Want to know what the high school secular landscape looks like?


I have posted an update on this situation.  It can be read here.


Do you read the bible, Ringo?  There’s this passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am The Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

I been saying that shit for years. And if you heard it, that meant your ass.

Last semester I sent at least a couple letters every week to schools making lives difficult for atheistic students, politely suggesting they stop breaking the law before I start raining hellfire on them.  I’m sending three this week…during the summer.  In the fall the rate will likely increase greatly from the spring.  When you donate to the SSA, these are the type of things you’re helping to fix.

All identifying information in this letter has been removed.  I know some of you will go nuts trying to get these people’s email addresses.  Rest assured that if they don’t fly straight, naming and shaming is next on my to-do list.


My name is JT Eberhard and I am the High School Specialist with the Secular Student Alliance.

Three weeks ago our office received a letter with no return address.  The letter contained photocopied sections of the SSA’s educators brochure with typed responses to sections of it.  The gist of the letter was that our organization is an agent of Lucifer.  Those parts did not bother me as people are perfectly entitled to their personal opinions on these matters.  However, some of these parts were disconcerting in strictly legal/ethical terms and implicated your administration and your school’s educators in unlawful activity.  Those parts very much bothered me, though not nearly as much as they should bother you.

First, you should know why I’m emailing you, specifically, about a letter with no return address.  While the letter itself contained no return address, the sender included his email address as well as proof that he is a teacher at a high school.  The email address belongs to a man named XXXXX whose email is NAME12345@yahoo.com.  There are presently three XXXXXs teaching at high schools in the United States.  I’m sure you recognize 12345 as the zip code of [US CITY WHERE THE SCHOOL IS LOCATED].  Not only that, XYZ High School was the only school of the three to which the SSA had sent a group-starting packet in the last year and a half, which explains how Mr. XXXXX would’ve gotten a copy of our educators brochure.  It seems irrefutably clear that the letter was sent by the XXXXX who teaches at XYZ High School.

Now to the parts of his letter that should concern you.  Mr. XXXXX wrote…

When beliefs are far from what is considered the norm you should have the expectation that you will be judged.  Also, in any society the few are sometimes required to participate in the activities of the masses if they do not want to be ostracized.

The notion that ostracism is justified for a minority if they do not conform to the activities of the majority, coming from an educator, is in violation of so many Education Discrimination Laws that the list defies concise description, not the least of which is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

You must be aware of this, because on page 2 of the XYZ student handbook the following paragraphs can be found (bold mine).

XYZ does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, or disability in providing education services, activities, and programs, including vocational programs, in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

The next worrisome bit in Mr. XXXXX’s letter was in response to this paragraph in our brochure.

Teachers, school officials and administrators bear a legal and moral obligation to safeguard the well-being of nontheistic students.  All students are entitled to be treated with respect in a public school environment, regardless of their beliefs.

Mr. XXXXX’s response was as follows (bold mine).

Educational staff has the responsibility of preparing students to be responsible adults.  We expect all students to be treated with respect.  We are not, however, obligated to protect those who choose to be deviants in society.

According to [STATE LAW], educators in the state of [US STATE] are legally obligated to protect nontheistic students from both bullying and discrimination.  Even if Mr. XXXXX doesn’t believe he has a moral obligation to ensure the well-being of all of his students, the law binds him to do so in his capacity as an educator.  Aside from that, branding students as deviants for not holding a religion and expressing that those students do not deserve his protection as an educator/government employee is as wildly inappropriate as it is illegal.

Moving on.  Later in his letter, Mr. XXXXX cites this portion of our brochure.

Staff and administrators should also create a welcoming environment for nontheistic students.

In response, Mr. XXXXX wrote…

A welcoming environment is what we should not create.  Satan should not be comfortable in God’s world.  You say they should develop their own world view when you really want them to  adopt your world view.  The book they need to read for information is the Bible.  Nontheism should not be spoken of in a tone of acceptance.

Again, endorsing a state of inequality/discrimination in a public school is a violation of a litany of laws both federal and state.

However, the most troublesome part of Mr. XXXXX’s letter read…

Obviously, I would not want to help students down the wrong path.  A group tried to form at our school.  It was from one of those students that I received this brochure.  Not surprisingly, they could not get a teacher to sponsor the club.  As educators we are dedicated to conveying the truth to students.  If the students are proud of believing there is no God they should not feel like they have to hide it.  They should not feel the need for a safe haven.

It is obvious that it is not a lack of pride on the part of minorities that necessitates school clubs and other means of protection, but rather the discriminatory behavior they face at the hands of other students and, as Mr. XXXXX has so eagerly established, at the hands of their teachers.

