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.

  • Puddinhead

    Eloquently stated. Thank you JT. I’m so proud of this kid and proud of his siblings for standing up to their parents and having to pay the cost of doing what is right for their younger brother.

    I’m also a little humbled by how the atheist community has rallied around this young man. We’re a disorganized, skeptical bunch, but when one of us gets threatened by mob mentality, it’s (dare I say) heartwarming to see us come together.

  • Chantal Yacavone

    JT, I wrote to both Damon and the Superintendent this afternoon expressing much the same sentiments as you. I had hoped someone with a higher profile would get involved. This young man needs as many voices added to his as possible. Thank you for everything that you do to bolster young freethinkers everywhere.

  • http://www.remijdio.com Nick Johnson

    I emailed the editor of the newspaper this morning and he emailed me back asking permission to use one of my comments in a follow-up story tomorrow. I’m not sure if I emailed him back in time seeing as I checked my email at 10pm and he replied 10 hours before that.
    Hopefully, they use my comment about seeking a compromise through having a moment of silent reflection and not my comment about my opinion of their paper being extremely bias.
    Who knows.
    Great blog post JT!

  • Ash

    Absolutely ridiculous for that teacher to say ANYTHING during graduation. She was 100% out of line, taking her anger out on a student who was standing up for his rights. I am quite literally having to restrain myself from writing a very heated letter directly to Quinn’s email.

    This sort of ignorance makes me deeply upset. The whole “Well, majority rules!” argument is completely invalid. I challenge them to walk up to any racial minority and tell them that.

    People forget that Christianity is not the only religion in the world, their doctrine might teach them that it is the only “TRUE” religion in the world, but they cannot say that it’s the only religion in the world. Point blank. Fact. End of story. They can talk about how everyone else will burn for eternity after death all day long, but until then they have to share the earth with the rest of us. And if these people (the residents of that town, not the entire body of Christians on earth) want others to respect their beliefs without being ridiculed, they will have to learn to do that for others.

    This is atrocious behavior for any human being, no matter what belief system. I am disgusted with those who took part in the humiliation of this graduate. They all should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Amphigorey

    JT, I am totally with you on the wrongness of Quinn’s statements, and she should be disciplined for it, as well as apologize to Damon.

    However, I’d like to ask that you stop using words like “bitch” to refer to women you disagree with. It doesn’t help the conversation, and it’s distracting. Call her a jerk, or an ass, or a blinkered ignorant wretch, but please, stay away from the gendered insults.

  • http://n/a D. Finney

    I’d like to point out that the superintendent to whom JT addresses his email is actually the one who initially precipitated this mess by leaking Damon’s identity to faculty:

    “I included my initials in the email to the superintendent (dumb, I know). I’m one of two “out” atheists that attend the school. Wasn’t hard to figure out who it was. And he released my name to the teachers” (http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/hed7y/threatened_to_contact_aclu_for_prayer_at/).

    Christian love at its best.

  • Milligan

    “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.

    She probably thinks that Rosa Parks should have just quietly moved to the back of the bus, like all the others, too.

  • jamea

    I pray that all non believers take a moment to seek Christ. Jesus saves. I love you all, my brothers and sisters through God. I pray for the christians who have acted in non christian ways toward their athiest brothers and sisters. May God bless you all

  • Fazerstun

    I am absolutely gobsmacked that something like this could be allowed to get so out of hand.
    Damon’s story has made it across the pond to here, the UK and was pointed out to me by a friend on Facebook.
    I wouldn’t class myself as an atheist, but neither am I the least bit interested in any kind of religion. I do realise that other people are and I generally let them get on with it – but this is taking things too far. The persecution of this lad is an absolute outrage – as for his family who have ostracised him over this – well, what can I say? I only hope they come to their senses at some point before it’s too late.
    This isn’t the behaviour of “normal” people.

  • Nicole

    This is crazy how this teacher actually the whole school made this into a witch hunt. It makes me so angry that these so called christians have so much hate.

