It’s been about a week since Damon Fowler‘s prayer-laced high school graduation ceremony. Since then, he’s been the victim of a lot of community backlash — it almost seemed like Damon was the only person willing to take a stand for church/state separation at Bastrop High School in Louisiana.
You all contributed over $15,000 toward a scholarship to help Damon out. Even after several days, I can’t get over that fact when I look at the number. Thank you to everyone who contributed. If you’d still like to chip in, you can do so until the end of the month:
A lot of readers have been curious about how Damon is doing. I sent along your questions to Damon and his brother Jerrett, and they were nice enough to offer responses:
What was Damon’s motivation for emailing his principal about the prayer?
Damon: I felt as thought it was a direct violation of the First Amendment, aside from being blatantly disrespectful of other religious views. A prayer at graduation to one specific god does nothing but separate the class into religious groups, anyway. The class of 2011 can’t unite under one specific view if they don’t all carry that view.
What’s the current living situation with Damon? What are his plans for the coming months and the next school year?
Jerrett: Damon is currently living with my sister, Heather. She’s in a 1-bedroom apartment in the Dallas area. This summer, I will be helping him register for classes, getting him a cheap car (because you just can’t live without a car here in Dallas), getting all his important documents from Louisiana, and, of course, we are looking into our legal options against Morehouse Parish.
As far as school is concerned, I will be setting him up with Dallas Community College to get some of his pre-reqs out of the way and helping him possibly get signed up for the University of North Texas in the Spring. This would all depend on what he actually wants to do with his life. I’m a firm believer that he shouldn’t go to a 4-year school without knowing exactly what he wants to do.
What are Damon’s college ambitions?
Damon: I’ve been looking into a few different things, but I can’t say with 100% certainty. I do plan on going to college soon, though.
Jerrett: Damon has mentioned to me that he wants to be a game programmer, but at this point I think it’s most important to focus on the core credits until he figures things out 100%.
While all this controversy was going on, did Damon have any student or teacher support at his high school (even in private, if not in public)?
Damon: I did. Though they didn’t agree with me, a couple teachers did show that they were proud of me for standing up for what I think is right.
Not to get into family gossip, but why were your parents mad about this particular incident? Was that out of nowhere? Was it building up from other things? Have they always been very religious?Jerrett: My parents can be a little unpredictable about things. I heard rumors that they fully blame me for everything that my brother did in the last several months, from admitting that he’s an atheist to the school prayer incident.
It probably has a lot to do with the email I sent my mother when I was 23, after I left home to go to school the Dallas area. She kept trying to rule my life, asking me if I found a church in Texas. I finally got tired of it and told her, in a lengthy email, that I am agnostic and there is no way I’ll ever go back to Christianity. She tells me that I’ve gotten too smart and that because of that I have turned my back on God. Apparently, to her, there is a such thing as “thinking too much.” I think out of a reaction to what I did to her years ago, she’s lashing out at Damon. It just gives her an excuse to hate, to cut people off. It’s sad, but I can’t really do anything about it. All I can do is move on with my life. If she wants to be part of it she’s got to do a lot of apologizing, not only to me, but to my brother and sister as well.
Do you think reconciliation with your parents is possible?
Damon: I can’t say. It doesn’t seem likely at this time. Maybe in the future.
Jerrett: She needs to do a lot of make-up work if she wants to be in my life again.
Has Damon considered starting an atheist group at his college?
Jerrett: Both of the colleges that Damon wants to attend have secular groups already.
How can all of us help?
Damon: Really, any support is great. I never asked for much. When I posted that Reddit article, I was only looking for a little motivation and support because I knew I wouldn’t get any locally. I’ve gotten more than that and I’m very grateful for it. I thank all who have given their support, even if it was just a few seconds out of their time to tell me that they’re behind me on this.
Jerrett: My biggest fear is that, since this is the Internet, people will find other places to focus their attention. This is going to be a long and drawn out battle and there is little we can do to make it go faster.
The support so far is amazing, more than I could have ever imagined, however, I hope that the support doesn’t go away. We need the community behind us so that we have the strength to follow this through. This isn’t just for us, this is for everyone out there as well. Anyone who’s hurting, marginalized, ignored because of their lack of religion or religious preference. My dream is to see this through and to have full support all the way.
Is there any thing you both would like to say to readers that hasn’t been said already?
Damon: I would like to say that I will continue the fight. I’m not backing down, and I will continue to stand for Constitutional rights as long as they’re violated. They’re there for a reason.
Jerrett: I would just like to reiterate that we really need the community to support us. This is a long battle and it’s not going to be easy. Please don’t be “Internet forgetful” about this. People are marginalized every day and we have to fight so that future generations can feel more free than us.
For anyone interested, after a conversation with Jerrett about what to do with the donation money, we’ve decided that I will send him the money straight-up and they will figure out the best way to make use of it. Since Damon’s college plans aren’t solidified yet, and the tuition wouldn’t go to just one school, this plan works for all of us.
I’ll provide proof that this transaction took place as soon as I can. Jerrett told me he will provide updates about the money on the Support Damon Facebook page.