equal, just some are moreequal than others.”

    We must protect other groups and individuals who may be differnent by are still part of our society and community and as minorities, need us more than anyone. Here, we seem to have a case where there is a big bully on the playground and that bully is the school, board of education and anyone else who opposed the right of self expression. These kids never meant to hurt anyone but rather to inform them of their uniqueness, We should be celebrating their courage rather than figuratively, slapping them in the face and making them feel like second class citizens and trying to force them to conform to social norms that seem to be dictated by people who lack vision, empathy or tolerance. My question now is, “are we really free in the US?” or are only free as long as we conform to societies demands?

  • Beetboy12

    I am a Christian too. Being a Christian doesn’t make you ignorant, closed-minded, or conservative. If anything acceptance of the Lord should bring enlightenment, wisdom, patience, compassion. This story is an ironically convincing argument in favor of home schooling. How could I expose my children to such bigotry and obstinacy, ignorance and closed-mindedness!  

    • Arletta

      Beetboy, you wouldn’t think being a christian would make one ignorant or closed minded, and yet so many of them are. The republican party is filled with them and it is them that are driving the assault on our political freedoms, while the democrats are filled with atheists and non christian theists who call for tolerance and acceptance. I recommend to you to take some time and ask yourself just why is reality the opposite of your assumptions. Does your religion cause the bigot or is the bigot attracted to the religion? And I disagree that it’s a convincing argument in favor of home schooling. It’s a convincing argument of getting religious zealots out of our public school system.

  • Tobias 27

    This type of transfer or demotion to teaching the least desirable classes is very commonplace in education everywhere – whenever a teacher does not toe the company line.  No one speaks out about it but it happens every year in every district

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      You might be overselling that point a bit. It happens, but it’s nowhere near ubiquitous.

  • DDF

    It depends.  If the school doesn’t allow students to post articles saying ‘My life as a Christian’, then that’s consistent.  Likewise, if it allows students to run an article saying ‘It’s OK not to accept homosexual normality’, then that would balance out.  It depends on what the paper does.  It shouldn’t be used to advance one point of view, religious or non-religious.  It likewise shouldn’t be used to promote one point of view about any particular social issue.  If it’s allowed students to speak out against homosexuality, or promote Christianity, then it overstepped the mark and then some and must allow students to publish other viewpoints.  If it hasn’t, then it’s being consistent.  I would need more information before making a judgement call.  Same with Mr. Yoakley.  As long as he would support views from various sides of the debates, I’d support him all the way. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S4B6MSM2WB2T257XU3LVLNYQBE Chris

    Funny how Christians don’t seem to mind brainwashing children with their ridiculous fairy tales and close minded bigotry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ted-Reading/100001058329488 Ted Reading

    How did Peter Fonda turn into Ned Flanders in one generation?

  • Beaulen

    The comments at the News Sentinal are pretty good, not as one sided as this article suggests.

  • Karen B. Jones

    I am glad that there are teachers like this who are not afraid to stand up for what’s right, even at the risk of their jobs.  

    To the anti-Christian commenters here:  Unfortunately, the encounters that Atheists really remember between themselves and Christians acting on their beliefs are often the negative encounters.  In that context, it is easy for Atheists to generalize all Christians as behaving and believing in the same intolerant, ignorant way.  However, the Christian haters are not a majority of Christians, even though the volume of their shouting may make it seem that way at times.  You do the whole group a disservice to characterize them all that way.   There are many kind, tolerant, good Christians out there.  They just generally don’t shout about their beliefs, so it’s harder to hear them over the bad ones.  

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      Your point is a fair one: it would be good to remember that there are Christians who would (and, from the looks of this thread, already have) condemn the actions of this school board. But looking from the other direction (and I was on your side of the fence, so to speak, not that long ago), it’s very difficult to hear the voices of more tolerant Christians, and those Christians rarely have the clout or authority to make a rational position heard. As a result, school boards and administrators like this become the face of Christianity that has to be countered.

      So what I’d like to propose is a compromise: we atheists should remember in our anger that people like this do not (and indeed cannot) represent all Christians, and you Christians should cut us some slack when we get angry at these Christians because, in all likelihood, we’re not talking about you if you’re with us on secular issues. Sound fair?

  • http://www.facebook.com/thefunrev Ruth Shaver

    I’m so happy that he’s found contentment and support working at the Middle School. SHAME on the principal, the school board, and everyone else for their role in oppressing the free expression of the students and for taking out their fear on such a wonderful teacher. And, like Ecr1971, I’m a Christian. And like that poster, I am HORRIFIED by such narrow-mindedness. Your faith isn’t authentic if you feel you have to shut down those who believe differently (such as the young woman who wrote about atheists being an oppressed minority, and how much more evidence than that does one need to prove her point?!) or act in a way that is contrary to your beliefs about human nature (such as the young man whose article appeared in the yearbook, and BTW, I think any form of consensual romantic/emotional/physical relationship between two consenting adults is blessed by God).

