Atheists Battle for High School Clubs

Gay and lesbian kids are still bullied and harassed in schools and they have to fight to get access to gay/straight alliances where they can get support and camaraderie.

Often, opposition to such clubs is based in religion—as was the fight over a GSA in Irmo, South Carolina. The principal of Irmo High School, Eddie Walker, eventually resigned over the club, later saying he opposed it because he views “the world from a biblical perspective and my view of that was that it was wrong.”

Gays and lesbians are not alone in their battle for high school clubs. Next up: atheists.

The Secular Student Alliance, which promotes atheism and humanism with chapters at more than 200 colleges, is sending in reinforcements for teen free-thinkers—a push to launch 50 new high school clubs. Godless teens want the same social benefits that evangelical teens find at the annual “See you at the pole” flagpole prayer events at thousands of schools every September, and the court-sanctioned afterschool Bible clubs, and Christian, Jewish and Muslim student groups.

School administrators have reacted much the way they did to gay and lesbian groups. The groups faced hurdle after hurdle, one was even called a “hate group,” and a faculty sponsor was told that supporting the group would be a “bad career move.”

But this opposition has only steeled the will of many students, including 18-year-old Brian Lisco, a senior at Stephen Austin High School in the Houston suburbs. The school offered a compromise—call it a Philosophy Club and drop any affiliation with the Secular Student Alliance. He refused.

“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.”

As a Christian lesbian, all I can say is, welcome to the margins, Brian. Margins can make for some strange bedfellows. We may not agree on God’s existence, but it’s always nice to have more allies in the battle to end repression of any kind.