Courageous High School Atheist Needs 5 Minutes Of Your Time

Rock Beyond Belief has a busy weekend planned (with that exciting 24 hour telethon that you are going to watch). However, I really want to shift gears for a second.

This is from reddit:

My graduation from high school is this Friday. I live in the Bible Belt of the United States. The school was going to perform a prayer at graduation, but due to me sending the superintendent an email stating it was against Louisiana state law and that I would be forced to contact the ACLU if they ignored me, they ceased it. The school backed down, but that’s when the shitstorm rolled in. Everyone is trying to get it back in the ceremony now. I’m not worried about it, but everyone hates me… kind of worried about attending graduation now. It’s attracted more hostility than I thought.
My reasoning behind it is that it’s emotionally stressing on anyone who isn’t Christian. No one else wanted to stand up for their constitutional right of having freedom of and FROM religion. I was also hoping to encourage other atheists to come out and be heard. I’m one of maybe three atheists in this town that I currently know of. One of the others is afraid to come out of the (atheist) closet.
Though I’ve caused my classmates to hate me, I feel like I’ve done the right thing. Regardless of their thoughts on it, basically saying I am ruining their fun and their lives, I feel like I’ve helped someone out there. I didn’t do this for me or just atheists, but anyone who doesn’t believe in their god that prayer to Yahweh may affect.
Moral of the story: though the opposition may be great, majority doesn’t necessarily mean right. Thank you for reading. Wish me luck at graduation.
EDIT: Well, it hit the fan a couple hours ago. They’ve already assembled a group of supporters at a local church and called in the newspaper. I’ve had to deactivate my Facebook account and I can’t reason with any of them. They refuse to listen. The whole town hates me, aside from a few closet atheists that are silently supporting, which I don’t blame them looking at what I’ve incited here. Thanks for the support though.
If anyone would like to offer support, the superintendent is who I emailed and the school’s website is
Thanks for the support. It’s really helping. This has just gotten sickening.
Edit: I’ve had requests for my Facebook info… I don’t mind giving that out at all. Damon Fowler – Bastrop, LA. I could use all of the support I can get. Not sure if this link will work:

Please support this brave young atheist

Obviously if you’re reading this, you ‘support the troops’ and care deeply about the separation of church and state. Many of you are Soldiers or Veterans yourself. We fight against repression, and for the integrity of the U.S. Constitution. Sometimes our fight requires talk and intelligent discourse, sometimes it requires litigation. As the ‘evangelical creep’ effect continues to manifest itself, perhaps it’s possible to head off the impending war with rational dialog in many of these cases.

Send an Email to the superintendent of his school.

Write a letter to the editor at Bastrop, LA’s local newspaper.
Contact: Mark Rainwater (318) 281 2691

Read the comments at the reddit article to hear even more ideas on how you can help.

If Damon happens to read this, he should definitely contact the Secular Student Alliance and the Louisianna ACLU. You will get some muscle to back you up in case they take the wrong side of this issue. Thanks for being a brave young defender of the Constitution, we foxhole atheists are proud of you.


This story has already been published in Bastrop’s local paper. Please go ahead and make use of the stupid poll that accompanies the article.

How do you feel about a student at Bastrop High School stating they were an atheist and pledging to contact the American Civil Liberties Union if a Christian prayer were offered at the school’s graduation on May 19?

  • I agree. Nothing should be done to offend anyone regardless of their beliefs. 57%
  • I disagree. The student should respect the desires of their fellow students. 36%
  • No opinion. 5%

Somebody call PZ Myers…

**2nd Update**

Though promising not to, the sneaky liars for Jesus went ahead with prayer anyway. Click to read more and see the shocking footage.

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  • Common Sensei UK


    Nobody gives a toss about some daft prayer – if this young man doesn’t want some depressing and insulting prayer read out on one of THE best days he will experience, where he has earned the right to be there and feel success …. then who the hell are these Christian idiots to argue.

    Whether or not you believe in God (which I do) I definitely do not believe in forcing a prayer upon somebody who does not believe.

    Because that is Fascism and nothing to do with God or religion, so stop being pig headed and arrogant and IGNORANT people of America.

