Wherein Buncy Jumps on a Righteous Bandwagon
More media attention to this issue can never be a bad thing.
Anyone who has had their ears anywhere close the the Atheist blogging community has certainly heard of this story by now: a young man by the name of Damon Fowler noticed that his high school (Bastrop High in Bastrop, Louisiana) intended to include a prayer in their graduation ceremony, in clear violation of both state and federal law. He explained to the school board the situation they were in, and that he would be forced to contact the ACLU to bring forward legal action if they didn’t yield. The school district did. Everyone else, however, went apeshit.
Long story short, Damon is receiving the usual opposition from a Christian group: ostracization, death threats… But what angers me more is that one of his teachers had the gall to call HIM out for wanting the fucking school to obey the law. Actually, scratch that. His parents are practically disowning him. That doesn’t just get me angry. That breaks my heart. I’ve heard it said many times, but that doesn’t diminish the truth of it; make no mistake: Damon Fowler is a hero for sticking his neck out like this to support something he believes in in one of the most bigoted, hate-filled places on Earth.
It could possibly be okay if that was it. If the school and students whined and moaned, and that was it. But no; there are CLEAR and obvious signs that some students intend to have this prayer anyway. This video makes me sick. Apparently that girl’s facebook page clearly indicates that she plans to do this again during the actual graduation (I should have explained. That was a rehearsal, but could probably still get the district in so much legal trouble). The legality of the issue is a little gray, but at minimum, once school officials and district officials learn of this plan, and they do not do anything to stop it, they’re probably in for the legal battle of their lives.
I hope the graduating class of 2011 enjoys leaving the students of 2012 and beyond with practically no school funding.
You can hop on this bandwagon too.
Here is the Reddit thread where the majority of the thrust seems to be coming from (it’s Damon’s own posting).
Here are the contact details for every administrator in the Morehouse Parish; the district that BHS is in.
Finally, here’s the e-mail I sent to Tom Thrower, the superintendent for Morehouse Parish. I encourage you to throw your hat in in some way to help support Damon, the separation of church and state, the law, human decency, anything you can get out of this. We’ll probably all walk away from this a little bitter, but with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
As one commenter (whose name or post I cannot find any more in the plethora of tabs I have open right now) noted: The district will be paying for Damon’s undergrad. And masters. And doctorate. And probably living expenses for the next few years.
Good day, Tom.
I’m sure I’m but one voice of many you’ve received in the past couple of days regarding the lawful opposition to an illegal practice brought forward by Damon Fowler, and the terrible price he has had to pay for it.
As a superintendent of a school district, I am certain that you are aware that the comments Mitzi Quinn made to the Bastrop Enterprise are incendiary, bullying, and immensely inappropriate for a role model such as a teacher, especially when directed toward one of her students.
I’m sure you’re aware that in a rehearsal graduation ceremony, one student overstepped the bounds of decency and quite possibly law by continuing to deliver her religious speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaD8iQFaw7I One commenter on this video has informed us that this girl intends to do something similar during the actual ceremony and has sent you the proof of this. You must be aware that your district would have a VERY hard time defending these kinds of actions in a court of law under the pretense that this was simply a personal action.
You have a duty as the superintendent of this district to create a SAFE and INCLUSIVE environment for your students. Clearly you have some work to do to provide this for those students of yours who are not Christians.
Our society is not based on the rule of the majority. We aim to protect the venerable, those who would point out our shortcomings, and especially those who would do so at great danger to themselves.
I hope you understand the gravity of this situation, and the massive resistance that your district will receive if you do not act to correct this FAST.
[Edit]: Well, much as I suspected, the prayer went ahead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYLpZIv8xFY
Some people might argue that since this was a student acting on their own (which is fairly easily shown to be false; from what I understand, there was a lot of public chatter planning to go ahead with this), but it is still in violation of Louisiana law, under the precedent of Seegers v. Parker, which from my understanding prohibits a public institution to even indirectly promote one religion over another. Allowing a student to lead a prayer at a school ceremony attended by the superintendent of that school’s parish certainly seems to fall in that category. Furthermore, watching TV has actually helped a bit: Stephen Colbert’s efforts in creating a PAC have taught me the idea of payments in kind (is what I believe the lawyers called it), wherein resources owned by VIACOM being used to promote his PAC were considered a monetary endorsement of the PAC. Something similar might be argued here.
I don’t think there’s any question though that in the weeks to come, I’ll be reading news about Bastrop High School and the Morehouse Parish being litigated back into the stone age (they were already psychologically there anyway).
I just hope Damon is well, and that he is able to support himself after all this. His parents have practically disowned him and held him in Bastrop against his will, and so his brother has taken up the duty of protecting and supporting him. I wish you good health and fortune, Damon.