Mr. XXXXX has also asserted that the students attempting to form a secular club at XYZ were prohibited from doing so due to the faculty denying them sponsorship.  However, this is illegal.  It violates the Equal Access Act to allow a monitor requirement to serve as a bar to a club’s formation or to impose restrictions on one group that are not imposed on other groups.  In Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, 496 U.S. 226 (1990), the United States Supreme Court ruled that a high school violated the Equal Access Act when it denied a student permission to form a Christian club.  The Court was guided by its observation that the purpose of the Act is to forbid schools to “deny access to school facilities to any unfavored student club on the basis of its speech content.”  Id. at 245.  Furthermore, the Court advised, the Act is to be given a “broad reading,” id. at 239, because a narrow reading would result either in almost no schools being subject to the Act, or it would permit schools to strategically evade the Act.  Id. at 244.  The Court held that the club must be allowed by the school, even though the student’s proposal called for the club to “have the same privileges and meet on the same terms and conditions as other … student groups, except that the proposed club would not have a faculty sponsor” as required by school regulations.  Id. at 232.  The Court pointed out that, at most, “the Act permits the assignment of a teacher, administrator, or other school employee to a meeting for custodial purposes.”  Id.at 253.
A similar conclusion was reached in Pope v. East Brunswick Board of Education, 12 F.3d 1244 (3d Cir. 1993).  There, the court considered whether the Equal Access Act is limited in application to schools that allow student-initiated clubs or extends to schools that allow only faculty-initiated clubs.  The court adopted the broader interpretation, reasoning that a narrow interpretation of the Act would allow schools to limit clubs to those with mainstream interests for which faculty sponsors could be easily found, while excluding clubs that espouse objectionable views on the ground that no sponsor could be found.  Id. at 1250-51.

Consistent with a broad reading of the statute, the courts have held that schools must waive generally applicable requirements that have the effect of denying, rather than fostering, “equal access.”  Thus, in Hsu v. Roslyn Union Free School District No. 3, 85 F.3d 839 (2d Cir. 1996), the court held that the Equal Access Act requires a school to excuse a Bible Club from complying with a school policy prohibiting student groups from discriminating on the basis of religion in electing officers.  The court reasoned as follows:

The Act mandates that students be given “equal access,” not that the School’s internal rules be administered uniformly.  A rule against wearing hats in the school building, perfectly and consistently enforced, might deprive Jewish students of equal access to after-school facilities for shared religious observance.  Similarly, a rule requiring students to wear appropriate footwear at all times, perfectly and consistently enforced, might effectively ban after-school meetings of the Yoga Club.  The neutral application of the School’s rules allows the School to say that it is treating all clubs equally.  But exemptions from neutrally applicable rules that impede one or another club from expressing the beliefs that it was formed to express, may be required if a school is to provide “equal access.”

Id. at 860.

Pursuant to the case law, the Equal Access Act obligates the administration of any high school in which an open forum has been created (like at XYZ) and receiving public funding to facilitate the formation of an secular in one of the following ways:  (1) the school may waive the requirement of a faculty monitor; (2) it may assign a school employee to serve as a non-participatory monitor for the group; or (3) if no such employee can be found, and the school is unwilling to waive the faculty monitor requirement, the school must furnish a monitor by, for example, assigning non-objecting school employees to attend the club’s meetings on a rotating basis.  Furthermore, upon formation, the club must be given the same access to facilities that are provided to other groups, and must not be subjected to more demanding rules and limitations than those that are imposed on other student groups.

Your teacher, Mr. XXXXX, has taken it upon himself to send me documented proof that your school, with the help of several of its faculty, defied the law.  In the process of implicating his colleagues, Mr. XXXXX boasted of discriminating against his nontheistic students and made no effort to even conceal the religious motivations for doing so.  He even confirms this on his letter’s final page.

The group that tried to get started here could not find a sponsor because as educators we want to lead students in a positive direction; not lead them to hell.

For an agent of the government, this behavior is egregious.  The fact that Mr. XXXXX has expressed a willingness to create an atmosphere of inequality in a public school is compounded by the fact that Mr. XXXXX apparently doesn’t understand even the basic legal obligations of a government/school employee.  This makes him a very serious liability not only to XYZ High School, but also to the administration that hired him and which is charged with maintaining legal compliance (not to mention compliance with XYZ’s nondiscrimination policy).

So, to sum up our situation; your teacher sent us a letter detailing the ways in which XYZ broke the law.  His letter was dripping with pride as he handed us an open and shut case of religious discrimination, while presumably under the impression that not including his school email or a return address would keep us from finding him.  This man represents your school, which is something that should give you pause as its principal, particularly if this issue becomes any bigger than it is at present.  The Secular Student Alliance works to ensure that the rights of all students are protected.  Since I can only assume we share this goal, Mr. #####, we need to talk about what is going to be done here.