    Leave the guy alone, this just proves that Christians are more interested in politically motivated hate than any love motived moves

  • Robin

    It’s become painfully obvious that many/most Christians do not follow Christ. This is most especially true of the evangelical branches. What they are spreading as the word of God is more hate filled than the devil’s words. Jesus is love and they are not.

  • Nathan Gillespie

    I believe in this instance that the atheist student is not correct. The Separation of Church and State idea as proposed by Jefferson as a functional meaning behind that aspect of the first amendment is implying that at the governmental level, religion should not be used as a vetting procedure or as a requirement for participation in one thing or another. If this prayer were to be required by your state board of education, that would violate the first amendment. However, it is a decision at the level of the individual school in a ‘Bible Belt’ area. I’m sure the ACLU would disagree with me, but I have had to dismiss them as extremists for years now.

    The fact of the matter is that the harrassment you are going through is unfortunate. I can’t say that they are in the right, either, because they aren’t. Both sides, the ‘very religious’ and the ‘very unreligious’ just get me entirely riled up. You feel that the ‘religious nutters’ are shoving their religion down your throat? What about how the ‘religious nutters’ feel with one person shoving their non-religion down theirs at the point of a gun? It’s the same thing.

    There were probably better options than putting a gun to the head of the school in this instance. That is my two cents.

    • Justin Griffith

      The issue of prayer in public school is settled law half a century old. This is a no-brainer. Sometimes there really is only one side to a story.

    • You’re right… this does sound pretty extreme. Like desegregation.

      • Josh Hedgepeth

        LOL. I agree with Justin. How is it that non religous people are shoving “theirs” (which is said in comparison to the religous’s religion; atheism is not a religion, and nonreligion is the default position) down the throat when all that is being said is that these sorts of religous rituals are not to be apart of a public school.

    • Glimt V.

      It is not shoving non-religion down their throats when a person requires a neutral space in the educational area of his society.
      He is not telling them to stop believing and he’s not telling them they can’t go to church.
      Religion is a personal matter and they have their own private homes and their churches in which they can act out their religious, unreasonable needs. This is not something which has a home in schools or any other public institution, it should be seperated. It is disrespectful to create religious ceremonies regardless of the majorities that non-believers, muslims, hindus, etc., should have to awkwardly attend. A graduation should be about graduation, not about personal gods and telepathically connecting with this puppeteering master.
      All that is required is neutrality. Is that really so damn difficult? Apparently in the home of one of the must multi-cultural, multi-ethnical countries in the world.

    • Danna


    • Dan

      Although I respect you for disagreeing in opposition to many, and I can see your point, I feel obligated to point out that this is NOT an extreme position!

      I truely don’t understand why people go to pieces about keeping prayer out of school. If you wanna pray at home be my guest – you want to pray by yourself in school – Have at it! – Wanna get together and have a prayer in the gym with your prayer buddies – FINE! Just don’t shove it down my throat!!!

      Vegetarians are not forced to eat meat against their will – why do we have to pray against our will.

      Just my opinion


  • Roxane

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I have written to the superintendent and the local paper, voted in the lamely-worded poll, and sent Damon a friend request on Facebook.

  • Oh my goodness that’s a very poorly worded poll! None of those three answers works at all. I wish journalists would allow readers to write poll questions. Especially I mean, dang.

  • Dawn Stone

    We know how, when and why religion was created. We know how the universe was created and how life evolved. It’s not a matter of belief, it’s about keeping americans stupid and controlled. As long as science is 2nd to religion, our country and economy will continue to get worse and we will not be able to compete against countries who have outgrown bronze age belief systems.

  • Roxane

    I hope people are taking the time to send a note to the paper. I did, and got a note back from Mark Rainwater asking permission to quote me in a follow-up article. With any luck, there will be enough responses so that he can talk about the national attention that this is getting–thanks to Rock Beyond Belief!

  • Bill

    Courageous? Surely you jest. It isn’t courageous at all to be lying to people –> telling them that their FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion is against the law.

    You claim to be a thinker, yet the plain and clear language of the FIRST AMENDMENT forbids Congress from making laws. You’ve turned the ***FREEDOM*** upside-down and you’re too blind to see it. (Eyes rolling…)

    When Congress (the law-makers) are forbidden from making a certain class of laws … the people ARE FREE. (But you want them to be bound – forbidden from SAYING what they WANT to say.)