  • Shamiyha

    This is directly off Mrs. Quinn’s school webpage:

    http://www.oncoursesystems.com/school/webpage.aspx?id=23695

    “Welcome to Senior English. This is a class to prepare you for college English, so be prepared to work. Every week you will turn in an allusion. This is a 25 point assignment. By the end of the six weeks, it is worth 150 points. Failure to turn this in can be detrimental. Doing the assignment weekly can also help your average. You should be as excited about learning as I am about teaching you. They say “a mind is a terrible thing to waste,” and I don’t like to waste anything. I expect you to be in class, and if for some reason you are absent, it is your responsibility to check with me to get your work. Makeup work must be completed within five days. (Extenuating circumstances will be dealt with on an individual basis.) You may email me at mquinn@mpsb.us. I look forward to the spending the rest of the year with you. Remember, there are crazy people in this world. See you in class. – Mrs. Quinn”

    Yes … there ARE crazy people in this world and Mrs. Quinn is on the list.

    In addition, you must submit a writting each week about a biblical passage. See http://www.oncoursesystems.com/school/webpage.aspx?id=23695&xpage=441036

    • Anonymous

      I wonder where you got your information on this topic. Have you ever met Mitzi Quinn? Do you judge people you’ve never met? If you got your information out of the papers they lied to an extent. We sat down today in Mrs. Mitzi Quinn’s class and she explained this story to us. To a point Mrs. Quinn was moved to tears. I’ll have you know as one of her students that if she were to leave Bastrop High School, the building would fall and so would the lives of many seniors including my own. So before you judge a book by it’s cover answer me this. Do you know Mrs. Quinn? Have you interviewed any of her other students? Have you yourself ever witnessed how much she truly does or doesn’t care about her students? How do you know her character? If you have a valid answer for me then I will agree to disagree.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        Has she apologized? Has she said she understands that atheists feel marginalized, that criticizing and demeaning a student was wrong, and that supporting an unconstitutional prayer at graduation was the wrong call? Or has she told ‘her side of the story’ and felt bad because the mean media said nasty things about her?

  • VitruviannMan

    Well said friend, I will be passing this around. Thank you!

  • Karrie22

    I am a christian to a degree. I am a very liberal one, even at the best of times. This story absolutely disgusts me. I feel absolutely sick to my stomach that people, supposedly of a religion of acceptance, love and understanding, would respond so hatefully. It reflects badly on the entire religion, and they have no idea of the damage they are doing. I think what Damon is doing is absolutely wonderful, and I am incredibly proud of him. If the school really wants to incorporate a prayer somehow, perhaps they should consider holding a prayer service at the local church before the ceremony, for anyone interested, and then thy could go to the school for the graduation. I don’t understand why they have to force other students to suffer through their beliefs.
    Thank you JT for standing up for this poor boy. I plan to send this around and help the word spread. This kind of thing needs to stop now!

  • Alexandria Wolf

    http://www.facebook.com/Alexandreina#!/pages/Fire-Mitzi-Quinn/200614399983443

    Please “like” my Fire Mitzi Quinn page on FB. Over a hundred likes since I started it this morning and counting! :)

  • http://TheOtherSideblog Timothy Brannan

    Sent my letter as well.

    Mitzi Quinn is bully, using her position of power to terrorize a young man into conforming to her narrow thoughts despite it’s illegality.

  • lulu

    She is being a bitch a deserves to be called one. Those other words do this cunt no justice.

  • Amphigorey

    Using gendered insults like “bitch” and “cunt” promote misogyny. Do you really want the atheist movement to be associated with misogyny and rampant sexism?

    In any case, “bully” is more correct.

  • Rory

    10 points to lulu for NOT GETTING IT.

    Words like ‘bitch’ and ‘cunt’ are hateful to all women, not just this particular sack of excrement. Similarly, if Ms. Quinn was a black woman, it would not be appropriate for me to use a racial slur against her, no matter how vile she might personally be.

    There are plenty of effective ways to express your opinion of this person without needing to resort to misogyny.

  • Shaun

    I’m not an atheist, I’d say I believe in God but do not follow Christianity as such. However I find this situation appalling. That people in this day and age can be so bothered about saying a prayer at graduation, when other beliefs are going to be present, is preposterous. Miss Quinn sounds like a child having a dig at someone who clearly has enough problems. As has been stated she has an obligation to support students and protect their wellbeing, and if she is incapable of this she should not be teaching at a multifaith school.
    What an absolute disgrace, I hope the situation works out for the best.

  • Alexandria Wolf

    So some tool named James Johnson posted a grammatical and spelling nightmare (Yeah he’s a proud graduate of Bastrop High a few years older than Damon and a shining example of the quality of the education to be obtained there)on Damon’s FB page ripping him a new one…while, of course, claiming to be a Christian. Curious, I went to his page. Only to encounter him bragging about his son that is about to be born to…. wait for it…. his GIRLFRIEND. That’s right, this shining follower of Jesus can’t be bothered to make an honest woman of the girl giving birth to his child in the next few days. But I guess if his reading skills are as poor as his writing skills (and man, they’re bad) he may have somehow overlooked all those passages against fornication. Go figure. Yeah Bastrop, you’ve got soooo many reasons to be proud!

