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Don Rose

Kids like Damon are true American heroes. It takes a lot of guts to take a stand that isn't popular with the majority.

He earned every bit of the support we gave him.

It is absolutely incredible that a community who has no real leader was able to step up like this. :)


Good article. The only changes I would make is to not capitalize the word "god", as Christians don't have a copyright on the word. We (and minority religions) shouldn't give them such... credence. Also, I would add the word "their" in front of "god", as again, it puts Christianity on a pedestal. That's part of the reason they act as they do... act as though they're persecuted, because they are so used to their god being referred to as "the" god. It bugs me when atheists pass the chance to plant this seed, and cling on to their prior indoctrination.


Mike, the rule is quite simple. When the term "god" is used as a proper noun, it is capitalized. Christians, Jews, and Muslims use the word as a proper noun, so we capitalize it in that context.

We do the same for words like "mom" and "dad." I don't say, "did you see mom the other day?" but "did you see Mom the other day?" Capitalizing "god" is hardly saying Christians have a monopoly on the word.


Wow! That is cool that one of my posts on the thinking atheist is being spread on the net.

dj nash

Good read.


Anyone who is in favor of prayer has little to no understanding of the first amendment and secular politics. You're all fascist morons.

I was so amazed at what this community did that I was literally choked up.

I saw this on reddit, passed it around to those I knew, and donated when Hemant added the story to his site, as did so many others.

This is the first time that so many of my atheists friends, who like myself, are wasting away all alone in little suburbs and hamlets, really understood the bloc of solidarity that we do have.

I'm proud of that young man for standing in the face of that storm, and proud of everyone who spread the word and helped in whatever way they could.

Catlin Mills

I am not an athiest. I was in fact raised Southern Baptist. All the same, what this child did put him as an example to his generation for standing up for his beliefs. He is Right. Prayer does not belong in school, it belongs at home, at church, or in the privacy of your own thoughts. And when he stood up for his beliefs he was horribly abused, to discourage others from backing him up. Thank you to the men and women who stood beside this child.


Is anyone old enough to remember them telling us that if the Commies took over, anyone standing up for what they believe, and resisting the beliefs imposed by the state, would be thrown in jail? I dunno about you lot, but I'd rather be thrown in jail than exiled and abused. Is it just me, or does this seem, I dunno, un-American?

Also, I haven't exactly done a lot of Bible study, but I'm trying to remember the part where Jesus tells the nonbeliever to get the hell out and Jesus' followers gang up and threaten to beat the crap out of the nonbeliever. Are these people being, maybe, just a little, un-Christian?

Just, you know, sayin'.

Benjamin Machanik

Is Bastrop High School ever going to be taken to court for their behavior in this incidence?


Thanks for posting this.

Garth Spencer

I sort of see what is going on here - someone offends an arbitrary social norm, everyone in the local society reacts against him, tribally - but I'm really surprised at how strong and sustained was the tribe's gut reaction, and how reason didn't prevail eventually. Is it something in the water down south?


i wish everybody would just respect and each and be tolerant... what's wrong with them... :(


I have long held the belief that it is something in the water that just makes people behave like superstitious pricks. especially when a "child" points out that the "adults" are breaking their own rules. I'm familiar with stories like this on an intimate level, having grown up in a place called (and I shit you not,) Yeehaw Junction, FL. I barely got out with my sanity intact. Fowler is an inspiration to lonely atheists trapped in southern hells everywhere. The universe could use more like him, and those that offered aid.


I appreciate the link very much, and I thank you for your attention to this important story. I am convinced, now more than ever, that this is exactly why we need a strong and at least somewhat organized atheist community.


(...)having grown up in a place called (and I shit you not,) Yeehaw Junction, FL.

And of course I had to go check that this is indeed a real place. It is. It's right by the Ronald Reagan Turnpike (toll road). You can't make this stuff up.


Exceptionally bias garbage:

When this event first hit the scene I said simply this; If the school promotes the prayer- WRONG, however, if the students and as in this case, the valedictorian (or any other student for that matter) leads the prayer as a sign of his/her own beliefs than it is in full bounds of the law to allow this.