    • Josh Hedgepeth

      I have no idea what you are saying here. Are you for it or against it?

    • DC

      Freedom of Speech is not boundless, it ends at the tip of your nose. Once it starts impairing the rights of others, in this case Damon’s Freedom of (or from) Religion, you no longer have that right.

    • Leigh

      You have completely missed the point. The school is public, and therefore a government institution. They cannot officially endorse a specific prayer because it would violate the First Amendment rights of those of other (or no) faiths. They CAN have a moment of silence during with anyone may silently pray.

      The issue isn’t stopping people from praying, it’s stopping the majority from screwing the minority out of equal rights.

  • Dennis

    The Separation of Church and state has more to do, as a Constitutional principle, with vetting political candidates. Congress is not to make a law regarding the establishment of “religion”, not just “church” but religion. That includes ANY religion. It just so happens that Christianity is the most prominent “offender” in our culture.

    This principle has been extended so that no government institution should favor or promote any religion at all and no religion over another as a de facto establishment of “religon”

    I think the student has a point. I support him and wrote an email on the schools site.

  • Dennis

    I meant to say, “more to do….with than just….”

  • David

    if you must endure a prayer on your graduation, demand that you get equal amount of time to do something equally offending towards Christians, like explaining that Jesus promoted love and forgiveness rather then hate and that they all will according to there own beliefs burn in hell for there sins against there fellow man for harrasing you to the extent that they have.

  • John

    I just sent my letter. I hope these mid evil loons start acting like grown ups and take a peek at the constitution instead of sticking there nose in the bible for knowledge.

  • Matt

    Why does his facebook page say he graduated in 2008?

    • Justin Griffith

      A few people noticed that, but this story is fresh.

  • I am an atheist, so take this for what it’s worth. According to the Bible, Jesus Christ said, “When you pray, pray in private.”

    • Joel

      You’re refering to Matthew 6:6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (NKJV). The context of this passage is referring to (paraphrase) praying like the hypocrites to be seen by others for their own glory, rather than God’s. But the bible also makes clear that people can pray together. Acts 4:32 and 12:12 for instance show instances where the disciples are gathered together praying and in the Old Testament starting at 2 Chronicles 6:13, Solomon has all of Israel gathered and prays before them.

  • Chantal Yacavone

    This is the letter I sent to the superintendent:
    Dear Sir, As a School Board Chair and parent of four living in Montana, I was dismayed to read the article regarding senior Damon Fowler of Bastrop High. Damon’s only trangression seems to be requiring the adults in his life to obey the United States Constitution. For his bravery and fortitude, he has been harassed not only by the children of his community, but publicly by the adults. The news article that appeared in Bastrop’s local paper sounded as if it had been written by the local playground bully instead of a fully grown adult. Shame on the editor who sent that to print with a silly little dig at a high school senior as it’s last line. How old was the reporter who wrote the article? Either the Constitution demands separation of church and state or it doesn’t. Damon Fowler did not personally pen the Constitution of the United States of America, he simply reminded you that you were obligated to obey it. The fact that your community doesn’t want to is your problem. Vilifying Damon only makes him your scapegoat and shows you to be a fairly ineffective Superintendent. It’s time for the adults in your community to grow up and start obeying the laws of the land. If they want to live in a theocracy, there are several countries to choose from, and they should start packing. It is a sad state of affairs when children need to remind adults that might does not make right in the United States of America. Freedom from Religion is a Civil Right. Sincerely, Chantal P. Yacavone

    • Darlene in Oregon

      Thank you. That is an excellent letter.

  • HannaBec

    I am not an atheist but it makes me SO uncomfortable when the godly stuff takes place in a public setting. It’s so exclusive, dismissive and disrespectful to those who don’t believe in God or believe in a power other than God.
    Why can’t they just have a moment of silence so people can do what they want…pray, silently hum a song, or mentally organize their Fantasy Baseball team. Wouldn’t that satisfy everyone?
    We’ll never have world peace, will we.

    • Josh Hedgepeth

      I thought a moment of silence might be best too. I suppose they could say, “Now let’s all ponder all of our acomplishments,” or something like that.

