ABB: Let’s talk about the growing phenomenon of atheist bullying. As more young people come “out” about their atheism, there’s been a concurrent rise in hateful, often violent responses from their communities. (The case of Damon Fowler from Louisiana comes to mind.) What has been the lowest or most difficult moment in your battle over the past year?
JA: Bullying is definitely a real thing that does a lot of damage to a lot of people. Outspoken atheists do seem to commonly become the victims of harassment in both society and on the internet. For me, the insults and feeling of ostracism began at the very beginning, when I attended my first subcommittee meeting back in November of 2010. One event that stands out in my mind was this one day at school when Mayor Fung came in to give a talk about minorities for “Diversity Week.” At the end of his talk, there was a Q & A in which a student asked for his opinion on the school prayer. He pointed to the prayer and declared in front of hundreds of students that he wanted to see the prayer stay where it was and that it was perfectly legal. Almost everyone in the auditorium stood and applauded him, cheering him on. This was hurtful and extremely upsetting, especially after the mayor had just given a speech about how important acceptance of minorities is.
Separation of church and state shouldn’t be subject to a popularity vote, and Jessica’s taking a huge risk by being the plaintiff in this case. She has the law on her side, but some vocal support would be great, too. If you’re in the Cranston, Rhode Island area, please consider attending the trial on October 13th and showing your support for Jessica.