In a victory for young atheists, a high school in North Carolina will allow students to form a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance after initially refusing to do so.
The decision to allow the atheist club was made only after significant pressure was brought to bear by the Secular Student Alliance (SSA), the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union.
For over a year, administrators at Pisgah High School in Waynesville, North Carolina, told students they could not form a secular student group because it would not “fit in” at the school. However, in the face of a legal challenge for violating the students’ rights, and a great deal of public pressure and bad publicity, school administrators relented, and decided to allow students to form the club earlier this month.
The Friendly Atheist reports 15-year-old Kalei Wilson and her brother Ben (who attempted, to no avail, to start the same group last semester) will each be receiving $1,000 scholarships from the Freedom From Religion Foundation for their courage and effort in the face of oppression, ignorance, and even threats.
NY Daily News reports there already is an active Christian group on the Pisgah High School campus, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, aka the “Bible Club.” The Christian group’s goals are made clear on the Pisgah High School website: “The vision of FCA at Pisgah is to see our school and community impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of athletes and coaches.”
In a statement, August E. Brunsman IV, executive director of the SSA, said:
“We are thrilled to see this victory for Kalei and all of the students at Pisgah High School! We fight everyday to ensure students’ rights aren’t infringed upon, and are pleased with this response from Haywood County Schools.”
According to a press release from the SSA:
“The Secular Student Alliance plans to keep a close watch on Pisgah High School to ensure Kalei and her fellow students can build her community without any further violations of their rights. We are certain the administration will do the right thing and follow the law when it comes to students building communities.”
Kalei reports “about 20 students have said they are going to come to the first meeting but I don’t know if they all will,” noting “some kids have been very mean…”
Congratulations to Kalei Wilson, her brother Ben, and young freethinkers everywhere with the courage to stand up for reason in the face of superstition and ignorance. If you want to help support the SSA Club at Pisgah High, the group has a go fund me page.