  • http://www.subgenius.com Rev Egg Plant

    What was sad that despite the school pulling the convocation prayer from the program, the young woman graduate speaker leading that portion of the ceremony felt it necessary to parade her religious values in front of the ceremony and then go ahead with a prayer anyway. What a slap in the face to Damon. I’ve never seen anything less selfish in my life. I hope that school district has deep pockets — oh, wait, we’re talking rural Louisiana. What was I thinking?

  • http://selfra.blogspot.com dantresomi

    I am behind you 100% but you don’t have to call the teacher a “bitch.” there is no need for that. We can’t accuse Xians of being irrational and refusing to debate an issue and then turn around and call them name.

  • selunesmom

    I’m loving her (Quinn’s) presumption that only that small minority of students who are directly involved with graduation or preform activities that she deems as contributing to their classmates are allowed to have issues with school programs.

    Bravo to Damon for finding out about this early enough to raise an objection.

  • Stonyground

    I am always a bit puzzled by the inability of US Christians to understand what is basically a really simple legal principle. As I understand it, your freedom to practice any religion that you wish to is guaranteed by your constitution but you are not allowed to use government premises and publicly funded events to endorse one religion over the rest, and that protection also extends to those who have no religion at all. I expect that the truth is that these people understand it all too well, they just don’t like it. They seem to be unable to imagine how they would feel about it if they were in the minority and it was Muslim prayers that were being said at a public event that was supposed to be for everyone. They are probably unaware of the centuries of persecutions and bloodletting that saturates European history. America’s founders were very aware of this and making the government neutral with regard to religion was their solution to the problem. That the religious urge to persecute is ever present is aptly demonstrated by this case.

    The odd thing is that here in the UK this kind of thing is not illegal but is hardly ever a problem. Nominally Christians are the majority here but the numbers of Christians who would wish to make prats of themselves by praying at a public event is vanishingly small. There is a minor skirmish going on at the moment about the practice of opening local council meetings with a prayer but this is about getting rid of an archaic practice that is accepted because it goes back hundreds of years but is no longer relevant.

  • SolitaryAngel

    Look, people–I respect the opinions and comments of all of you; that being said, however, I have to say that as a Louisiana native who lives 20 min from Bastrop we are NOT all ignorant wretches down here! Please, even though the south has given the world many many reasons to laugh and make fun of us, give SOME of us the benefit of the doubt, ok?

    This story is appalling and it embarrasses those of us who are enlightened enough to respect everyone’s religion–or lack thereof–whatever that may be. Damon was absolutely right and the school district is absolutely wrong.

  • OutragedChristian

    As a Christian, I am deeply offended and appalled by the behavior of the so-called adults and “educators” in this situation.

    Ms. Quinn is behaving as anything but a Christian and certainly as anything but an educator in this instance, Mr. Fowler’s relatives (with the exception of his siblings) are demonstrating the exact opposite of the teachings of Jesus (and of Paul in the epistles), and the community is behaving as the mobs of people who tried to kill first century Christians for their faith.

    As Christians, we are to love. We don’t get to pick and choose who we love. We don’t get to decide that we are only going to be kind to those who share our faith and beliefs. That is easy. It is when confronted with those who do not share our faith, who do not share our beliefs, that our faith is borne out.

    As a Christian, I will speak plainly so there is no confusion regarding where I stand: if a man or woman claims to be “Christian” but threatens a man with beating or death for the simple act of stating that he does not believe in God or in Jesus, that “Christian” makes it clear to all present that his or her “faith” is a lie and he or she is no “Christian” (the precise translation of the word means “little Christ”) at all.

    Seems to me that the Fowler children – including the atheist Damon – are behaving in a more Christlike manner than most others in that community, including their own parents.

  • Captain Bathrobe

    Don’t worry, Solitary. I’ve known plenty of intelligent free-thinkers from the South. I at least know that you’re not all like that. :)

  • Steven Reeves

    I am proud of this kid. He had the guts to stand up to these religious oppressors, and like a great person, get’s flack for it. He did the right thing, as this country based on the freedom of faith, which includes not faith.

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