Tell if you’ve heard this tired old joke before:
Did you know atheists have their own holiday?
It’s called April Fools’ Day.
I guess we’re all supposed to laugh or something. But how would you feel if your high school teacher told it in class?
That’s what happened at Northwest Rankin High School in Mississippi. According to a letter sent to the Rankin County School District by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center:
The parent reports that her daughter’s World History teacher, Mr. Rick Hammarstrom, who also serves as a pastor of Rehobeth Baptist Church (a fact which is prominently displayed on the School District’s website), has repeatedly promoted Christianity and God-belief during class time while making hostile and disparaging remarks about atheists. For instance, on October 8, 2015, Mr. Hammarstrom stood up and announced during class: “Atheists are throwing a fit because they don’t have their own day.” He continued: “They do have their own day; it’s called April Fool’s Day, because you are a fool if you don’t believe in god.” According to the student, these types of remarks are becoming more frequent and the teacher continues to express hatred towards atheists and favoritism for Christians. The parent and student are atheists and understandably feel affronted and stigmatized by the teacher’s actions. Worse, the teacher’s hurtful remarks make the student feel extremely unwelcome in her own classroom.
In what context does a teacher even make that “joke”?!
If the name of that school and District sound familiar, it’s probably because the AHA has had problems with them before. The same school once had a mandatory during-the-day assembly in which Christians told students they had to accept Jesus into their lives. Even after the AHA filed a lawsuit and won the case, another high school in the District held an awards ceremony (also during the school day) during which a Christian pastor delivered a prayer.
Oh, that wasn’t all. An elementary school in the same District had students walk through the lobby in order to pick up Bibles being handed out by the Gideons.
We’re at the point where the District owes the AHA $10,000 (in addition to legal fees) every time there’s a violation of church/state separation.
That fine is supposed to be a deterrent to bad behavior. It’s not working. Maybe a judge needs to increase it. We’re at the point where the AHA should just have a staffer dedicated to this District since there are so many violations taking place there; the District would end up paying that person’s salary, anyway.
Un-fucking-believable, even in Mississippi.
(Image via Shutterstock)