Humanists “Violated” by Prayer Lose in Court…Again

A couple years ago a young man by the name of Isaiah Smith decided it was time to get even with his old high school, Birdville High School in Haltom City, Texas. A proud member of the American Humanist Association (the folks who put up the embarrassingly intellectually vapid “Who Needs a God – Just Be Good for Goodness Sake” billboards every Christmas), Smith decided to sue his school board for the irreparable harm they did to him.

The crime? Smith said that he heard some prayers at school board meetings that mentioned, “Jesus and Christ” which, as a thin-skinned and easily offended humanist, made him feel “violated and uncomfortable.”

Let me first admit that I can’t relate. As a Christian, I’m made of a little tougher stuff than to feel violated by someone’s words. Every year when teaching about the Holocaust, I show my students a video that includes a survivor returning to Auschwitz and reciting the Kaddish, the Hebrew (Jewish) prayer for the dead. I’ve never felt uncomfortable.

Being in the public school system I also interact daily with textbooks that assume and teach that I am a cousin of an orangutan. Dumb? Sure. But I’m yet to feel violated.

I’ve heard Muslim prayers, watched Buddhist meditation sessions, and even make it a yearly practice of mine to give candy to kids who come to my door celebrating what some people tell me is a pagan holiday that rejoices in the Occult. Still…not…violated.

But that’s the neat thing about being a humanist. You can tell everyone how open-minded and progressive you are while simultaneously demonstrating your narrow-minded devotion to a godless dogma that no one is allowed to challenge. That’s the life Isaiah Smith has chosen apparently.

In his suit, he claimed that even though students offered these school board prayers voluntarily, they were obviously a sign that the school was “endorsing particular religious ideology.” And, in his mind, that was clearly the equivalent of Congress establishing a national church that everyone was compelled to attend and contribute to. Yeah.

Last August a district court judge told Smith he was wrong and ruled against the American Humanist Association. Of course, thoroughly convinced of the rightness of their own cause, they appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. And now, a three judge panel there has sent them packing also.

No word yet on whether there will be another appeal, or whether Isaiah Smith and the American Humanist Association feels “violated and uncomfortable” by the court’s decision.

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Peter Heck

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