Major victory for high school atheism

All reliable polling indicates that atheism is gaining ground in every age group, but the demographic in which we’re making the most rapid progress is in young people.  This is getting some peoples’ attention (read the comments and watch religious people freaking the fuck out) and causing those of us advocating for their rights to develop new strategies to overcome new hurdles.

The SSA has been working with Brian (not Barry) Lisco, a high school student in Texas, for the last eight months to form a group while he was being stone-walled by his administration.  I’ve been working on this case ever since I signed on with the SSA a month ago.  Yesterday, I called his assistant superintendent and lightly suggested that he re-evaluate the school’s position on allowing an SSA affiliate…and again suggested, ever so lightly, that the re-evaluation should take place sooner rather than later.

Thankfully, a little productive light was shone on the affair recently…

After a request for comment from USA TODAY, the school abruptly granted Lisco the Secular Student Alliance Club on Tuesday. If Lisco moves fast, he can still organize a Darwin Day celebration: Saturday is his 202nd birthday.

After almost a year of fighting, Brian has gotten his group.  It’s amazing how quickly people can change their tune once a lot of people are watching.

But the utility of this fight is greater than one group.  As I’ve written before, it’s very common for administrators to drag their feet and to pull amazingly dirty tricks in order to stall and wait for secular leaders to graduate.  This announces to those administrators that if they don’t intend to play fair that we have the means and the motivation to take the fight public (it’s kind of what I do).  The most popular way they do this is to make a faculty adviser a requirement and then to ensure that minority or unpopular groups cannot find one.

That’s why I was very happy to see this excellent quote from Reverend Barry Lynn:

Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, calls such maneuvers “… an illegal end-run around the constitutional rights of non-religious students.”

And he’s dead on.  You simply cannot require a willing faculty advisor for a student group, especially as a means of keeping out minority groups (if you’re curious, I’ve laid out the rationale in more detail here).  This article will help to take that avenue away from obstructive administrators without me having to send them an intimidating letter.  Brian’s unwillingness to give up has produced a victory for Stephen F. Austin High School and for every student who will fight the same battle over the next few years – and it will not be a small number.

Brian sums it all up very well in the article:

We atheists are already invisible — we don’t come out. That’s a form of repression in itself. It’s about getting pushed to the margin of our community.

Brian has acted in a way that reflects those words.  More and more young people are coming out and refusing to be marginalized.  These students are the future of our country.  They are fearless, dedicated, and they are casting away the shackles of religion in greatly increasing numbers.  The future is brighter than it’s ever been.

  • Candice

    Yippee for Brian!! :)

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  • Antony

    Well, I wouldn't jump to conclusions immediately on the whole faculty advisor bit. I'm on the board of admissions at the University here, and we take note of the schools in our area who don't require a faculty advisor for their organizations. We have to do extensive research on their groups to see which don't, as these lessen the credibility of the applicants. The logic has nothing to do with secular persecution (at lease at our end), and everything to do with ensuring the club actually does what they claim to do.