Radio Station Profiles the Leader of the Only High School Atheist Group in Alabama

Duncan Henderson is the founder of the only high school atheist group in Alabama and local radio station WBHM recently aired a nice profile of him.

Duncan Henderson

My favorite part has to be the comments from the group’s faculty sponsor… who also happens to be the school’s principal:

[Duncan is] now founder and president of the Auburn High School Freethinkers’ Club, the only such high school club in Alabama. Things have calmed down and the club is established, thanks partly to principal Dr. Todd Freeman, the club’s sponsor.

Freeman says, “Our kids have a right to meet. And they have a right to establish a club, and it’s not my prerogative to necessarily agree or disagree with positions of clubs, but it is my prerogative and responsibility to make sure they have the right to have the club. I could see where there would be resistance, but it’s not really a question because it’s law.”

Then Freeman, who happens to be a devout Christian, adds, “Duncan knows my particular spiritual beliefs as a Christian and so do his mom and dad, whom we have a great relationship with, and work very well with. They’re just very nice folks.”

That’s not a glowing endorsement of the club, but it doesn’t matter. Duncan managed to find a sponsor who supports his right to meet. That’s all it takes.

Principal Freeman doesn’t support the Freethinkers club just to follow the law. He says he’s been impressed with the club’s “intellectually stimulating conversations.” He adds, “One of things that was an affirmation to me is that it was not a club that had an intent to disparage or denigrate other groups, or Christians. If you really embrace whatever your belief systems are, there’s commonalities that we treat people respectfully. And I saw that in those meetings.

There’s also a bit in the piece about how adults like me (including me, in fact) are pushing our agenda on kids like Duncan.

If I have any agenda with respect to young atheists at all, it’s that I want high school students who are questioning or who have decided they don’t believe in God to have the opportunity to talk about their beliefs in an open, safe way just like all the religious students can do.

Who knew that idea was so dangerous?

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.

  • Gordon Maples

    I find that whole “adults pushing an agenda” bit amusing. The SSA doesn’t go chasing down students to recruit into starting these groups. The students nearly always are the ones seeking out the SSA. 

  • Rev. Ouabache

    Brinson also worries that adults with agendas are partly behind the rise in youth freethinkers’ groups.

    And yet they don’t seem to see the same problem with groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or Campus Crusade for Christ. It’s only a problem when it’s people they disagree with who are pushing agendas.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    I like the quote you used. It takes on even more impact when you consider another paragraph in the WBHM article which says:

    [...] the 1984 Equal Access Act says any school club has to have the same access to meeting spaces and other resources as other clubs at a federally funded school. The law was originally promoted by religious groups who wanted prayer clubs and the like. Now, it also protects LGBT-themed organizations, freethinkers clubs, and more.

    So yeah, adults with agendas are indeed partly behind the rise in youth freethinker’s groups. Christians. Must have been the Devil that tricked them into doing His work.

  • rlrose63

    This is so nice to read… it’s great to see a principal (in Alabama, no less) embracing students’ right to meet, even if he doesn’t agree with the topic.  AND that the kids are having discussions that are respectful and not disparaging of other beliefs.  It CAN be done!