    • Mike Hu

      At least in Illinois, they do. Everyday at the beginning of second period is a moment of silence, which, as an atheist, I honor. This praise business at the graduation ceremony I do not.

    • Lori

      Here, Here. if there was a like button I would press it! This reply to HannaBec.

  • Shea Lindner

    Wrote a letter to superintendent.

  • Amber

    Go Damon go!!!!!!!!

  • Chris

    I’ve said it a few more times than I care to count… Religion, no matter which one, is a personal experience. Whether it is true or false is irrelivant.

    I’m sick of theists of all types. This whole “that’s not what jesus would do” crap has also got to go. True Scottsman falacy at it’s finest. No one can profess to know what is appropriate or not, and what is right or wrong. It is a PERSONAL experience, meaning that if it feels good to you then good on you. It gives you no right to violate anyone elses comfort.

    So… in conclusion… This student is standing up for his rights, and a bunch of assholes are giving him shit for it. It’s the 21st century… Fucking grow up adults. Time to leave the bible in the bookshelf with LotR, Harry Potter, Iliad, Moby Dick, etc…

  • geralyn mott

    i sent an email to the superintendent, left a comment on the newspaper’s page and even joined the paper’s facebook page to speak my piece there. they should be ashamed. the article as printed in the bastrop paper is shamefully piss-poor reporting, as well. the student is referred to as “the student who claims to be an athiest.”
    what morons

  • geralyn mott

    (oh, i also friended the kid on facebook. he needs all the support he can get, brave boy!)

  • Steve K

    This is why prayer (or moments of silence) should be banned from schools and all other government or state sponsored functions. The religious apologists would argue that a child/young adult isn’t forced to participate in school prayer. But look what happens when one refuses to participate. Typical (in my experience at least) Christian “love” and tolerance is shared with them in an all too familiar way. I get that this was a very public refusal, but don’t think for one minute that kids don’t notice when one of their classmates is not participating even if that classmate doesn’t make quite as much noise as this young man did. I am sorry but he didn’t ask for 5 minutes of forced atheist indoctrination at his graduation ceremony, so why should he just automatically accept the majority Christian ideal that a prayer must be “performed” before every group function? If they must pray, why can’t they do so 10 minutes before the official ceremony started? I don’t force my ideals on others and neither did this young man.
    My point is that we do not PUSH our agenda down the throats of the religious right. But if we PUSH BACK at all we are hit with a ton of nonsensical “talking points” and “sound bites” expounding the greatness of religion, how important it is to our national history and our government, and we are left to conclude that those who believe differently must keep it to themselves because the majority must be right and the rest of us must just play along nicely.

  • V

    I know I wouldn’t have the courage to do this. Hopefully he finds the support he needs from his parents/family, because I sure as hell don’t, and that’s the main reason why I’m a “closet Atheist”. Damon is one brave person for standing up to that, and YES he did the right thing. He stood up for himself, AND those who felt that they couldn’t. Isn’t it funny how an atheist represents “Christian Values” more than the christians do themselves?

  • willard

    sad that this kid is fighting to attend a HS graduation. which means about zilch these days on the job market. really, i support him to the end… but, really, let the devolved goons have their institutions. time for us to evolve somewhere else.

  • Jim

    My take on it (as another atheist) is that everyone should be entitled to their rights, if they want to pray, let them pray. No one is making you join in on the chanting. As an atheist, coming from a religious background, I was often subject to such moments throughout my life, I just took the time to sit back and contemplate upon my own interpretations of what they are saying, or just completely ignore it and think about something completely different. Don’t get me wrong, I know these situations can be awkward, and I full heartedly admire you for standing up in what you believe in, but the swing should go both ways… they cannot be accepting of what you believe in, show them who the better person is, and respect what they believe in.

  • Joel

    I think we need a bit more information on this story. Is the school requiring people to attend this prayer they have planned (is it for instance part of the actual ceremony)? The article would seem to suggest so, but doesn’t explicitely state such. If so, I agree with the student. The school cannot require anyone to attend the prayer session. People’s beliefs (whether for or against any religion or religious ceremony) should be respected. If, however, the school is merely providing an avenue for prayer that is completely optional, then I would say this kid is merely attempting to inflame the situation and cause drama unnecessarily. It’s just as wrong to shove athiesm down people’s throats as it is to do so with religion and if students wish to gather for prayer, then that is also their right.