I will give you until Monday morning a 9am EDT to consult your legal counsel and to respond to this email with how you plan to rectify this situation.  Your legal counsel will undoubtedly ask you if the students who attempted to start the club will still be students at XYZ in the fall.  I have taken the liberty of answering that question before contacting you: yes, they will be.  You will also need to let me know a time on Tuesday that the SSA’s Regional Organizer in [US STATE], [SSA ORGANIZER], can come to your office and talk to you about Mr. XXXXX’s letter.

As I said earlier, the Secular Student Alliance empowers students and works to ensure their rights are protected.  In the event that those rights are violated, we step in to ensure the students get the support and opportunities they’re entitled to under the law.  The violation is often a misunderstanding which can be set right with a letter or phone call explaining the relevant case law and the students’ needs.  If necessary, however, we connect the students with legal representation and bring the matter to court.

Secular students are often mistreated and misunderstood, and we take defending them very seriously.  Whether it’s a friendly letter, a media campaign, or legal action, we intend to see that they’re treated well.  Thank you for your understanding and cooperation in seeing that all your students get treated fairly.
JT Eberhard
Campus Organizer and High School Specialist
Secular Student Alliance
office: [phone number]
cell: [phone number]
[email address]


I really wanted to end it with, “do you read the bible, Ringo?”


Seriously though, this is what the high school landscape looks like.  I only know about this occasion because the teacher somehow thought it’d be brilliant to send the SSA documentation of all the ways he was breaking the law.  How many more are out there we don’t know about?

When high school students try to start a secular club, more often than not they experience interference from their administration.  This is how hard we must fight for mere equality.  This is the amount of effort that must frequently be put in just to ensure that people do what they should.

Wanna fix it?  Donate what you can to the SSA.

Thanks for reading.

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.

  • Eclectic

    Just wow. The principal will obviously come down on Mr. XXXXX like a ton of bricks, but what will be the message?

    1) Don’t break the law, stupid!

    2) Don’t get caught breaking the law, stupid!

    In some of these places, I worry about #2.

  • Ashley F. Miller

    Any response yet? In as much as it’s after 9?

    • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper of Maine (I feel safe and welcome at FTB)

      Trying to tease out which timezone they’re in, are we?

      • Ashley F. Miller

        I figure 80% of the population lives in the first two timezones, odds are in my favor that 9am has passed.

      • Dani

        You’ll notice that is says EDT. No teasing required.

        • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper of Maine (I feel safe and welcome at FTB)

          That’s assuming his declaration of a timezone, to set a time, is the same timezone as the school.

          • Flora

            No, it isn’t! 9am EDT is 9am EDT, period. If the school is on the west coast, it would be 6am at the school (PDT), but it’s still 9am EDT.

  • Ganner

    Smack… down

  • Art Vandelay

    I’ve always found Ezekiel 23:20 to be far more profound.

    • Scott

      Had to Google Ezekiel 23:20. Laughed for a while, you made my day. Ha! Thanks

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper of Maine (I feel safe and welcome at FTB)

    My version would have been much more strongly worded, with the second half being nothing but a sophisticated and artistic composition of every swear word known to our species.

    • Synfandel

      Yes, I agree that letting fly with invective is highly satisfying. JT’s calm, cool, well-composed response, however, is (a) much more chilling to the recipient and (b) more likely to produce a correction in behaviour without the cost of resorting to the courts.

      • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

        I don’t want it to go to court. The students suffer when that happens, even though it would be the administration’s fault, I still don’t want that.

        All the school must do in order to avoid that is not defend this guy. Simple, easy, and what they should do. We’ll see if they actually do it.

        • A Hermit

          Yeah, sometimes the Strongly Worded Letter is enough (and I must say that was a fine, fine example of the genre)…let’s hope it’s enough in this case.

        • Uly

          Bet if it does go that far it’ll all be “Waaa waaa waa, those mean atheists want our schools to not have any money to teach!!!!”

      • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper of Maine (I feel safe and welcome at FTB)

        That’s why JT is doing this and I’m not.

        Though I lied – the last 10% would have been me just mashing the keyboard.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      See my comment later in this thread to Jason. :P

    • Earl McBakersfield

      I suppose That is why you are a commenter on FTB, and not given important responsibilities like this with the SSA

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/ Jason Thibeault

    Well played.

