Damon Fowler, an atheist student at a high school in Northern Louisiana, had the courage to promote the Constitution (the establishment clause specifically) in a backwards bible thumping region of the country. Unfortunately, the Constitution and the Bible are often times like water and oil as he soon found out...
The Freethinker gives a pretty good run down of the incident:
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.
Then Fowler’s name, and his role in this incident, was leaked. As a direct result:
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.
Such a peaceful religion. Oh and they went through with the prayer anyhow at their rehearsal:
and at graduation itself:
You can expect a lawsuit to be forthcoming.
And what is the school's response to all of this? To bash the student for standing up for the Constitution:
“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.
How "Christian" of her.
Anyhow, despite his pretty awful parents Damon can be thankful he has the support of his siblings. Here is his brother's response to that nasty teacher:
I am Damon's Brother.
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.
Regarding Quinn's comments. I was one of her students in high school. This is the letter I wrote to her this afternoon:
Hello Mrs. Quinn,
My brother is Damon Fowler. I recently heard by proxy that you stated some pretty hateful and incredibly biased remarks in regard to him confronting the school about its illegal prayer at graduation. It's insulting and upsetting to me because I honestly considered you one of my favorite teachers in high school. It was because of you and Mr. Horton that I went on to the [privacy edit] and got my BFA in New Media Art and I'm currently [privacy edit].
The quote I am referring to is this:
“[In the past, non-religious students] respected the majority of their classmates and didn’t say anything,” [Bastrop High School staff member Mitizi] Quinn said. “We’ve never had this come up before. Never…And what’s even more sad is this is a student who really hasn’t contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates.” (Bastrop Daily Enterprise, http://www.bastropenterprise.com/...)
The last sentence is what I am referring to specifically. This is extremely unprofessional and unbecoming of a teacher. I am requesting that you both personally and publicly apologize to my brother for your remarks and if I do not hear that this has happened by the end of the week, I will be taking this to the superintendent and to the school board. If the school board does nothing, I will take this even higher.
I need not remind you that a specific and lengthy school prayer is illegal in the state of Louisiana. My brother is in the right here. The will of the majority does not rule all in this case. In other words, in this case, the majority is in violation of state and federal laws. This is why the school board backed down.
Of all people I saw you as a person who stood up for the weak and hurting. I remember a story where you told me you were instrumental in desegregating BHS. This is no different. By dismissing Damon's emotions/feelings/beliefs, you ignore him (and other religious and non-religious). You marginalize other religious and non-religious students. By not standing up for him and the law, you are hurting who my brother is and what he's trying to do, without any care for his emotions. You're advocating to have this little ritual performed illegally at graduation, with blatant disregard for anyone who isn't Christian. Instead, what you should be doing is supporting all students and the law by supporting a brief moment of silence, not prayer, but moment of silence. It's the law.
Update: The ACLU has also issued a statement a few days ago. You can read it here.
6:16 AM PT: On the rec list already? Thanks guys!
7:23 AM PT: Just FYI this is the last day you can contribute to his scholarship...