by Mark Sandlin
Kalei Wilson and her family have become the focus of threats and harassment from people who are upset by her attempts to begin a place for students, who happen to be nonbelievers, to gather for support and encouragement. As you might imagine, much of the resistance comes from Christians.
As a Christian minister in North Carolina, the state where this is happening, I find it beyond troubling and sadly ironic that people who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus are responding in such an aggressive, intolerant and unloving way. It’s inexcusable, really.
When I first heard about this story, I strongly felt the need to respond. I immediately realized that the response needed to include the voice of my friend, Madison Kimery, North Carolina’s own teenaged, activist extraordinaire! In some ways, Madison and I couldn’t be much different. I’m an oversized, scruffy, Presbyterian minister and she is a petite, brilliant, youthful atheist. Yet, we both strongly recognize the value of diversity and the freedom that this nation claims to offer to express those differences.
We’ve decided to write Kalei open letters of support. Be sure to read through to the end and to watch the very brief video at the end from both Madison and me. We offer up a couple of different ways we can further support Kalei.
Open Letter of Support to Kalei – Madison Kimrey
Dear Kalei,I don’t know you but I have a feeling we would be friends if I did. If I went to your school, I would not only join your club, I would run for an officer position in it.I’m an atheist, and even though my friends don’t judge me because of my beliefs, I know it can be very lonely sometimes. I know how it feels when everybody around you bows their head and you’re the only one looking up. I know that feeling of wanting to find other people like you and who really understand you. I understand how wanting this doesn’t mean you are trying to attack or change anyone else’s beliefs and how hard it can be to get others to understand this.
I also know what it’s like for people to bully you and come after you and your family because you stand up and try to help others. That isn’t easy and I want you to know that you doing the right thing for you and choosing not to go forward with your club in the face of that does not make you any less of a hero. You are an inspiration to me and I’m sure to others as well.
What you have done is made the path less treacherous for others to travel. You, as a young person, have done more to make this world a better place than many will do in a lifetime.
I am sad for your school that the adults in charge allowed this to happen to you. Had they done the right thing and let you start your club without any opposition, you may have never had to go through so much heartache and turmoil.
To me, it seems they are not teaching lessons of tolerance and respect but lessons that encourage the kind of bullying and attacks you and your family have endured. I hope that they will reflect on their behavior and choose to act differently in the future.
Please know that even though the club at your school didn’t work out the way you wanted it to, you’ve helped to start a much bigger club. This club is made up of people who might not share the same faith or religious beliefs, but who believe in loving our neighbors and standing up for them when they are attacked or discriminated against.
Thank you for all that you’ve done and all that you and your family has endured. You are a beautiful young woman.
Open Letter of Support to Kalei -
We Support Kalei Wilson
Madison and I got together and recorded this brief message of support for Kalei. We’d like to encourage all of our friends to do the same. Regardless of where you stand on the question of God, we should all be able to stand together on the issue of basic human dignity and respect. In the US, we should also be able to stand on the principles of the freedom of expression and civli liberties.Please consider making your own video or blog post of support and title them, “We Support Kalei Wilson.” It’s just the right thing to do.