    And good on you for resisting the temptation to include a reference to a movie character that uses a Bible quote to scare people before killing them… that would be counterproductive, to say the least.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      When writing these letters, I always write two versions. The first is the one where I get to say whatever I want in order to get it out of my system. The second is the one that actually gets sent.

      I should save the first version letters when I write them. I could never share them publicly, but they could be a fun thing to share with friends. :P

      • Scote

        No, never write down and save anything that would cause issue if it were to get out. It is far too easy to send the wrong one.

      • Deepak Shetty

        Ah following in the footsteps of Isaac Asimov (multiple letters)

      • leftwingfox

        Oh man, I’ve done that at work when writing revisions for workers I’m supervising. “STOP SUCKING!!!!” is satisfying to type, but tends to be counterproductive.

      • Brenda Spencer

        Make an e-pub of your unsent letters. Proceeds go to SSA. lol

    • Rich Wilson

      That movie quote was a rotating signature for a male UVic student-staffer back when the movie came out. (no, not me, even then I wasn’t that dumb). It happened to be the .sig included in an email to a female student-staff.

      Shit hit the fan really quickly, and although the guy was a complete misogynistic douchnozzle, he hadn’t actually intended to physically threaten anyone. But that took some serious ‘splaining.

    • Andrew Ryan

      And of course, it’s not actually a REAL bible quote.

  • http://cycleninja.blogspot.com cycleninja

    Keep fighting the good fight, J.T.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Will do. Couldn’t see this type of stuff going on and not fight it.

  • Mr. Lynne

    I have that same zipcode on my luggage lock!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      That’s the stupidest combination I’ve ever heard in my life! :P

    • John Horstman

      No, sir, I didn’t see you playing with your dolls again!

    • Deepak Shetty

      May the schwartz be with you!

    • http://lordsetar.wordpress.com Setár, self-appointed Elf-Sheriff of the FreethoughtBlogs Star Chamber

      I have the best one for this situation:

      …or Pizza the Hutt…is gonna call out for YOU!

  • Richard Lucas

    Bravo JT, I can’t think of anything that would make this better. As a guy who is in his sixties and southern, I can’t describe how good seeing responses like yours make me feel. Keep it up!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Thanks, Richard. I love and hate the work I do. It’s fulfilling and necessary, and for that I love it. However, I hate the constant reminders of just how much we have to fight for even the minimum we should expect.

  • didgen

    A link to donate? I remember what it was like to be a non-believer in school. Even though it has been decades.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Here you go:


      I hear that comment a lot. We can’t go back and change how things used to be, but we can fight like hell to change how they will be. Many nontheistic students are willing to put in the work. They’re busting their asses every day and learning how to be effective activists. You can’t be on the ground like they are, but adults who want this change can donate to the SSA. I promise you we will pinch every penny and make sure it goes toward empowering these students to make a better world for high school/collegiate atheists.

      It means a lot to me that people are willing to support this cause. Thank you.

      • Groucho Barks

        If you can’t go back in time and fix the past, then you’re really doing a half ass job… but the current job is really great

  • ewanmacdonald

    Frightening stuff – and a great letter in response.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Indeed. We’ll see if it’s enough to get them to fly straight.

  • Andrew G.

    Do you read the bible, Ringo? There’s this passage I got memorized.

    From which we deduce that the character speaking is more familiar with 70′s martial-arts movies than with the Bible :-)

  • dcortesi

    J.T., while like most of your readers I applaud your knowledge and your sentiments and your work (and I am a contributor to SSA!), I do have to say this; please take it as constructive:

    You use too many words.

    You could have gotten all that across in your letter in half the verbiage. I know, there were all these egregious points you wanted to underscore. Forget it. You need to learn to curb your natural loquacity and just get to the point(s) A, B, C, badda boom, where “A” must be, One of your employees is breaking the law and I have his/her own words to prove it. Everything else comes after, no long novelistic lead-in about how you got the letter and did the detective work yadda yadda. That’s trimming, has nothing to do with the issue or what action you want them to take.

    In journalistic terms, you buried the lead. (As in leading paragraph, not heavy metal.) You buried that sucker about 2,000 words deep.

    So, something to work on there. But keep at it.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Thanks for the pointers. :)

      In general, I agree with you. But in a letter like this, I think detail is important. I needed to explain how I came to email him and how I determined it was one of his teachers so he didn’t try to get out of it by saying I had the wrong guy.

      In legal letters, I don’t think it’s about keeping people’s attention, since I certainly suspect I got his attention. I think it’s about detailing your case so they know precisely how likely they are to lose if they fight back.

      For general posts/writing, I’m with you 100%!

      • a different phil

        Try following the storyteller’s path: First, you tell them what you’re going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what you told them. The detail is important and you did well there in laying out your case, but the introduction is important as well.

