This hits kinda close to home.
A student at Johnsburg High School in northwestern McHenry County, IL wants to start an atheist group at her school, but she’s facing a few challenges. Here’s what reporter Diana Sroka writes:
Savannah Lanz doesn’t believe in God, follow religion, or look to any higher powers, and she’s hoping to form a student group at Johnsburg High School that echoes those beliefs.
“The goal of the group is just to prove people can lead ethical and moral lives without religion, and you don’t have to believe in God,” said Lanz, 16. “It’s basically a group for people who consider themselves free-thinkers, atheists, agnostics or humanists.”
However, she’s meeting obstacles as dispute brews over the group’s purpose, potential activities, and whether it’s been approved by school administrators.
Assuming this is student-led, there shouldn’t be any problem here. So long as students can surround the flagpole or discuss the Bible, atheists can gather, too.
And according to Savannah, there is indeed a Christian group at the school. (Assuming this is really her) she writes in a comment following the article:
We already have an official, [sponsored] group at our school called the Fellowship of Christian [S]tudents. Why can’t I have my group as well? Also, most of our meetings will be just consist of discussing different philosophies and issues.
Here’s an excerpt from the article that really gets to me:
Meanwhile, Lanz said she was under the impression that the group — named the Johnsburg Freethinkers Society — had been approved by an assistant principal at the school, and simply wouldn’t be allowed to advertise with fliers in the building.
Again, the school is crossing into illegal waters. As long as the fliers are school-appropriate, the group must be allowed to advertise. You can’t deny their advertising simply because it’s for an atheist club.
Plus, I’m sure everyone would want to know about the first meeting. It sounds awesome:
Group members already are planning their first event, a night when members dress up as pirates and eat spaghetti in honor of the “Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
I’ve tried reaching out to Savannah — the Secular Student Alliance has plenty of experience with students facing challenges when starting atheist groups — and I hope to hear back from her.
It’s really exciting and inspiring that any high school student would have the courage to begin a group like this — especially in a fairly conservative area. Good luck to her in getting the group started!