High School Atheist Gives TEDxYouth Talk About the Obstacles He Faced in Forming a Secular Student Group

Jordan Balderas just graduated from high school, and he spent his senior year trying to start a group for atheists and Agnostics at his school called “Youth for Truth.” (The name, he says, suggests that they’re searching for truth, not that they alone possess it.)

He was successful… but, in a talk for a TEDxYouth event, Jordan spoke about all the hoops he had to jump through to make that group a reality:



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MIT May Be the Next School to Have a Humanist Chaplain

Last month, MIT announced that graduation ceremonies would no longer have a religious invocation:

In response to recent requests that the Commencement Committee reconsider the nature of the invocation that opens the Exercises on Killian Court, we first gathered input from the student body via a survey that yielded nearly 600 responses. The next step was a meeting to review the survey data that included student leaders Anika Gupta and Sid Rao as well as representatives from the Secular Society of MIT. From this conversation and from the responses of students to the survey, consensus emerged that a neutral, non-religious invocation would be welcome and broadly appealing. Chaplain to the Institute Robert Randolph was engaged to discuss the universal nature of this message, and the desires expressed by a wide range of student voices.

The committee thanks the students who participated in the process and all those who shared their thoughts via the survey. In 2014 and beyond, Dr. Randolph will deliver an inclusive, secular invocation in which he calls on graduating students to reflect on their education with gratitude and hope as they commence to work wisely, creatively, and effectively toward the betterment of humankind.

Respectfully,

Chancellor Eric Grimson, Chair
Professor Les Norford, Commencement Marshal
Ms. Gayle Gallagher, Executive Officer for Commencement
Commencement Committee
May 9, 2014

The impetus for that change was an opinion piece in the The Tech written by the former president of the Secular Society of MIT, Aaron Scheinberg.

Now, Scheinberg is off and running on his next big project: Creating MIT’s first Humanist Chaplaincy.

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My Book About Young Atheists Was Handed Out at Kentucky High Schools Yesterday

Earlier this year, Gideons International requested and received permission to leave Bibles at a Kentucky public elementary school in Casey County so that interested children could pick them up.

In response, the Tri-State Freethinkers group decided they also wanted to play the game by leaving books promoting Humanism at the same school. The district had no choice but to allow them to do it.

Since the Gideons group has reach beyond just that district, the Freethinkers made similar requests elsewhere — and they received permission from the Boone County school system to give away copies of a book that I wrote: The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide.

Yesterday, on the last day of classes, the book was distributed at a few different high schools in the district (much to the chagrin of Christians like Ken Ham):



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Catholic School Anti-Gay “Morality Clauses” Are Pushing Good Teachers Out of the Profession

Just last month, life-long Catholic Molly Shumate resigned from her position as a first grade teacher after the Cincinnati Archdiocese told her she had to sign a contract that forbade her from publicly supporting the “homosexual lifestyle.” Given that her own son was gay, there was no way she was going to put her religion’s archaic rules before the love she has for her son:

She’s not alone.

A lot of teachers who work at Catholic schools are pushing back against the rigid, homophobic rules that many religious officials are trying to force onto them. There used to be something of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality, but now these teachers have no choice but to choose sides.

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I’m a Student at Lebanon High School and I Thought My Principal’s Religious Graduation Speech Was Distasteful

Over the weekend, I posted about how Kevin Lowery, the principal of Lebanon High School (Missouri), gave a very unusual greeting speech at graduation. It was full of references to how religious he was and how our currency and motto point to God’s impact and influence on our country.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has already sent the school a letter warning them not to do it again, though I have to say I don’t find it very persuasive when they write, “A reasonable observer would conclude that, as principal, Mr. Lowery’s statements were being endorsed by the school.” His comments seemed to me to be wholly his own — and still completely inappropriate. No non-Christian principal would’ve been able to get away with a speech like that without a national uproar. (I’m not quite ready to surrender to Jerry Coyne just yet…)

Yesterday, I heard from a current student at Lebanon High School who attended that ceremony. She preferred to remain anonymous (for good reason, as you’ll see below), though I was able to confirm that she is indeed a student there.

Her (edited) message is below:

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