        • baal

          Legal writing somewhat needs the pedantic writing. A certain amount of it is so the people who handle a case later have as easy a time as possible at proving the school had clear notice and opportunity to remedy.

          I can only hope more teachers are honest in their views and send JT more markups. It really is amazing evidence of breaking the law.

    • http://peopleofpublictransport.wordpress.com Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      It could be summed up in two words, “Stop it”, but that wouldn’t have the desired effect. Pouring on the words in that torrent, making the recipient feel every last word, as he or she is slowly buried under an onslaught of facts that can’t be disputed, in exceedingly polite and calm language… That might get the point across.

    • F

      Bear in mind that this is legalistic, not journalistic. Nor a form of storytelling. You pretty much have to write such letters (notices) this way. Actually, since the letter did not repeat everything twice in a different way, and a gain a third time in summation, JT already cut back on the legal format to make it easier on the original recipient. Who probably has to pass it straight on to counsel anyway.

    • Tsu Dho Nimh

      Writing “notice of violation” letters is a different critter than doing blogs, user manuals or business presentations.

      If you do not detail ALL the violations and what sort of evidence you have for them, and why it’s a violation, it’s hard to bring them up later. It starts looking like the Gish Gallop.

  • RhubarbTheBear

    Remind me never to get on your bad side, JT :)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      lol! I’ve heard that a lot lately.

      I’ve been planning to do a blog response to the email you sent me, but it’s buried. It will get done eventually, I promise.

      • RhubarbTheBear

        Really? Fantastic! I figured it had slipped through the cracks! That’ll be killer.

  • plutosdad

    It’s so sad we need outside organizations to protect students from their own teachers. Thanks. This is a great fundraising story too, it motivated at least one person I know of to donate for the first time.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Glad to hear it on the donations. It takes money to change things, sadly, and we have no god demanding 10% of our income.

      And yes, right now I yearn for a world where atheistic students must only deal with prejudice from their fellow students. We’re not there yet. Not even close. They must also fight for the minimum to which they are entitled against adults, and often adults charged with protecting them.

  • Rando

    We should be concerned about how the Voucher program in Louisiana plays out. There is a petition up that I think we should all sign to make sure that schools receiving vouchers have to comply with academic standards. http://www.change.org/petitions/the-governor-of-la-halt-the-implementation-of-louisiana-s-creationist-voucher-program I’m glad I was running around Sensuous Curmudgeon when I found it, it needs to be signed by all of us!

  • didgen

    Thanks for the link, donation done. Life would have been easier if I had known I wasn’t the only unbeliever on the planet.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      That hasn’t changed for most of them. Thankfully, more and more of them are realizing they are, by far, not the only atheists out there. They’re also realizing that help is available.

      Thanks for helping us provide that help.

  • http://www.sbsoapbox.blogspot.com/ Susi

    brilliant! please do keep us posted! :)

  • ludicrous

    I’m sitting here calculating. There are lots of important causes that need my donations so where would I get the most bang for my buck.

    What’s the biggest threat to our country and world? Climate change.

    Whats the biggest impediment to dealing with CC? Non evidential thinking particularly religious beliefs. Who is likely to be of most help? Young people who have already demonstrated their requirement for evidence.

    This works for me, your evidence may vary.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Good point.

      Thanks for the support!

  • Dick

    WOW and WOW. Author you are a damned moron. Hell all of you that are following the crap are morons. The fact that you think anyone in the world cares about your high school drama other than high school kids, says you have a lot of growing up and realizing to do. No where in any bible does it say that creating an article in a mocking and belligerent tone is what god wants(yes i lower cased his name) and /or advocates doing. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Its like you are the priests that rape children. TSK TSK TSK!

    • Leo

      Obvious Troll is obvious.

      • Kryten

        Obvious troll chose the strangely appropriate name “Dick”…

    • Shplane

      I literally have no idea who you’re chastising here. Could you be more clear/less stupid?

  • Benjamin

    So is there a form I can fill out to have your baby, JT?

    Seriously. If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.

    If this letter had been directed at me about one of the teachers in my building, it would feel like a kick in the nuts, and it would drive me from zero to Armageddon panic in about half a second. If you haven’t gotten a response, if this was just your opening salvo, then I shudder to picture the fiery ruin you’re going to leave on the landscape when you’re through.

  • Karen Winter

    Keep fighting the good fight, JT!
    The SSA has such a great team working for these young people’s rights!

    Thanks for the huge grin I now have plastered across my face!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Believe me when I say it is my pleasure. ;)

  • jacobfromlost

    The one thing administrators will react swiftly to is the threat of a legitimate lawsuit.

