Mitzi Quinn: I am pissed at you

Quite literally every week some ideological bully (usually as part of a gang of ideological bullies) decides to open their mouth and make me glad I have a job that pays me to haul out my claws and go feral in defense of godless students.  However, never before has something made my blood boil this much.

A student at Bastrop High School in Lousiana has asked their school to comply with the law and to not offer a sectarian prayer at graduation.  Unwilling to piss away a great deal of money fighting a losing battle, the school wisely agreed.  Good on them for that.

But then one of the teachers, Mitzi Quinn, decided to severely embarrass the school.

In the past, Quinn said there have been students who were atheist, agnostic and other non-Christian religions who “had no problems” with the prayer.“They respected the majority of their classmates and didn’t say anything,” Quinn said. “We’ve never had this come up before. Never.”

Throughout her time working with the student, Quinn said they never expressed their personal beliefs or that they had any problems with other students’ Christian faiths.

As if that makes it the least bit legal or any less of a marginalization of atheists.  I wonder if that was the reaction when the first women started getting uppity about not being allowed to have a job.  Mitzi Quinn should be grateful that “this has never come up before!” was just as shitty an argument then as it is now.

Well Mitzi, the issue is coming up now and it should stand on whether or not it’s right, not on how many years of silence preceded it.

What’s more, it’s not about having a problem with the beliefs of others.  It’s about halting the marginalization of atheists by having them forced, as a captive audience, to be subjected to sectarian prayer by a government institution.

But this obtuse bitch wasn’t done.

“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.

Even if we forget for a moment that this is a completely inappropriate thing for a teacher to say, who gives a shit?  A person’s right to protection under the Constitution is not drawn from how much they contributed to their high school graduation.

But at least there’s only a single bad apple making religion look bad, right?  Surely all the more sensible Christians will police their own so that atheist bloggers like me will be unable to attribute heartlessness and a lunatic sense of privilege to Christianity.

Yeah, right.

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.

He’s ruining their lives by pointing out the law saying that he should not have to be subjected to Christian prayer at his public school?  Really?  Their lives are ruined if they have to mutter to their god before and after graduation rather than during it (or even during it so long as it’s personal and not an endorsement by a government institution)?  I can’t imagine how they’ll react when they encounter some real adversity in their lives (like a mud-slinging campaign from a gaggle of Christians in their community).  And they say that faith makes you a stronger person.  It seems to me that their religion has turned these people into demented fuckwits that need to get some perspective on life.

As Cranston high school student Jessica Ahlquist is well aware, this is how religious people win.  They do not win by having better arguments.  They do not win by playing fair.  They win by intimidation and mob rule, which is why we shouldn’t be surprised to see that the most public bully at the school is in a teacher.

While the followers of the most loving religion make Damon’s life hellish, what more could go wrong?  Sadly, a lot.  Damon’s brother just posted an update on reddit.

Here is an update: My brother has been cut off from all communication by my mother. He is not allowed to speak to me and I live 6 hours drive away from him. There’s nothing I can do. My sister is supposed to go pick him up tomorrow and he will no longer be living in that town or with my parents. He’s coming to Texas with me.

It’s no fucking wonder nobody has ever voiced their displeasure before!  How many people are willing to endure this level of public contention?  I’m glad he has such a supportive brother, but saddened that his parents could do something so calloused.  Who wants to bet they are followers of the religion that loves to tout its family values?

His brother has penned a very eloquent letter to the school.  I followed suit and penned as calm a letter to the superintendent as I could muster.

Dear Mr. Thrower,

It will probably come as no surprise to you that I am writing about the recent situation involving Damon Fowler.  However, I am not writing about the prayer: the school did right by the law by removing it and praise is certainly in order.  Thank you.

I hope the school will continue to do the right thing by both disciplining Mitzi Quinn and apologizing for her recent public remarks.  Her recent quotes in the Bastrop Enterprise are thoroughly unprofessional.

““They respected the majority of their classmates and didn’t say anything,” Quinn said. “We’ve never had this come up before. Never.”

Throughout her time working with the student, Quinn said they never expressed their personal beliefs or that they had any problems with other students’ Christian faiths.”

I’m sure I don’t need to point out that inaction over any period of time does not equate to legality and does not ensure that people were never marginalized previously by a certain policy.  Consider an array of issues in the history of our country with long-standing precedents before somebody, finally, was bold enough to stand up and comment on them.  Our country would look much different (and significantly less equal) if “we’ve never had this come up before” was a sufficient argument.

Another thing Mrs. Quinn said that disturbed me was:

“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.

As the school is clearly aware of the illegality of the prayer, you are also certainly aware that a student’s right to protection under the constitution is not contingent upon how much they contribute to their graduation.  That Mrs. Quinn seems unaware of this fact is a reflection on the school, and I believe it would be wise of you to separate yourself from her statement as soon as possible, before people think the school is granting her tacit endorsement.

Damon has done nothing more than insist his school abide by the law, and for this he is already enduring ostracism from his peers and, sadly, his family.  He is paying a terrible price for a very reasonable complaint, and the first reaction of an educator in this situation should be a desire to help the student.  What Damon does not need is a person charged with protecting him instead heaping more misery onto the pile.  I would like to see you and your administration once again demonstrate that you are willing to do the right thing and make a public apology for Mrs. Quinn’s remarks (on the assumption that she is unwilling to do it herself) and to reprimand her for being so callous.

Thank you for your time.

JT Eberhard

I encourage all of you to add your voices to the cacophony.  The emails of the people you’ll want to be writing to can be found here.

To ask anybody in their teens to face off against entire communities, no matter how much help they have behind them, is something I wish we never had to do.  I regret that I can’t be there in person to verbally lay into Mitzi Quinn on Damon’s behalf (try sneaking those lame ass arguments past me and see how that flies), but I am so fulfilled that I get to spend the rest of my life rushing to the defense of these incredibly brave students.

Damon Fowler is a hero.  Mitzi Quinn, on the other hand, is another victim of faith and its ability to get people to seriously mismanage their priorities until they have been twisted into well-intentioned villains.  To hell with anybody who says we need to be worried about offending those people!  The only appropriate response to situations like this is livid, unmitigated anger.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X