© Glendon Mellow, The Flying Trilobite

Fear and Loathing in Chicago

Today’s post was supposed to be the traditional Shaming of the Bystanders to encourage donations to Foundation Beyond Belief. But events have o’ertaken me.

hemantLaurie Higgins, one of an apparent two members of a group called Illinois Family Institute (italics theirs) is doing what so many conservative religious groups do best: working 24/7 to keep people terrified — especially of people who are different from themselves. Ms. Higgins has now interrupted a long screed warning about a carnival of recreational abortion and Logan’s Run-style euthanasia that the Obama adminstration is said to be working on (why doesn’t anyone tell me about these things?) so she could frighten Chicago parents about the presence of a high school math teacher whose religious views do not conform to James Dobson’s.

Worse yet, he’s an atheist. And a non-closeted one.

It’s not that he’s mentioned his views in class, or tried to recruit students, or made use of equations that always come out to 666, or worse yet, zero. The stated concern is that students might look up to him. The IFI suggests that concerned parents request that their children be transferred to another teacher, and furthermore implies that if they aren’t concerned, they bloody well should be.

“It’s all about diversity and choice,” she writes. Using the latter to flee the former, I guess.

The good news in all this is that the teacher in question is the bright, funny, and level-headed Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta. If anyone can handle this kind of nonsense well, it’s Hemant.

Like other sufferers of RFD (Religious Freedom Deafness), Ms. Higgins is making herself an incredible pain, but when there’s someone of Hemant’s caliber in the hotseat, it can all end up rather well. In the end, by simply being normal and allowing Ms. Higgins to be decidedly otherwise, he’ll bring credit to us all. And the non-crazy majority of religious folks will learn something about the non-crazy majority of the nonreligious, which means some genuine good can come out of it.

How he first caught their eye
She attacks
He replies
She issues an “open letter”



This was written on Monday, 24. August 2009 at 09:14 and was filed under belief and believers, church-state separation, diversity, fear, Kerfuffles, nonbelief and nonbelievers. You can keep up with the comments to this article by using the RSS-Feed.

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Comments »

  1. It’s not that he’s … made use of equations that always come out to 666, or worse yet, zero.
    Personally, I prefer the equation (god)^2<0 because how ever you define god, it must at least include the number i. 😉

    As the husband of an atheist math teacher (or should I say, math teacher who happens to be atheist), I am intently following Hemant’s ordeal and hoping that his employer and colleagues continue to stand tall with him. And I agree, there is much potential for good to come out of this.

    Comment: ungullible – 24. August 2009 @ 10:06 am

  2. […] Dale has the whole story, with links at the bottom to the course of the infection as it developed. […]

    Pingback: Back to School: First Church-State Skirmish Already? « Cocking A Snook! – 24. August 2009 @ 12:07 pm

  3. “recreational abortion”
    Where can I sign up for this obviously wholesome activity?

    Comment: blotzphoto – 24. August 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  4. I was wondering who’s the rider and who’s the ride . . .

    Comment: JJ Ross – 24. August 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  5. “…or made use of equations that always come out to 666, or worse yet, zero.”

    But, but, but…..as a fellow math teacher there are darned good reasons to make use of equations that come out to zero!!! I covered one of those uses extensively today in Calc III.

    Add me as another who’s hoping that Hemant’s colleagues and employer keep supporting him, as we need all the good high school math teachers we can get.

    Comment: awolfga – 24. August 2009 @ 10:13 pm

  6. That reminds me of that time when I had lunch at Chick-fil-A (famous for being closed on Sundays) and my bill, incl. tax, came out to be $6.66.

    I was tempted to act horrified, but then thought better of it…

    Comment: nonplus – 25. August 2009 @ 12:23 am

  7. Maybe atheist teachers should be wearing a scarlet ‘A’. You know, just to warn the holy folks.

    Comment: PennyLane – 25. August 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  8. […] class any more (never really was, you knew that, right?) Now it’s infecting MATH and MUSIC at school too. Fighting to control not just the curriculum of the textbooks but the […]

    Pingback: More T-Shirts and Dress Message Stories, From Stupid to Dead Serious This Time « Cocking A Snook! – 31. August 2009 @ 11:59 am

  9. The Meming of Life…

    Good luck getting people behind this one. Though you make some VERY fascinating points, youre going to have to do more than bring up a few things that may be different than what weve already heard. What are trying to say here? What do you want us to th…

    Trackback: portarollo – 18. February 2012 @ 2:07 pm

  10. … [Trackback]…

    […] Read More here: parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/?p=2669 […]…

    Trackback: elektrik – 24. February 2012 @ 2:39 pm

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