    Actually, they will usually react to an illegitimate lawsuit also, but the legitimacy helps. (It seems the emailer took a bit of that illegitimacy and was stupid enough to think immortalizing it in traceable words would somehow make it legitimate. As Bugs Bunny might say, “What a maroon! What an ignoranimus!”)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      That’s my hope. The threat is certainly there though, as I said earlier, I have no desire for this to get uglier than it is.

      I’ll go that way if I must, but I’d love to see the school take the easy route of allowing the SSA group and dumping some pretty severe corrective action on the teacher. I will settle for no less.

  • kimberlyherbert

    Just one thing. If you sent a letter to my principal he would not get it for three more weeks. All campuses in my district are shut down as far as principals, AP, teachers, and aids are concerned. Some food service staff and all of the custodial staff are on duty deep cleaning the schools, cleaning the carpets, striping and refinishing the floors, and other maintenance that requires removing all furniture from each classroom.

    The administration building is open, but various staff members are having their vacations on a staggered rotation.

  • pneumo

    Shut up and take my money.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      If you insist. :)

  • http://reasonableconversation.wordpress.com Kaoru Negisa

    Very well done and enlightening.

    Do the regional representatives that you send to non-compliant schools then have to do this again, only this time in person?

    How much of the above is just form-letter style? While I can imagine a lot of it needs to be aimed specifically at the situation, I would think the long descriptions of SCOTUS rulings and the appropriate laws would be something you can just insert into any letter.

    And not just letters to idiots. I mean, you could theoretically put that into emails to friends, just to make sure they’re informed of the relevant case law. Put it in an email chain letter and hope to get a writeup on Snopes. Append it to recipes you send to your parents. Really, it could be added to almost anything.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Almost all of this letter was original. The SCOTUS stuff I often have saved because I have to use it a lot. The rest is unique to the situation.

  • http://justdfacsmaam.wordpress.com MarkNS

    Nice letter JT. Exactly the right tone/content to get the attention of a bureaucrat.
    While I haven’t had to fight too hard against religion (being from a not-insane country, Canada), I have a disabled daughter for whom I’ve had to fight bureaucrats on many occasions. My letters resembled yours in tone…and I always won.
    Good work!Stick it to the bastards…

  • invivoMark

    I do hope you were listening to some Pink Floyd while composing that letter. Perhaps this teacher in question gets thrashed nightly to within inches of his life by a psychopathic wife. Or would that be too much to hope for?

  • Ellen Birch

    JT, thanks for your awesome help here in Loudoun County, VA! [from Beltway Atheists]

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      It was my pleasure. I only wish I could do more.

  • http://www.lincolnatheists.org Brian Aden

    Well done, JT! It amazes me the hubris that some people exhibit when it comes to denying the rights of someone else. To actually provide a name and email address and not think you would be able to track it down really makes me question the intelligence of that teacher.

    Hopefully, as each new secular club forms at high schools across the nation it will make it easier for even more groups to form. As schools learn that they cannot discriminate against anyone, no matter what they think, then we will see this sort of thing less. But, we are a long ways from that, and having people like you leading the fight against discrimination gives me hope. Thanks, sir.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Thanks, Brian.

  • Daniel Schealler


    Mr. XXXXX really made that one completely easy for you, huh?

    Does it happen often that people offer themselves up on a sacrificial altar like that? What an idiot.

    What was that line of Voltaire’s? Something along the lines of: I had but one prayer – Lord, make my opponents ridiculous. And He granted it.

  • fastlane

    I’m waiting for Mr. XXXX to reload, and blow off his other foot.

    Out of curiosity, have you tried to look up his fb page, JT? Those can be quite entertaining (although, if I were a HS teacher, you can damn well bet, I wouldn’t even have one!).

  • panamafloyd

    JT, I’m 50. Here’s another “..man, I wish they’d been around when I was a kid.” for ya. Keep on truckin’, dude. Soon as I find work, more money coming your way (I did donate during SSA Week, just couldn’t stand on the sidlines).

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Thank you for the encouragement.

      Don’t give if you can’t afford it. Take care of yourself first. I’m touched that this means enough that you want to donate that badly. *hug*

  • abb3w

    9AM EDT? That seems a little harsh. I would have given until at least noon.

    Then again, this seems pretty egregious conduct by NAME12345, even by the standards of Christian dumbasses; and I’m really not a morning person, so it might incline me to too much slack in that area.

    Very nice detective work.

  • http://www.twitter.com/jablair51 Ouabache

    You say they should develop their own world view when you really want them to adopt your world view. The book they need to read for information is the Bible.

