March 20, 2010

Atheist Dad Considers Civil Disobedience at Daughter's Graduation Ceremony

I am posting the following for a reader, Maldon, who sent it to me with a request for assistance after his daughter informed him of Atheist Revolution (how cool is that?). He is particularly interested in your input.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter (who is first in line to be valedictorian at her upcoming high school graduation) approached me and said “They are going to make time for a student led prayer at my graduation ceremony. I don't think this is right. Should I say something?” This at a mid-western high school which shall (for now) remain nameless.

I considered this for a few minutes then responded “Although I think this is a fight that should be fought; if you decide to fight it, be aware that you'll open yourself up to a lot of harassment and abuse from your christian classmates. So, though I agree it isn't right, are you the one to make the case? It's up to you.”

Her and a friend who shares her views went ahead and made a complaint to the principal. All they asked was that the students opt for a secular prayer that would be inclusive of any non-Christians in the assembly. The principal passed this request on to the planning committee.

Last night, my daughter showed me the comments on facebook about this fracas. They ranged from “We're the majority, they should just shut up” (obviously this kid's civics class didn't mention the “Tyranny of the Majority!”) to “Why won't they let us express ourselves” to “I can't believe anyone would be offended over such a simple thing”.

I'm incensed! Typical case of Christians not even realizing the privileges they have, even as kids. As a past member of the ACLU (unfortunately conservative economic policies have made it impossible to do anything but pay my credit card bills lately so my membership has lapsed) my first thought was to give them a call and have them talk to the school. But, I just read about the poor young lady in the South who is probably getting all the blame from her peers for her prom being canceled. Since I don't want the onus for this falling on my daughter (who I am so proud of right now :-)), I promised I wouldn't make any waves, and let her decide what to do.

But this situation has me fuming so much that I have to do something. So, it occurs to me that a little civil (religious) disobedience is in order. I'm contemplating waiting till the prayer portion of the ceremony, then standing, turning my back on the stage, and giving the audience a rousing chorus of the “Star Spangled Banner”. I know the words and can carry a tune. Although I'd never get to Hollywood on American Idol, I guarantee I wouldn't make the cut for the really bad bits. So I wouldn't cause any permanent damage to any of the audience's auditory capabilities.

Think this would get my point across? Would it be a statement for the principles of religious freedom this country is founded on? Or would it just go over the heads of most of the churched? But the biggest question is: would it put the onus on atheist dad and let my daughter off the hook?

Any input from you folks would be highly appreciated.