The schools cannot schedule or lead prayer. This is a rather simple fact and easy idea to understand.

The young man deserves all he brought upon himself. If you want to try and bully people’s freedoms with threats behind closed walls, you should be ready to accept the consequences, whether they be positive or negative.

I have no personal weight on the side of prayer or against it as long as it is done within the legal guidelines there to protect all of our religious freedoms in the US.

That being said, I have no (not an absolute inkling) of empathy for people who try to bully other beliefs with their own.

This young atheist, in the over a dozen articles I have read and forums I have followed over the weeks, is simply a coward and a bully.

Ronald King

Greta, I agree with everything you wrote in this article. It sickens me that these people call themselves Christians. What you describe is pure hatred being expressed by these "religious" bigots. The support that you wrote about is the love that we are wired for.
The "evil" is in the hearts of those who attacked this brave young man.

Greta Christina
This young atheist, in the over a dozen articles I have read and forums I have followed over the weeks, is simply a coward and a bully.


Bully? His school was planning to have an official, school-sponsored prayer -- something that is blatantly illegal as well as immoral. Yes, what they wound up doing -- having a student lead the prayer, rather than having it officially led by the school -- was borderline legal (depending on whether the school egged her on to do it)... but it's not what they had originally planned on. And it was their original plans that Fowler protested. How is it "bullying" to insist that the school not follow through on those original illegal plans? Do you think it's "bullying" to insist on your legal and moral rights?

And "coward"? How on earth do you figure that? Fowler risked ostracization, public condemnation, and more, in order to stand up for what he thought was right. Even if you don't agree with his position... how on earth do you see his actions as cowardly?

You seem to think that, because he insisted that the school not do something that was illegal and immoral but that was popular and that lots of people wanted, it was "bullying" to insist that they not do it. If so -- that is a vile and despicable position. Shame on you.


Talk about bias he didn't even read the story properly enough to understand that :) Ah the joys of living in Canada...


The only bullies in this story are the christian bigots who choose to ignore their own rules as stated in Matthew 6:5-15. Damon is brave and is standing up not just for his own but everyone's rights.


I'm mostly with Catlin (upthread) on this one. I was raised Methodist and I'm mostly OK with other people being whatever as long as they don't act like the alleged Christians in this story did. Disagreement = OK. But rising up as a community to punish and exile a lone kid? Turning your own child out of your house? I don't think so.


I didn't know there were so many advocates for theocracy in the land of the free.


I suppose no one should be suprised with the actions of the Christians in this story. They are told over and over to hate their family, to reject anyone who dares not agree with them and their petty god. This is when supposed "liberal" Christians should finally realize just how hateful and ignorant their faith really is and no amount of apologetics/magic decoder ring using will cover it up.


Otomis pitifully seems to ignore that the laws of the US are all about protecting the minority from the majority. Oh and Otomis, you seem to be quite a lot like your fellow Christians. You seem to think you can lie, attempt to twist things and no one will notice. Happily, that's doesn't work and you, and your religion, can be seen as the pathetic things that they are, totally dependent on fear and ignorance.


Gimme that old time religion so I can beat the crap out of anyone who so much as questions me.
THAT is their message, nothing more, nothing less.

Ronald King

It profoundly sickens me that those who are most aggressive and extroverted are those who have the most "political" power in the Christian faith and are the same people who are profoundly ignorant of what it means to be a Christian.

Greta Christina
It profoundly sickens me that those who are most aggressive and extroverted are those who have the most "political" power in the Christian faith and are the same people who are profoundly ignorant of what it means to be a Christian.

Ronald, I appreciate your anger towards the people who are ostracizing Damon Fowler, and your revulsion at/ rejection of their actions. Obviously, I share it. But here's something you might want to consider:

You do not get to be the sole arbiter of what it means to be a Christian.

There are countless ways to be a Christian. There are Christians who insist that Christianity means hating homosexuality; there are Christians who insist that Christianity means loving and accepting homosexuality. There are Christians who insist that Christianity means women being subordinate to men; there are Christians who insist that Christianity means women being equal to men. There are Christians who insist that Christianity means trying to get other people in line with your religious beliefs; there are Christians who insist that Christianity means respecting and supporting different beliefs. Etc. Etc. Etc.