  • TrekkerDan

    I never liked religion being shoved down my throat. Even as a young child I remember when they changed the pledge of allegiance to include the words “under God” made me feel alienated from the rest of the students. I always felt denigrated saying those words, just when I wanted to be proud and support my country. It is encouraging to see the internet has facilitating a rallying of the forces of reason, so now like-minded freethinkers can enjoy sharing rational thoughts with one another without looking over a shoulder for the religious reactionaries. Hooray for the Secular Student Alliance, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist community and others. There is hope for the future if we all support these courageous young people when speak up and attempt to change the status quo. Hopefully unlike the civil rights era of the 60’s, maybe the changes won’t require violence and loss of life.

  • Jesus Saves

    This makes me sad. Jesus gave up His life for all humans, and this kid can’t even allow a prayer to be said thanking Him for all that He has done?! I am praying for him and all of the other non-believers in the world.

    • David

      did you thank dr.who for saving earth ? no you din’t
      but i’ll thank him for you so he wont forget to include you next time he needs to do so. even if you are indoctrinated in to a conform(ing) machine producing good obedient consumers that is a part of a sect killing other ppl on a large scale, simply cus they don’t believe the same anthropomorphizing of the universes event that they did.
      wounder why Jesus was “born” on Christmas eve, and you still manage to celebrate with a tree in your house to honor and nurture nature on this the longest day of the year.

  • jeff wolfe

    i am a christian, but i dont beleave in pushing one religion for another.. or to push one on some one who does not want one for that matter.
    in my views god gave us free will. and that also means the free will to not beleave in a god..

    i admire your courage to stand up and be your own person..and not fall in line with what others wish you to be.. it takes great strenghth in heart to do that.

    i for one am proud of you. and will call you my brother in humanity to the end.

    good luck with all you are doing . and will do in the future. i wish you the very best.

  • Jaele


  • “And what’s even more sad is this is a student who really hasn’t contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates,” Quinn said.

    I’d say there’s a great chance he just contributed more to his classmates, ceremony and future students than any other student in the history of his school.

  • I read a comment by a reader of the Fowler story in their local paper.
    “If they don’t want to pray then stick your fingers in your ears.” – bass78
    In the interim, it definitely qualifies as peaceful protest. What do you think?

  • coolmos

    I’m sure you’re not aware of this, but it was the superintendent who made the name of Damon Fowler public after receiving his email.

    I don’t see why the name of the student is important to the subject? He should have known this would cause a shitstorm and should have protected the student.

    • Justin Griffith

      I didn’t know that at all. Shocking.

  • Christian Armstrong

    To be quite honest being a staunch atheist I can understand why you wish to opposed a daft pray being read out at your graduation to satisfy the many who still believe in such fairy tales. However, being Atheists we have a greater moral duty to tolerate those who wish to remain in a childlike state and don’t have the intelligence or courage to accept the undeniable truth that there is no God. It would be very gracious if you were to allow those idots to chant whatever meaningless nonsense they like at their graduation simply because they expressed a desire to do so, and by doing so allows to you take the moral, tolerant and intelligent high ground, which I imagine you have lost. Chris

    • Justin Griffith

      Hello troll.

      Nobody was stopping them from praying at any time. If any individuals feel that they need to take 30 seconds to pray for the strength to walk a short distance and pick up a piece of paper, nobody is going to stop them. There is no prayer-monitoring police looking for people with their hands clasped and heads bowed in a crowd of otherwise ‘ready to graduate’ students. The problem is when a government backed school leads a prayer (in any form), they do so at the expense of people who do not want it.

      This is settled law. Madalyn Murray O’Hair helped set this straight 50 years ago.

      Additionally, I don’t think you can claim the moral, tolerant high ground here:

      …tolerate those who wish to remain in a childlike state and don’t have the intelligence or courage to accept….

      allow those idots to chant whatever meaningless nonsense

      These people aren’t idiots because they are religious. I was very religious at one point, as were many of my fellow foxhole atheists. They were not then, nor are they now stupid. They were simply wrong.

