School prevents student from publishing editorial about atheism

Knoxville News Sentinel
Krystal Myers’ editorial for the Lenoir City High School student newspaper about how atheists like her don’t have the same rights as Christians met a somewhat ironic fate: It was not published. School officials feared “the potential for disruption in the school.”

“School administrators do have the right to control information distributed to students if publication would cause a disruption in the school, confirmed Dr. Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington D.C.,” reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.

You can read the unpublished editorial here.

“As a current student in Government, I have realized that I feel that my rights as an Atheist are severely limited and unjust when compared to other students who are Christians,” Myers writes. “Not only are there multiple clubs featuring the Christian faith, but youth ministers are also allowed to come onto school campus and hand candy and other food out to Christians and their friends.”

Among Myers’ grievances: public prayer at graduation, football games and school board meetings, as well as overt religious displays by teachers.

“Religion and government are supposed to be separate,” she continues. “If we let this slide, what other amendments to the Constitution will be ignored?”

Myers, the News Sentinel story notes, “plans to study journalism in college next year.”

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  • His Shadow

    If you had no idea, why did you call them “the atheist teacher”? And Im not trying to make you feel bad, but not taking your beliefs seriously is not hostility. Pointing out that many faiths beliefs are flat out nonsense is not intolerant, anymore than pointing out that the Earth is a sphere is intolerant.

  • His Shadow


  • Skye Donald

    The test didn’t give those kinds of details; it just asked us to “list x # forms of birth control”. Yes, you’re correct… in this case, my issue was with that teacher, but she was not the only teacher that was openly anti-Christian or anti-faith. The majority of the teachers presented themselves plainly and gave no indication of their faith or lackthereof, however, there were a number that were hostile or displayed arrogance towards students that were Christian.

  • Skye Donald

     I’m not sure I understand your comment. I have no idea if she was atheist or not, just that she was hostile towards my open Christianity.

  • His Shadow

    It is probable impossible for you to be less self aware than you were making that comment.

  • His Shadow

    This is a miserably bad argument and it’s galling that it gets repeated routinely. Not accepting the existence of gods because there is zero evidence for gods in not a belief. It is a position. No one has to prove gods do not exist. You have to prove that gods exist. The existence of god is the positive claim. No one has to prove the negative. And despite the claims of all theists for the last 5000 plus years, gods have never overcome the null hypothesis. That means that belief in gods is not on par nor equivalent to the atheist position, because you have no evidence for the existence of gods. You don’t even have a supportable reasoned argument that explains why gods are even necessary.

    Simply put, you have nothing, and no one has to accept that your nothing’s something.

    The fact that children believe in Santa Claus does not make Santa more probable, and no adult has to defend or explain not believing in Santa.

  • His Shadow

    “my atheist teacher”

    Nice try.

  • Anonymous

    When were her “Rights” violated again? The only thing I saw was she didn’t receive some candy handed out to the Christians who would have given the candy to anyone. She either didn’t want to hear the Christian message that went along with the candy or she assumed the candy was for believers only.

    An Athiest does not believe in a supreme being or God. How can they be so offended by people praying to a man in the sky? So you don’t believe, big deal, what is the problem? You want to take away the believers rights? Does that make Athiests Fascists? History would prove that statement to be rather correct. Socialists and Communists forced their beliefs on others. Christians try to spread the faith but haven’t pursued forced conversions since the dark ages.

  • Anonymous

    This is gone on and on about atheism being a religion.

    1.  Charlie,  you say “Atheists believe there to be no god, which is a view taken from faith”.  This is a completely WRONG statement.  Atheism is the lack of belief in god/gods.  The burden of proof falls on the theist making the claim.  If we were to follow your and the others thinking on this then every single one of you is in the religion of non belief of unicorns, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and little men dressed in green that have pots of gold at the end of rainbows.  This is a classic form of trying to shift the burden of proof.  Non belief is not an ideology, a “world view”, a “stance” or a belief.  Hence the “non-beleif” part.  Faith is not a part of the atheistic view.  We have reasonable expectations of things due to constant evidence but not faith.  The “red herring” as you call it is the whole position of, “prove there is not a god”.  That is not our purpose or position.  Theists have made the claim.  We do not believe it because there is no evidence for it.  It is your place to prove/show what you are claiming.  Now; once you have presented your claim and have given the proper evidence then, yes, the burden of proof shifts to atheist to disprove your claim.  So your argumentum Ad hominem is a logical fallacy.  Sorry, you did not use logic.  Until then, good luck.  We are waiting.

  • Chad Curtiss

    Religion is terrible for society

  • Kai Cherry

    Your argument is a fallacy of false equivalency,sir. You do not get to re-define religion as a “belief system”; the definition is certainly more complex than that and your reductionist definition which removes both the spiritual and the supernatural is an affront to those that are religious.