    Obviously Mr. XXXXX isn’t an English teacher or else he would understand the irony in these sentences.

  • wieeseigentlichgewesen

    For every Mr. XXXXX I had in school, I just made a donation to SSA. Keep up the good work, JT!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      *hug* Thank you. I will.

  • http://atheisticeberg.blogspot.com/ C Tran

    This….is pwnage. Absolutely, perfectly expressed. I can’t believe you can stay so professional after receiving that.

  • Angry Voter

    All religion is mental illness and should be treated as such.

    Delusional people are not fit to teach children or hold any positions of trust or authority.

  • Dave

    Donation sent!

    I might have been tempted to start with “Oh, NO you DIDN’T!”, but of course your letter was perfect.

    Keep up the great work SSA!

  • http://justdfacsmaam.wordpress.com MarkNS

    Something just occurred to me. This letter is incriminating, is it possible a student sent it just to set the teacher up?
    Just a thought…

    • http://justdfacsmaam.wordpress.com MarkNS

      “This letter is *so incriminating”

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      No. Can’t divulge how I know that, but no.

  • hiro

    JT, kudos on a totally awesome letter. I’m frankly amazed by your cool professionalism in dealing with this dickheadedness.

    I just made my first contribution to SSA.


    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Thank you. We’ll make the most of it. *hug*

  • Grumpy Mr. Gruff

    JT, you often post on these negative situations – and they need to be publicized. But I’m curious if these incidents really reflect the “secular high school landscape.”

    The SSA has been boasting about the growth of its high school affiliates. If you can divulge numbers, what fraction of new high school clubs required you to wave a legal cudgel in front of administrators? Greater than 20%? 60%? 90%?

    This is only one possible metric, but I would love to see some of these attitudes and responses quantified rather than relying on the media and atheist blogosphere to filter out all but the most controversial cases.

    (Anecdotally, my suburban Midwestern high school admins and teachers never gave a shit about my outspoken atheism. I’d also like some of the numbers to see how atypical my school was.)

    • truthspeaker

      I’d be curious about that as well.

      Obviously, a story that goes “we filled out the paperwork to set up a club, the school processed it, and we meet monthly” isn’t very exciting, but it would be good information to have.

    • Tsu Dho Nimh

      Me too.

  • NightRaith

    JT bringing the pain!

  • efrique

    That letter is perfectly pitched. Well done.

  • Otrame

    JT, brilliant work. Your letter reminded me of a phrase from my favorite fan fic writer: “I trust you sent them a strongly worded surface-to-air missile.” I wish I could see the confrontation with their legal council. “He did WHAT????”

    Everyone wins. The kids will get their club and the teacher will get to feel like a martyr when the principal hands him his own ass, diced into 1″ cubes and served with a selection of savory dipping sauces.

    I hope the letter will be enough. The kids don’t deserve what will happen if this goes to litigation. I have to wait until the first of the month to donate, but I will.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      “Thank you” seems deeply inadequate, but it’s the best I can do.

      Thank you.

  • IslandBrewer

    Well, fuck. I’m actually tearing up, now. I’m sure it’s the onions, yeah.

    JT, I’m sooo glad my donations go to you writing things like that. I really wished there was an SSA back in my day.

    Excuse, I’m going to go make another donation, and get a tissue.

    Thank you, JT.

  • grumpyoldfart

    I wonder how the teacher will react to the news that his plan to help god has fallen apart?

    * Will he blame it on the devil?

    * Will he convince himself it’s all part of god’s mysterious plan and Christianity will be the winner in the long run?

    * Or will he admit to himself that he has not only broken the US Law, but also the law of the Bible?

    Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)

  • http://www.facebook.com/larry.carter.center larrycenter

    REAGUN signed this fucked up law to let religious nuts into schools if any chess club or debate club was allowed …. The intent of the statute was never EQUAL ACCESS but instead religious access where none existed before …. For Atheists to call theocrat bluffs was predictable 27 years ago when American Atheists fought these gangsters for alleged deities like 700 clubbers or 12 steppers… Gay & Lesbian students lost their clubs when schools sut down all clubs …. Equal Censorship equals equal access

  • Jed

    Well done, JT, keep it up. And definitely let us know what (if any) response you get, or any updates on the situation, assuming that it is legal/appropriate to do so.

  • Jesse

    JT, I was curious what response you got — if any. I think the point made above about many admins being on vacation is a valid one, at least where I live.

    (It occurred to me that this is all transpiring in July, but just how long does the school year run where this is? I mean, I used to get out of school by the end of June at the latest).

    Just curious.