      I’d like to point out that you are tipping the scale on my bullshit detector with this statement:

      “and don’t have the intelligence or courage to accept the undeniable truth that there is no God.

      Any atheist worth his salt wouldn’t write that. We are well aware that you can’t prove a negative, etc. Hence all the Flying Teapots, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, and Invisible Pink Unicorns. Proper usage for you, next time you pretend to be an atheist:

      [God-botherer] You can’t prove there is no God.
      [Atheist] You can’t prove that god isn’t a Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  • EyeballFrog

    Eh, douchebaggery in, douchebaggery out. It’s fairly clear the vast majority would have enjoyed having this, but since you find it vaguely unpleasant, apparently it has to go. The reaction was extreme, yes, but not particularly surprising.

  • Ella Ella

    Honey, you did the right thing and you should be very proud of yourself for standing up for the First Amendment, freedom, rational thought, and common decency. It’s people like you who are going to make future generations become more and more enlightened. Don’t ever stop standing up for what’s right!!

  • I do not support the troops. I hate Americans and every other nation; all Commonwealths/Republics/Dèmocraties must be taken down.

    Death to cretins! [Editor’s note: tinfoil hat is required]

  • Dan

    To openly disobey what was told not to happen is typical of bible belt states. I wonder what would happen if before the prayer they asked that “only the white” or “only the colored” people should stand in prayer? Bet that would make national news in a heartbeat! It is no different to invoke one’s religious beliefs on others than it is to pick out people of a certain color or whether they dress a certain way or if they are all male or all female. How would christian’s feel if the valedictorian was Muslim or Hindu and asked everyone to kneel before prayer to Allah? My guess is the school would have ALOT of angry X-tians beating down the door the next day!

    • Joe M

      Dan. You are using hypothetical nonsense to support your argument. Anything with any common sense knows that religion had nothing to do with segregation. SO its unlikely that would happen.

      Also, many of you use other religions, such as Hindu and Muslim, to support your argument. Well, there might be many nationalities in America these days. But many of them still get criticized by the majority. If you actually know where you come from, you will see that Christianity was the predominate religion when America started. And even though the native americans were unfairly invaded, they assimilated to Christianity without complaint. No matter what differences there were between settlers, the religion was taken for granted because it was belief system that kept people good. The ones that rejected it were out of control and created chaos for everyone else. They stood for nothing but freedom and were lazy and didn’t want to work. Now look at today’s society of laziness. Its no coincidence to me that history is repeating itself. Except in this case we are seeing a larger number of ‘rebellious’ individuals who believe only in freedom.

      Because this country was built by the hands of Christians, you can expect them to spend the most time trying to preserve it. Just because American leaders over time allowed society to become a melting pot of many ideas and religions, it doesn’t make it right. You can’t follow all religions. Obviously that couldn’t work at all. So you end up with a country that has to cancel out all systems of beliefs, resulting in a pointless society full of nothing but superficial, materialistic people. They will destroy each other eventually. Its happened before more than once. Religions belong separate. But Christianity belongs in America. And I guarantee you that it will prevail. It is the only thing here that creates a selfless society. Right now, its leaning toward selfish.

  • Joe M

    If you know your history and aren’t self absorbed, you will already know that past generations that included christian values in school were much better than they are today. Academics have always been something that was created to revolve around the government’s ideas. They teach nothing about life and living. Having values in school “saved” many children who couldn’t get guidacne at home due to poor parenting. Getting them into school was a good thing. Now its the opposite. They are being taught even more academics and the socializing has been upped. This means more cruelty for more kids. And there will be a percentage of the ones with terrible parents that will feel even more lost at school. Statistics reflect what I am stating here.

    So atheists can preach all they want about what makes them hate christianity. All they want is nothing more than scientific truth. This teaches us nothing. Digging up dinosaurs or discovering planets teaches us nothing about selflessness and empathy. These things must be nurtured from day to day. School should be a place for this above math and english. And the big difference between christians and atheists, besides God, is that a christian seeks to add something to a person using positive ideals. An atheist seeks to remove something using negativity. They want to wipe the slate clean and they believe that the only thing a person needs is freedom. It goes to show how narrowminded you people really are. Humans have proven for centuries that too much freedom creates a chaotic society and eventually it destroys itself.