Why I Sued Fayette High School: A Student Speaks Out

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When a teacher began leading prayers in a public school classroom, one student stood up for church-state separation. High school student and humanist Gavin Hunt shares his story on why he sued his school to protect students’ rights.

As many of you may know, I recently filed a lawsuit with the American Humanist Association against my school for violating the First Amendment, which requires separation of church and state. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and to explain my intentions and motives behind suing Fayette High School. I am Gavin Paul Thomas Hunt, (“G.H.” in the complaint), one of the plaintiffs in the case.

My aim is to improve the way in which schools operate and to reduce constitutional violations by enlightening the public on why such behavior is not to be tolerated. Elementary and high school students are particularly vulnerable to indoctrination and manipulation. In society, this can be a dangerous thing.

I’ve come to my own realizations for the simple fact that I have been exposed to both theories (belief in God and atheism), and had been, up until the time I attended Fayette, free to find out what I believe instead of being pressured by my school to adopt a particular belief system. My parents have educated me on the beliefs of the world, and let me decide for myself; this I am thankful for. I, myself, prefer to be identified as “agnostic atheist” because it’s a passive belief system. Agnostic atheism is defined as “The view of those who do not believe in the existence of any deity, but do not claim to know if a deity does or does not exist.” I believe that people can be good without a god. I don’t find the need to rely on a deity for my morals, which is why I also classify myself as a humanist.

In this lawsuit, I am challenging my school’s longstanding practice of allowing teachers to pray with students and to participate in Christian student group meetings during the school day. The way in which faith is regarded at Fayette High School is as a status symbol. To them, claiming to be a part of the religion is more important than abiding by the rules of it. If you don’t belong to that particular faith, you’ll be alienated by your peers, and possibly your teachers.

Written By: Gavin Hunt
continue to source article at americanhumanist.org

16 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – The way in which faith is regarded at Fayette High School is as a status symbol. To them, claiming to be a part of the religion is more important than abiding by the rules of it. If you don’t belong to that particular faith, you’ll be alienated by your peers, and possibly your teachers.

    This is a key feature of the divisive “them and us” tribalism of religions. A selfish destructive person who is a member of the religious tribe (or gang), is regarded as superior to more altruistic persons who are of different religious beliefs, or who have no beliefs in gods.

    It is the basis of sectarian bigotry, sectarian wars, and the false airs of pseudo-humble, superior posturing, by the faith inflicted.

    Teachers and others in public office should not be permitted to promote these sorts of divisive, biased, antisocial attitudes.

  2. An inspiring young man. I really don’t think he needs to define himself as an “agnostic atheist” though, considering the vast majority of atheists don’t claim to have proof that a god exists; they simply don’t believe the god hypothesis given the lack of supporting evidence. The “agnostic” label is redundant unless you claim to know for a fact that gods don’t exist which would be an impossible claim to justify.

    • In reply to #5 by mr_DNA:

      An inspiring young man. I really don’t think he needs to define himself as an “agnostic atheist” though, considering the vast majority of atheists don’t claim to have proof that a god exists; they simply don’t believe the god hypothesis given the lack of supporting evidence. The “agnostic” label is redundant unless you claim to know for a fact that gods don’t exist which would be an impossible claim to justify.

      I agree the agnostic is technically redundant, however only to those who haven’t been mislead into thinking ‘atheist’ means ‘anti-theist’, and so for the purposes of education the majority of open-minded theists and religious apologists I too try to add in the ‘agnostic’ whenever I feel the need.

    • I wish I has been so aware myself, I was an atheist by about 17 years old, in just being angry with it all and didn’t have any focus or information as to why it was all wrong, so I fell back into religion for a few years. I came right back out after educating myself, then I understood what it was exactly about religion that I couldn’t agree with and made me angry about it. Turns out it was all of it. I’m much happier now tho frustrated with overly superstitious family members.

      In reply to #6 by 78rpm:

      That “child” has a lot more courage than I would have had at that age. Or, I must admit, even as an adult.

  3. I think this was the wrong thing for him to do.
    Was the teacher actually promoting Christianity? or Was he quietly practicing it with other Christians a little before
    class starts? If its the later, then its not a big deal. Its just freedom of speech and it wouldn’t be right to sue them
    and limit their freedom.

    What should not at all be tolerated is if teachers or students, attempt to hijack a legitimate science topic like Evolution, to promote
    creationism or someother nonsense, unrelated to the scheduled science topic.
    There, an atheist student would have a legitimate case against them.

    • In reply to #8 by Terra Watt:

      I think this was the wrong thing for him to do.
      Was the teacher actually promoting Christianity? or Was he quietly practicing it with other Christians a little before
      class starts? If its the later, then its not a big deal. Its just freedom of speech and it wouldn’t be right to sue them
      and limit th…

      Having religious literature on a teacher’s desk is somehow not promoting religion? Continuously making religious references during class is not promoting religion? You should really read the whole article before complaining.

    • In reply to #8 by Terra Watt:

      I think this was the wrong thing for him to do.
      Was the teacher actually promoting Christianity?

      On the evidence, undoubtedly yes. And that is against the First Amendment.

      The purpose of the First Amendment is to guarantee free speech. Freedom of speech – the freedom to disagree – is denied when religion is let into the room. So the First Amendment separates church and state in order to guarantee freedom of expression.

      The teacher is not exercising freedom of expression. He is denying it to others.

  4. Good lad.

    Praying in schools is just wrong. And what if a Muslim or a Jew or a Hindu or a Sikh enrolled? How excluded will they be made to feel when the teacher wants to get the whole class down on their knees spouting gibberish to the sky pixies? And why is he not teaching them to read and write and stuff (areas in which, it has to be said, the average American does not appear to excel these days)?

    That said, I do wish America would grow up about the importance of non-evangelical religious education embracing some study of all major faiths. It is part of understanding the world. And once you know there are about 40,000 gods to choose from, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the one your parents chose for you may not necessarily be correct.

  5. He might pose the question that within the “freedom of belief area ” why is nobody praying to Zeus,Odin, or Baal?
    If religious instruction is desired by the majority ;then it should be shared amongst all known deities.
    As RD had said : I just go one god further in denying the existence of anyone’s deity!

  6. Only trouble is that Islam is slipping in on the coattails of this then screeching “racism” when banned or sued. Therefore, lawsuits should not target only Christianity. That is, don’t let “white guilt”, the liberal agenda and or separation of church and state let a worse monster in the school door while throwing another out.

  7. Well done to Gavin for having the courage to make a stand. I read his story in Wales,U.K so would like him to know that due his good work
    is being noticed internationally. Hope he wants to be a politician !

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