    • Benjamin

      I’m teaching summer school at the middle school where I work, and I can assure you that the principal is in quite regularly. This week is the leadership week, so not only will the administrative staff be in the building for meetings and planning, but so will the team leads and department heads.

  • Joseph

    I’m a pretty devote Christian and I would like to say that not all Christians are alike. Some are ridiculous in their ways and have not grown from the past (50 or so years ago) but most, like myself, are quite content with : not forcing our beliefs on people who don’t want to hear it, not “commanding” a person to burn in hell for their sins (I’ve heard it and fought people over it) and not being an all round idiot. Those people, make the world a bad place to live in. Finally, if anyone wants to see something disgusting about humanity and Christianity, go on youtube and search “Westboro Baptist Church family disowns daughter”.

    • otrame

      No one here thinks all Christians are like that, Joseph. We can get along with Christians just fine as long as the Christian will acknowledge the need for a purely secular government, as many do. Still, we do appreciate it when a theist says “They’re doing it wrong” in situations like this.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani Sharmin

    The gist of the letter was that our organization is an agent of Lucifer. Those parts did not bother me as people are perfectly entitled to their personal opinions on these matters. However, some of these parts were disconcerting in strictly legal/ethical terms and implicated your administration and your school’s educators in unlawful activity. Those parts very much bothered me, though not nearly as much as they should bother you.

    This part made me smile.

    I hope everything turns out well and that you don’t have to take this to court or anything.

  • Emily

    I found this through Reddit, and was absolutely astounded that a public school teacher would be so ignorant about the law, and brag so openly about having broken it. I don’t have a lot to give, but I’m absolutely going to donate (as soon as the donation page loads – its doing so quite slowly. Hopefully that means lots of people are trying to donate right now). I wish that there were more people out there who were willing to stand up to adults who think its okay to bully children.

    Please update us all when you get a response.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Thank you, Emily. We will make the most of your donation.

  • backin15

    One of the best “TL;DR:”, EVER. LMAO

  • http://www.facebook.com/graham.maceachern ericmaceachern

    I love the work that the SSA does! I hope it spawns a million secular clubs across the US to turn the tide in this cultural war.

  • Tim K

    I’d like to point out to everybody donating that reblogging and sharing excellent posts like this will likely end up netting the SSA more money in the long and short run than what you alone can offer. For all of us who are broke and want to help, spending a couple minutes of your time passing on the heathen love is just as valuable.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Very, very true.

      Not only that, but the more people who know that help exists for high school atheists, the easier my job gets.

  • truthspeaker

    The two most disturbing parts of the teacher’s email go far beyond issues of religious freedom:

    Also, in any society the few are sometimes required to participate in the activities of the masses if they do not want to be ostracized.

    We are not, however, obligated to protect those who choose to be deviants in society.

    That is one messed-up attitude, and someone with attitudes like that should not be teaching children.

  • Tom

    I’m gonna start a religion that worships *you*. Bravo.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      “If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.”

  • Michael Farese


    Will you be publishing an update? I think we’d all love to see how this progresses.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      As much as I can. I want to give them an easy way out of this if they fix everything.

      Of course, if they don’t, then you get a LOT more updates.

      • Tsu Dho Nimh

        If they do comply, will you give them some public praise?

        Attaboys for fixing errors are wonderful motivators.

        • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

          Yup. I give both praise and criticism when deserved.

  • Havoc

    Wow, reading this has really opened my eyes to the extent of the problem you are facing. As a lifelong British Citizen and current university student i have always taken my way of life for granted; having never faced prejudice for being an atheist. I believe this is helped along by the fact that most people my age and younger who actually do consider themselves to be religious don’t even go to church or read the Bible. A different mindset is prevalent here coupled with a dissimilar education system gave me a free ride as far as you guys are concerned.

    I won’t donate unfortunately but i wish you luck and the strength to keep fighting against discrimination and intolerance.

  • michaelnevin

    Once it all gets sorted out, let the school officials know there’s nothing to worry about. That God had taken time out from his important business to tell people how to clean up their sh*t. Deuteronomy 23:12-14

  • keansimmons

    What do you make of this weasel wording JT: “If the students are proud of believing there is no God they should not feel like they have to hide it. They should not feel the need for a safe haven.”

  • Rosemary

    Very good letter. I hope you get reasonable results.

  • Rosemary

    This is a very worthy cause. I donated.

  • cybillgarbo

    March of 2012, when 5 teen were killed and 1 badly hurt in an arizona car accident, who should be liable? was there a fault on the school’s end?

  • Cybill Garbo

    March of 2012, when 5 teen were killed and 1 badly hurt in an arizona car accident, who should be liable? was there a fault on the school’s end?