Thursday, October 16, 2003

Enforced praying

I heard a story from my stepdaughter last weekend. She lives with her dad in "the heartland" -- the center of Texas. She considers herself an atheist; her dad used to be an atheist but is now questionable. Dad's wife is a Christian.

At her junior high school, they had one of those "pray around the flagpole" events where students meet before school. This is generally not a problem since it is supposed to be organized by students and ignored by the school administration.

Only not in this case. Her first class is P.E., and her coach instructed everyone to be there at the earlier time in the morning. He said "If anyone has any religious objections then you have to come and tell me and I'll let you off." But if anyone doesn't show up and doesn't voice a religious objection, they have to undergo "attitude adjusters." According to stepdaughter, that means extra laps and push-ups.

So my stepdaughter dutifully told the coach that she's not coming because she's an atheist. Everyone heard her. One girl told her they can't be friends anymore. Many others picked arguments.

People think that school prayer is harmless, but I think this is a good example of what happens when the school gets involved with religion. That coach was way out of line. She shouldn't HAVE to tell him about her religious beliefs. She shouldn't be put in the situation of making her classmates hostile at her. It's frankly none of his damn business.

Seems to me that teachers taking it upon themselves to identify who belongs to what religion is the first step in something more sinister. I would expand on that, but I don't want to invoke Godwin's law.