NORTH LOUISIANA has been described as “the buckle on the Bible Belt” – and not without good reason, as high school student Damon Fowler at Bastrop High School has discovered to his cost.
On the eve of his graduation, the atheist student contacted the school superintendent to let him know that he opposed the inclusion of a prayer at the graduation ceremony. He pointed out that government-sponsored prayer in the public schools was unconstitutional and legally forbidden – and that he would be contacting the ACLU if it went ahead. The school agreed to substitute it with a moment of silent reflection, which was subsequently scuppered by a Christian student.
1) Fowler has been hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community.
2) One of Fowler’s teachers has publicly demeaned him.
3) Fowler has been physically threatened. Students have threatened to “jump him” at graduation practice, and he has received multiple threats of bodily harm, and even death threats.
4) Fowler’s parents cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and threw his belongings onto the front porch.
Oh, and the school went ahead and had the graduation prayer anyway.
According to this report, Fowler has become the center of what he terms a “shitstorm”: he has been harassed, vilified, targeted with insults and name-calling and hateful remarks. He’s been told t he’s the devil. He’s been told, “Go cry to your mommy… oh, wait. You can’t”. (A reference to him being disowned by his parents.) He’s been told that he’s only doing this to get attention. A student’s public prayer at a pre-graduation “Class Night” event was turned into an opportunity for the school and community to gang up on Fowler and publicly close ranks against him – teachers as well as students. (Here’s video). And people seen defending him have been targeted as well.
Here are a few comments on the Bastrop Enterprise news story about the controversy:
I personally see him as a coward.
I hope they [Christians] put enough pressure on this kid to convert him and save his soul from the fire of hell.
If he don’t want prayer at graduation he can stay at home and not come to graduation.
I hope that the little athiest (sic) is offended.
What he is really doing is trying to shove his views down people’s throats.
Satan continues to prowl and is deceiving many in this world.
A piece published yesterday by PoliticusUSA points out that Christian fundamentalists have persecuted atheists and agnostics for the past 30 years with accusations that non-believers are aggressive and are “throwing atheism in our faces,” when the opposite is true.
There is a dangerous trend of Christian fundamentalists taking over the government to change the nature of America. It may be in part because in America, like the rest of the world, Christianity is on the decline and the number of Americans claiming to be Atheists, Agnostic, or non-religious has increased by 15 percent leading to an alarming trend of fundamentalists making a last-ditch effort to force Christianity on the country.
The young man who protested prayers at school events is not an isolated case, and around the country young people are standing up to school officials and fundamentalists who “force their religion down the throats” of non-believers regardless of age or station in life. The Constitution does not forbid religious fundamentalists from praying whenever and wherever they please, but it does maintain the separation of the government and religion and it means no public school prayer.
The article concluded:
Evangelical Christian leaders recently conceded in an interview that there were Christians around the country who were prepared for armed conflict to enforce Christianity if necessary, and they claimed the military and Congress had been infiltrated by fundamentalists; it is a foreboding that should frighten every person in America. If any American thinks they are safe from fundamentalist Christians whose intent is replacing the Constitution with the Ten Commandments and its Stone Age punishment (stoning), they are deluded and do not comprehend the level of violence extremists are capable of inflicting in god’s name.
If in America in 2011, one student faces public threats without a theocratic government or the Ten Commandments as the law of the land, imagine the violent Crusade and Inquisition a group of well-armed, angry fundamentalists will unleash if given authority and power.
Last month, an interviewer asked four evangelical church leaders if their intent of using violence to force Christianity on Americans was tantamount to the Taliban in Afghanistan. They replied that, ‘yes, they were the same as the Taliban except they were better armed, better organized, and had the full support of conservatives in positions of power’.
Still think fundamentalist Christians are harmless? You should be mortified.
Update: The Friendly Atheist Hermant Mehta set up a ChipIn widget which enables people toÂ contribute toward a scholarship for DamonÂ â€”” just one way to show how much we appreciate him standing up for church/state separation”.
So far an amazing amount of almost $27,000 has been raised. You can make a donation here. I will certainly be doing so!
Further update: The Friendly Atheist has an interview with Damon and his brother JerrettÂ here.