  • http://www.facebook.com/neonjase Jase Ruel

    Unfortunately, people fail to realize that these children don’t have the same rights as we adults do. They aren’t working for a publicly controlled media organization. They can’t exercise the freedoms of the press. These publications are controlled by the school board and administrations, and they have every right in the name of academia to control what is and isn’t published. The fact the principal didn’t elect to use their right of review and then punishes the teacher who published said content smacks in the face of injustice and overreaching “CYA”. The principal needed to “Cover Your Ass” because they got backlash from the public and the school board, so let them try to destroy the teacher instead. The only one who should have got demoted was the principal, for failure to do their job, not the teacher.

    Before people start complaining about me, let me tell you, I support this TEACHER and his students 100%. I believe that the education system needs to foster the spirit of education and get away from legislation. We can’t expect the future generation to make a change if we don’t give them the knowledge and tools to actually make a change. This teacher did the right thing. He allowed his students to get their story, present it in a logical manner, and to speak to the masses. He taught them the power of the word, and for actually doing his job, he gets slammed on.

    Props to the teacher for standing up to the big bad wolf and for taking his demotion in stride, and making something of it. We need more educators like him!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Edward-Margerum/100001557014982 Edward Margerum

    Unfortunately high school is often an exercise in mind control by  school administrators. 

  • DesertSun59

    Wow.  When a Christian has to FIRE (or transfer) someone for supporting a non-believer, you can tell that the person’s belief is hanging by a thread and he/she felt THREATENED that the tiny tenuous thread of faith might break.

    Tiny, tenuous thread.

    Anyone who has faith that can move mountains isn’t threatened by the support of non-belief.  Anyone who has just a picogram of faith must lash out and destroy that which might make it evaporate altogether.

  • Jasonut29

    Ignorant people! I wouldn’t call it a conservative district; I’m sick the word conservative being used as a shield for hate and bigotry! Conservative accept they don’t lie and they certainly don’t force people out because of their views, Goldwater and Reagan were conservatives this group of wackos are not!

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      You might want to just choose a different word at this point; “conservative” is pretty tainted with hate and bigotry now. Also, “no true Scotsman” arguments aren’t going to fly around here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.kramer.71 Jeffrey Kramer

    I know this wasn’t Hemant’s central point, but…  I would also have declined to publish Krystal Myers’ “No Rights: The Life of an Atheist,” on strict Composition 101 grounds, because it just did not support its thesis.  She says:

    “Youth ministers are also allowed to come onto the school campus and
    hand candy and other food out to Christians and their friends. However, I
    feel like if an atheist did that, people would not be happy about it.”

    Your *feeling* that people *would* express more *unhappiness* if you did something is not evidence that you *are* being denied your rights.

  • Hllywd641

    Actually, people SHOULD read the News-Sentinel comments. It’s rare these days, but having read the comments, I’m proud to be a Tennessean. Sure, there are some ignorant comments. 3 by my count. Pretty good ratio for an internet comment board, I’d say. Most of the comments are either supporting the teacher,  supporting the students, or calling out the hateful posters. Way to represent, East TN!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-David-Barber/100000327055940 Michael David Barber

    Of course the rabid religionists have a stranglehold on the School Board or this would not be an issue.  So sad so many zealots don’t understand science, the scientific method, human rights or any other subject that their pastor hasn’t drummed into their little tiny minds.

  • http://twitter.com/Anti_Intellect Anti_Intellect

    Not surprising. I got in trouble by my principal for teaching my students about gender stereotypes and sexism. 

  • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

    I wish all of my kids’ teachers were people like him.  If anyone reading the comments (including Hemant, of course) is a teacher like this anywhere in the world, thank you. You make a difference.

  • amycas

     It’s also not “natural” for humans to fly, so I guess we should out-law airplanes too…

  • ESC_key

     James Yoakley, Krystal Myers, and Zac Mitchell are truly heroic, and restore a part of my faith in humanity. My deepest thanks to all three of them for that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

    Update?  Looks like the students learned from his example and started an independent press:

    http://www.theredpen.org/mission-2/

    Linked from HERE:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/19/cyberwar-last-gasps-hate-speech

  • Shayne-7

    If this happened to the Pied Piper of Hamlin, then why would you think it would not happen to others?  Yes, I am a Christian, and I think I am very broad minded, and open minded.  Teachers are allowed to touch students in different ways?  Really?  Can you tell me more?  Maybe he will write a book, about how he was wronged by society, and make a lot of money.  Maybe that would prove he is right.  But then, again, maybe not.  Somehow, I think he will be OK, can you say that about others that you know?


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