"My New Targets"

The following tweet got noticed by Jesse Galef, the SSA’s Communication Director, this morning.

Secular Student Alliance of GHS #prayingforyou#Jesuslovesyou

Not ok. 

We determined who made the tweet, a student at the school, and we emailed the principal.  I asked first that she be talked to.  Specifically…

…secular high school students face enough social difficulties and bullying without this type of directly threatening language.  Ignoring these types of posts in the past has resulted in instances of bullying, both physical and emotional, that could have otherwise been avoided.

Imagine for a moment that an atheist made a tweet with a picture of a Christian group with the text “My future targets. :) #rationality”.  There would be people shrieking “terrorism” left and right.

We’re not shrieking terrorism, but we are concerned.  Is it possible that this was just a poor choice of words?  Yes.  Which is why all we want to see initially is that the administration make contact.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in cases like this.  Recall the “targets” ad that Sarah Palin ran and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords?  This serves as a gruesome reminder that it not only the initiator that is worrisome, but also those reading their work.  Prayer and piety are certainly not barriers to discrimination, bullying, or even violence.  We’re fine with prayer, we’re not fine with any of the rest.

School is about education.  Are differing cultures going to butt heads when teens are confined to a tight space for eight hours per day?  Absolutely, which is precisely why this type of thing is not acceptable and must be addressed.  With atheists being such a despised minority, I’m unwilling to take chances with situations like this particularly in the often unstable landscape of a public high school.

As I have said before, if an adult punches another adult out of displeasure with their atheism, thanks to the legal protections in our favor and the reality of a lawsuit, the assailant would have just volunteered to purchase his victim’s next vehicle.  In high school the perpetrator would receive detention or a few days of suspension.  High school atheists do not need the same protection as post high-school atheists – the need more.  Sadly, up until now they haven’t gotten it, but that is thankfully changing.

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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.


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