And all of these people can back up their positions with Scripture. The Bible itself is so vague, and so internally contradictory, that it can be used to back up pretty much any position. I guarantee you that, whatever version of Christianity you believe in, there are plenty of people who think you're getting it totally wrong.

This idea that Christians who behave appallingly aren't true Christians? It isn't supportable. Unless you have a time machine and can prove that Jesus (a) really existed and (b) agreed with everything you think, you have no reason to think that you know what it means to be a Christian. You don't get to make that judgment for everyone else.

The young man deserves all he brought upon himself.
Really? He deserves the threats of violence? He deserves the death threats? Maybe even deserves someone carrying out one or both of those threats? There's no polite way to put this, but fuck you. No one deserves that.

And your idea that the school can just offload the prayer to a student in that nudge-nudge, wink-wink way makes a mockery out of the intent of the constitutional amendment. If that were legal, why bother having a student do it. Why not just get a priest to give a "motivational speech" (unreviewed, of course), or just claim that all the teachers there are "off the clock" for the duration of their public speaking and can exercise their free speech rights however they please. Why bother with this part of the constitution at all if it's that trivially easy to avoid?

Robert B

I think the "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" not-technically-school prayer that happened demonstrates an important point. I have zero legal expertise, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if a lawyer told me that prayer was legal - that no one was abusing their power in a way that the law can control.

But societies have a lot of power that the government can't control. Threats of physical violence are, I imagine, illegal, and kicking your son out of the house is probably child abuse or abandonment under some conditions. But people can "hound, pillorize, and ostracize" whoever they want to, legally - that's free speech. Private people have an awesome amount of social power, and the law can't and shouldn't restrict that (excepting certain extremes like libel and assault and so on that violate other rights.) But a society has just as much moral obligation to use its social power well, as a government has moral obligation to use its legal power well.

A lot of the "shitstorm" that Fowler is living in is not illegal - but it is still religious oppression. It may not be a crime, but it is exactly as contemptible and evil as it would be if the government did the same thing.

Ronald King

Greta, I understand your position on what it "means to be Christian". There are many different ways to interpret the bible and the interpretation, in my opinion, is dependent upon how open or closed the individual or organization is and how far along they have evolved in being able to love their fellow human beings. Jesus criticized the leaders in his faith for being hypocrites and misleading their followers. He did not criticize those outside the faith. His sermon on the mount is the example of how a life is to be lived. Unfortunately, it seems to be forgotten.
I know there are plenty of people who disagree with me because they think that my non-violent beliefs are the beliefs of a pacifist and anarchist. Greta, what I judge in myself and others is how far we have evolved in our ability to love our fellow human beings and I fail everyday in that endeavor and if I am aware of that failure I can correct it. If I see examples of how others fail to love I will speak out about it. We love our neighbors as ourselves. The problem is if we do not know how to love ourselves then our neighbor is going to have a hard time with us and we will experience the natural consequences of our lack of love and others will see Christianity as harmful which it is when so many express such hatred and fear and call it "christianity".

I am outraged by the abject cowardice displayed by the Bubba Gestapo, this kid has shown that he has more honor and strength of conviction than the average person twice his age. I am glad that for once, we have pulled together in support of Damon. These deluded theocrats must be fought and show that we will not back down.

Melody Jane

This story literally brings tears to my eyes. I think it hits a personal place for many Atheists, as well as anyone who has been ostracized by their families at a young age for expressing their beliefs. The out-pouring of support is overwhelming to read about, to say the least. I know from personal experience that having financial stability is so very important when that familial safety net is ripped away. It can never replace the emotional one, but it does help keep one afloat until another, more supportive 'family' can be established as an adult.

The boy, well, man, has shown tremendous courage against the, "sit down, shut up" mentality that so many marginalized groups are expected to emulate in deference to the majority. There aren't words to express my pride that there are students and young people such as him coming up through the ranks to inspire others to take a stand against these illegal happenings.

His parents don't realize it, but they should be proud that they raised such an independent and strong young man. Unfortunately, as with many parents, they will never comprehend the depth of their loss and their betrayal.