  • Raymond Hau

    not believing in god is NOT the same as faith.
    believing in god (and thus a religion) IS faith.

    the fact of non-belief in a god does not automatically make you join a ‘faith’ in the religion on non-believers!  why do pious individuals always use this argument?

    many (most?) atheists just don’t believe in god in the same way that people don’t believe in the tooth fairy, santa clause or leprechauns.  would you say it is a faith to believe there is no leprechauns?

    and if you say that is because there are no leprechauns, does that then imply, as you state above, that it is a view taken from faith?

    logic drawn from the ‘facts’ as you say are that, to atheists, there is no proof that god exists, therefore the ‘facts’ state there is no god.  your ‘hypothesis’ states there is a god, however a hypothesis is not a fact.

    and please don’t use the negative, because we can not prove god doesn’t exist then can god exists etc etc.. this then leads me to one reply; you can’t prove xenu does not exist, therefore scientology is a valid religion and xenu is a valid god.

  • Charlie McElvy

    Um, no. You can fight it all you want or distort the fact, but Atheists believe there to be no god, which is a view taken from faith. You cannot prove this position, so argue all you want, but an Atheist holds this view by a particular faith. I apologize for the logic, but it’s the only conclusion necessarily drawn from the facts.

    Also, this viewpoint HELPS the Atheistic argument in opposing the catering or pandering to particular “dominant” religions. So, I never understand fighting it… :-

    Oh, and your stamps analogy is so much a red herring argument that it isn’t funny. Try again, please.

  • kibbles


  • Craig Stanton

    Hmmm, no. Not collecting stamps is not a hobby. Not believing there is a god/gods is not a religion. 

  • Craig Stanton

    Hmmm, no. Not collecting stamps is not a hobby. Not believing there is a god/gods is not a religion. 

  • Charlie McElvy

    If religion is defined as a “system, or worldview, of belief/faith”, then Atheism falls under that descriptor as it is the worldview that there is no God or gods, which is a worldview of religious belief. Atheists believe there to be no God, or gods, and cannot “prove” it any more than religious adherents can “prove” His or their existence(s). So, you stand corrected. Now, Atheism isn’t an organized religious movement, so it may not fall under the more common vernacular, but that doesn’t change the truth of the above.

    As for the cancellation of the letter publication: that’s clearly overstepping the bounds of the teachers, and they have now set a precedent that *NO* religious opinions be published in the paper, if they are fair & consistent.

    The “separation of church & state”, which is so commonly quoted and more commonly misused, doesn’t mean the school can’t allow religious practices that don’t directly violate another’s rights, but that they can’t endorse it. In other words, faculty cannot request a prayer, nor should they. It would appear as if the “state” is endorsing one set of beliefs over and above another. That is not permissible. They should’ve just allowed the article, and its resultant discussions, to be what they are, and dealt with the outcomes as they came.

  • Nobuyuki Sakamoto

     Wow, that’s so like many teachers who grade by what was presented in the material, rather than grading by student opinion.  You only had one of those teachers?

  • Geoff Terpening

    Atheism is as much a religion as silence is a musical genre. 

  • Anonymous

    Was the question asking on a personal or societal level? If societal, the teacher was right. If personal, wrong. Either way, that’s an issue you have with the teacher, not the system.

  • Rob Poelking

    What is being ignored here is the constitution, but not as this author puts it. There is no constitutional amendment that states government and church be devoid of each other, only that government institutions shall not dictate a nationalized religion; that, all peoples should be free to exercise their right and freedom to practice their own religion without slight or discrimination. Atheism is just as much a religion in antithesis as Christianity is. 

    The REAL violation here is the students’ right to free speech. Whether it were a Christian publishing an article on their personal views or the atheist, both have the constitutional right to share that view point. 

    Grow up! I am a Christian and I respect others’ viewpoints. It’s ok if you don’t believe in a god. Your choice–my choice; we can still be friends. It seems to me that for far too long both sides are hiding heads in the sand trying to pretend the other does not exist. The advancement of a society includes the free sharing of ideas and viewpoints. 

  • Anonymous

    Keep it in the church, yes, as Island Atheist said here; and that goes for Jeremy Lin, too. Keep it in the church.

  • Anonymous
    I put her editorial on my blog but i BLACKED it out, to show how silly the authorities there were.

  • LadyIslay

    It’s interesting how different things are here in Canada. When I was in high school (~20 years ago), I was picked on by students *and* teachers for my open Christian beliefs. My favorite? A question on a grade 11 social studies test asked us to list a number of forms of birth control. When I included abstinence on the list, my atheist teacher marked my answer as wrong because, in her words, “it wasn’t realistic”. Odd. It seem to have worked just fine for me as a teenager.

  • Anonymous

    Keep it in the church