Our story takes place in good old Kentucky, where Christian prayers were said before public meetings, thus breaking the separation of church and state.
Ricky Smith used to be a Christian, but while he was sitting in church one day, he said he realized he was an atheist. He didn’t plan on being an activist or on defending the separation between church and state, but ended up being one anyways:
Smith, 46, says he is the county resident who recently met with Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney about the issue of Judeo-Christian prayers during public meetings. As a result, county magistrates voted to change the invocation to a “moment of silence.”
A 1984 Boyle County High School graduate who has lived in the county his entire life, Smith had attended several fiscal court sessions because he hoped to run for political office. He says his dreams were shattered when he felt like a “second-class citizen” during the prayer portion of the meeting.
“Being expected to pray just to be a part of local government is not going to work for me, nor would it work for Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, pagans or Wiccans,” Smith said.
I guess it got out that Rick was the one who ended prayer during fiscal court meetings and people started to show him some of that Christian love we hear so much about:
Even though Smith deliberately did not express his views publicly, an unknown person using the website Topix “outed” Smith as an atheist and the person responsible for ending public prayer during Fiscal Court meetings. A former friend also made disparaging remarks about Smith on Facebook, and a few people made harassing telephone calls to his residence, he said.
“They’re getting down right mean,” Smith said.
He noted that if ridiculing a man’s weight and lack of religious beliefs is a proper Christian attitude, then he is now even more convinced that atheism is the right path for his life.
“I’ve become a better person since I realized I was an atheist,” Smith said. “I am much more tolerant now.”
When Smith was attending Christian church services, he felt “brainwashed” into being prejudiced against all homosexuals as well as heterosexual people who had premarital sex.
“People are not understanding that freedom of religion also means freedom from religion,” Smith said. “We are in a diverse country.”
Yes. Sometimes activism is painful. Just ask Jennifer Ahlquist, the 16 year old who had a prayer banner removed from her high school and was subsequently hounded so badly that she needed police protection.
Or you could ask Damon Fowler, who stood up to his school when they were planning to have a prayer during their graduation ceremony.
As a result:
1) Fowler has been hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community.
2) One of Fowler's teachers has publicly demeaned him.
3) Fowler has been physically threatened. Students have threatened to "jump him" at graduation practice, and he has received multiple threats of bodily harm, and even death threats.
4) Fowler's parents have cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and thrown his belongings onto the front porch.
Damon’s story is truly heartbreaking. Click the link I gave above if you don’t believe me.
I’m not sure what’s so hard for these people to understand. If you want to pray during the meeting, event or whatever, simply do so silently during a moment of silence. Nobody can stop you from praying.
Perhaps the government should send out a mass email or something to inform all government employees that they are to uphold the separation of church and state. That means no endorsement of a particular religion, no prayers that force others to take part etc.
This kind of thing happens WAY too often. It’s time it stopped.