Saturday, March 9, 2013

"The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today"

Stumbled across a story today.  A story that, as an atheist in America, I should have known.  I confess, I was ignorant, and for that I am more than a little ashamed.

The story is about a woman named Vashti McCollum.  A hero by any definition, and I mean ANY.  The woman who, single-handedly, gave teeth to our Constitution's "establishment" clause.  Well, maybe not SINGLE-handedly--her eldest son, James, certainly had a hand in it, as did an attorney or two and her loving family who stood by her.

Vashti Cromwell McCollum, photo via University of Missouri-Kansas City
In a nutshell, Vashti (I use the familiar because she is suddenly and now forever dear to me) felt that religion classes (and these were, make no mistake BIBLE classes, not "comparative religious history" classes) that left abstaining children (like her eldest son) sitting at the "bad kid/detention" desk out in the hall for an hour a day, exposing the children to pressure, ridicule, and ostracism (from fellow students and teachers alike), were a violation of the Constitution.  She believed that public property and public monies shouldn't be used to promote or sponsor a religion.  Something we now view as a no-brainer, an "of COURSE" sort of thing, but back then (in the 1940s) Americans were very into conformity and the idea that it wasn't okay to force others to adhere to their particular faith was strange to them.  Vashti approached the school board and requested that the classes, which were relatively new to the district, be discontinued.  They refused, and she took it to court.

Her family was tortured.  Literally.  She was pelted with rotten vegetables by "good Christians."  Her family's cat was hanged.  Rocks were hurled.  Their home was picketed.  Her children were beaten and viciously bullied.  They were denied service at local businesses.  Her eldest boy, James, was finally put on a train and sent to live with her parents in New York State because the abuse had become so terrifying and the school district's attorney had painted him a problem child who brought the abuse and bullying down on himself--an opinion trumpeted by the local media.  The Illinois State House attempted to pass legislation barring atheists from working in State universities and colleges (this bill was dropped when they discovered she'd already been dismissed from her job).  No one would give her employment.  Her husband, who was a professor at the local college, feared losing his job.

It was the very persecution some American Christians claim to experience today as they freely worship, display symbols of their faith, rule the airwaves, open public meetings, local and national, with prayers, and openly declare their faith.  As always, I scoff at their manipulative, disingenuous claims.  American Christians don't know the meaning of the word "persecution."

The practical upshot?  Well, I strongly recommend you watch the Bill Moyers documentary I've got linked up below.  But if you don't have 56 minutes to spare?  Vashti bravely pushed through legal defeats to take the case to the United States Supreme Court.  The result?  Well, you don't see any Bible classes in public schools anymore, do you?

Vashti died in 2006 at the age of 93.  Wish I'd known her, feel like she's mine.  And yesterday?  Was the 65th anniversary of McCollum vs Board of Education.

Watch "The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today" For a Limited Time |

Don't like what she fought for?  Fine, but you cannot deny her bravery.


We've decided to blow the cash on training for Charlie.  It's going to be very harsh, financially, but we really do want to be able to take him places again.  We used to, all the time.  We used to walk him in DC, used to take him everywhere.  He's great with people, but he's become increasingly "reactive" with other dogs, and the worse he gets, the less we take him out, and the less we take him out, the worse he gets.  So we're going to drop the cash (ouch!) and undertake 16 weeks of training.  Honestly, if 16 weeks can't improve him, we'll just have to deal with having a yappy, growly rat dog.  Like no one ever sees any of THOSE around, right?

Charlie, after being groomed half to death

I was going to apologize for the history lesson, but got to thinking about it.  Why should I?  I crawl around the web sampling many blogs, and a vast number are dedicated to celebrating or forwarding a particular religious or ideological bent.  I have no religious bent--as the meme says, calling atheism a religion is like calling NOT collecting stamps a hobby or NOT shooting heroin an addiction.  Atheism is my lack of faith.  It is my absence of belief.  And, sometimes, I'm going to talk about it.

If that's a problem, move on.

Do not reprint without permission. © KAQ

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