Friday, April 2, 2010

ACLU of Mississippi Apologizes to American Humanist Association

This story has been dealt with more thoroughly elsewhere, but I wanted to provide a brief synopsis because of the direct relevance to atheists in Mississippi. As you know, the Itawamba County School District decided to cancel Itawamba Agricultural High School's prom rather than permit a lesbian student to bring her girlfriend. Not only did this spark nationwide outrage, but offers of support poured in as various groups offered to sponsor an inclusive prom. One of the larger donations came from the American Humanist Association in the form of a $20,000 gift by Todd Stiefel. One little problem with Stiefel's gift...the ACLU of Mississippi rejected it.

“Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist,’” Jennifer Carr, the fund-raiser for the A.C.L.U of Mississippi, wrote in an e-mail message to Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the humanist group.
The good news is that this situation seems to have been resolved now, with an apology by the ACLU of Mississippi. They are calling the rejection an error by a staff member who evidently did not have the authority to do any such thing.

What I want to highlight about this story will not surprise you in the least: the majority of Mississippians do indeed tremble in terror at the word "atheist." This needs to change. However, refusing the use the word "atheist" not only is not going to change that, it helps to perpetuate it.

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