Although my friend Hemant “The Friendly Atheist” Mehta has already lost his bet on the unconstitutionality of the Lebanon High School principal’s graduation speech, he refuses to admit it in his latest post. If he doesn’t pony up with the Islay malt pronto, I’ll have to start calling him “The Obdurate Atheist.”
But of more interest on that post is Hemant’s report of an email he got from a disaffected student at Lebanon High School—one who had to sit through Principal Lowery’s goddy speech. And she didn’t like that speech one bit. I’ll reproduce what Hemant published below, just for the record. She preferred to remain anonymous (a wise decision in that town!), and her letter was edited somewhat by Hemant.
I’ve lived in Lebanon, Missouri for all my seventeen years of life. I was raised in a very liberal, open-minded home, which I’d venture to say is different from 98% of the other students at my school. Neither my parents nor myself are religious, something that definitely stands out in this town. I’ve always been criticized for my beliefs (or lack thereof) so Lowery’s speech was not a first for me. Ever since I was young, I’ve been preached to, dragged to church by grandparents who were — and still are — convinced I’ll burn in hell for not attending, and bullied for being different. I’ve always stood firmly by my beliefs, and, quite frankly, I’m used to the discrimination.
As I sat and listened to my principal deliver the speech at my best friend’s graduation, I took it with a grain of salt and an eye roll. This is the same stuff I hear every day. While at first, I wasn’t deeply offended, I soon realized that the Muslim foreign exchange students probably didn’t like it very much, especially when their host families and classmates applauded the speech. For someone who is supposed to be a leader — a government paid leader at that — it sure was an arrogant and distasteful thing to do.
It wasn’t until I shared the link to the story on “The Blaze” to my Facebook page that I was truly bothered by the issue. My Facebook friends instantly started attacking me for my opinion.
(But don’t worry. It’s okay because their comments all ended with “I’m praying for you!”)
I’ll end this by saying thank you for bringing this issue to light. This town may be doomed to close-mindedness forever, but when there are people like you in far more accepting parts of our nation that are willing to take a stand, I definitely have hope for a better future. While I can’t say I’m a proud LHS student, I thank you for taking concern in my community.
There is more than one such student, and this, of course, gives ample grounds for a legal challenge—if those students are willing to act as plaintiffs (they are kept anonymous, even in those proceedings, as far as possible). What’s equally important is that even in the God-soaked town of Lebanon, teeming with obstreperous believers, there are rational voices like that of this young woman. There is more sanity in her email than in all the nasty emails I got from Lebanon’s Christians. We have hope.