Secular Citizenship: Good Trouble

Posted on October 11, 2020


Good Sunday Morning, Freethinking Friends! Welcome to the Sunday Service.

I hope you are in good health and in good spirits on this fine day.

As the national election nears, we can reflect on the roles we play as secular citizens.

Beyond elections, and far more importantly, we can and should participate in our local community and advocate for secular values in social, service, advocacy, civic, and governmental organizations.

We need to erase the fear-mongering and stigma of secular citizens and challenge the narrative that religious belief produces better government or better quality lives for all citizens.

In the past, as a teacher, I supported the students who founded the Secular Student Alliance. This week, as a citizen, I contacted my local school board members and Title IX coordinators to advocate for gender-equal education and improved school climate for students, regardless of their gender identity. The school board is revising the district’s sexual harassment policy; now is the time to make our voices heard re: gender equity, diversity, and inclusion.

As I excavated my teaching career in the district, I noticed a pattern of anti-woman and anti-atheist attitudes, behavior, and practices.

As an employee, I was accused of “promoting atheism” because I explained that the reason that Catholics have 3 afterlife realms and Evangelicals have 2 is The Protestant Reformation, wherein Martin Luther took issue with many Catholic doctrines, including the idea that congregants could pay priests for “indulgences” that decreased punishment of the dead in purgatory, resulting in the split into these 2 forms of Christianity.

As a secular citizen, I reject the type of authoritarianism in public school administration that demonizes secularism. The implication of danger or evil in the lack of belief in supernatural claims is truly a witch hunt. Speaking on the history of religious belief systems was literally my job, as a teacher of literature–and, ahem–Mythology AND Theory of Knowledge!!! What an absurdity to direct me to refrain from speaking on the development of religious ideas. Not only does this directive belie an ignorance of atheism, but ignorance of the very content I was employed to teach! No public school student or employee should be able to demand that history be denied or silenced because it contradicts their religious doctrine.

The fact that district employees hold religious beliefs should never require other employees to deny historical fact. Neither employees or students are harmed by accurate statements of historical facts, so for a public school administrator to “find the accusation credible” of “promoting atheism” and to employ this a reason to police and censor ideas, is to create an environment that is hostile to and unsafe for non-religious and secular employees and students–and anyone who expresses unpopular opinions. Over the years since Mr. Behnke’s arrival as superintendent, I struggled against decisions that made the high school a place where workers’ and students’ voices were silenced. As I tried to make sense of my experiences, I found that my reading of dystopian fiction helped me understand the situation.

In fact, one of the most painful and dystopian things I ever heard a student say was after I left, when I asked a student if he and other students had found an adult that would advocate for him and the LGBTQ community…

He said, “No. We all just gave up.”

I want to see APS become a place that truly embraces and embodies the International Baccalaureate Learner Profile and motto, that “Other answers may also be right,” whether we’re talking about diversity of gender expression OR diversity of ideas. A school should not promote fear of ideas or attacking those who hold minority viewpoints.

I want to see APS become a place that truly nurtures curiosity, open-mindedness, and student-empowerment. I’m raising my voice for diversity and inclusion in the local school district. I feel it’s my civic duty.

What’s your civic duty? Where’s your realm of influence? What are you passionate about saving, protecting, or creating? How can you “make good trouble” as a secular citizen? Let me know what you’re doing! Nobody can do everything, but we can all do something.

In Nonreligious Voters are the Real Value Voters, Professor of Sociology Phil Zuckerman talks about the secular vote and how nonbelievers are the real values voters.

FFRF’s new secular poll of 12,000 registered voters is great info for us to use in conversations about secular values and voter participation.

Freethinkers Unite! $upport candidates who will fight for separation between church and state!

If you donate to any candidate for public office who will fight to maintain the wall between church and state, please enjoy Willie Nelson’s “Vote ‘Em Out,” as the “offertory,” if you like….

Thanks for coming to today’s edition of the Sunday Service at Citizen Teacher, friend.

Peace & Love. See you next week! Be well.

lisa eddy is a writer-for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

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