I can only hope to instill real family values into my children. Values that don't include disowning your child when they grow up to think independently, even and especially when they think differently than you.

Wonderful post, Greta. Thank you for spreading this around.

James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

For one, I am happy that we get to see a typical example of christian love, tolerance, ethics, and kindness. It reminds me so much of what I have been subjected to by even my own family.

Is it any surprise that theists are held in contempt and derision by rational people? I am awed by the courage shown by Damon. I hope from this point on, he has the good things someone of his courage and ethics deserves.


Regarding the quote from Quinn in bold:
"And what's even more sad is this is a student who really hasn't contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates,"

I just wanted to say that pointing out that having a public graduation prayer in school is unconstitutional and opposing it is the single best thing he could have done for his graduation and his classmates, even if he did nothing else (which would be besides the point anyways). I think it does two things: one, pointing out that public prayer should not be in schools in itself is obvious. Secondly, that it might encourage other atheists to step up and speak out. Of course he was ostracized, and I'm sure the religious people did their best to harass him so that other atheists might be discouraged from trying to speak up. But if you look at what happened to him after all that drama, I think it's pretty clear that we do have plenty of support. Damon Fowler might have lost his parents from this (and I don't know if this really might be considered a loss at all; that depends on how close he was with his parents), but I think he has gained quite a bit of support otherwise. As atheists, we are willing to help each other, and no amount of harassment from religious people is enough to shut us up.
We should speak up about religion causing harm whenever it happens, and if people try to harass us as a result, we'll still have support.

Joe M

I don't attend church. But I see the value in a system of religion. You know, there are fanatics in the world that use religion to preach "truth" and judge others. But i most cases, in practice, people in many churches focus more on the goodwill and selflessness that religion tries to install into people. More good children came out of generations where Christianity was in public schools. Since it got "whined" out of sight, children have been behaving badly ever since.

You have to understand that a percentage of the parental population don't know how to raise kids. This is where a system of guidance comes into play. If a kid has bad experiences at home, chances are that kid will get good values at school. Now, school teaches nothing about good values. Its all boring academics and cruel socializing.

Atheists think that absolute "truth" that you can see, smell, and hear is the answer to life. NOT. You end up lost without anything to guide you. You take away empathy and selflessness. Then your kids turn purely sarcastic from all the material evils sold to them. Then they spend their time senslessly exposing their naked bodies on webcam websites. All the while, atheist parents are oblivious.

Regarding the kid getting ostracized at school. Having prayer is a positive experience that "adds something" good and sets an example. Complaining about it only subtracts something and adds negativity. That kid needed to learn that just because you don't like it doesn't mean you gotta be disrespectful and shoot your mouth.

I seriously feel sorry for you people's kids. The ugliness of our present generation coincides with the increase in atheism. I could personally care less if Jesus actually walked on water. But I will admit that what he taught us is invaluable compared to what you people are removing from children.

Robert B

Joe M.:

There were quite a lot of hidden assumptions in that...

1) The current generation of young people are unusually immoral or ill-behaved.

(Adults have been saying this about every generation of kids for hundreds or thousands of years. Meanwhile, the quality of human life steadily improves from generation to generation.)

1a) Children of atheist parents are worse-behaved or more poorly parented than other children.

(citation needed)

2) Without religion there can be no values.

(I've never seen a student handbook that didn't specifically endorse respect, non-violence, and intellectual honesty. I haven't seen one in the last ten years that left out diversity. None claimed religious support for their rules.)

3) Valuing truth is inconsistent with principles and empathy.


4) It is discourteous to claim one's rights under the law

4a) This is a valid reason not to claim one's rights under the law.

(Hard to keep society together if this were true...)

5) Jesus' ethics were exceptionally good.

(Aristotle's doctrine of the mean isn't perfect, but it's more effective and reasonable than the ethics in the gospels and was written first. The ethics of Kant, Mill, and Locke are each overwhelmingly better than the gospels'.)

5a) Selflessness is good.

(Competing claim: "I am exactly as important as each other human being. Because I'm the only one living my own life, pursuing my interests is my job first, to the extent that doing so is both just and possible.")

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