What Happens When a Humanist Group Puts Books in Schools? Parents Overreact, Of Course!
Apparently, even the chance that a child might come across some freethought literature is too much for some parents.
The Tri-State Freethinkers, a service-oriented humanist group with members in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, petitioned three Kentucky elementary schools for permission to distribute their materials in the same manner as a Christian group, the Gideons. The group was allowed to enter the elementary schools and leave five copies of their book, Humanism, What‘s That?: A Book for Curious Kids. The group was also to avoid talking to students. It was exactly the same process the Gideons are required to adhere to.
No big deal, right? Reportedly, the schools were really cool with this. But some of the parents? Not so much. It appears that many parents kept their kids home from school rather than have them be potentially exposed to a way of thinking that doesn’t involve a supernatural being. According to The Advocate-Messenger:
A small group of adults and children followed Freethinkers Jim G. Helton and Torey Glassmeyer to Walnut Hill and Jones Park, glowering at them from the parking lot as they delivered the books after 5 p.m. Thursday.
Before they arrived at Jones Park, parents walked into the school and demanded to see the table where the books were going to be displayed. Local media were barred from entering the schools and were politely asked to leave when they entered the building.
“We’re here to defend God and his glory,” said one woman, who declined to be named. A male companion muttered to himself as he scanned the parking lot for their car.
You know what they say: Glower at others the way you would want them to glower at you.
This type of response always makes me laugh a little. I often hear religious people speak eloquently about the strength their religion gives them. But, apparently, their faith is a little bit too weak to withstand a little pushback.
But this type of attitude has a darker side. Just a month ago a North Carolina student was bullied into abandoning the atheist group she founded. Kalei Wilson and her family were victims of threats, verbal attacks and attempts to sully her reputation and that of her family, just for trying to form a secular group at her school.
This isn’t anything new. Students across the country are trying to start secular student groups but are having unnecessary obstacles thrown in their way. And these groups are necessary:
The need for high school atheist groups — or indeed, for atheist groups of any kind — is baffling to many people. When USA Today ran an article about Brian Lisco and the SSA’s new high school program, it was met with a barrage of hostile comments… partly in the hysterical “Satan is trolling for the souls of our youth!” vein, but largely with puzzlement and snark, along the lines of, “Why would anyone need a club to talk about what they don’t believe in?”
But the powerful resistance these groups have encountered makes the need for them all too clear. The reality is that atheists are the most distrusted and disliked of all minority groups — more than blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, and gays and lesbians — and polls show that Americans are less likely to vote for an atheist than they are for a person in any other minority or marginalized category.
I see hints of these wider problems in what went down in Kentucky. Even though the school officials seemed to be nothing but professional, there is a definite lack of understanding in the community. That’s something no number of winning lawsuits can buy.
Photo Credit: WKYT news report