I’m not here to start a riot or create a nonstop argument. I’m here to inform the general public of the unequal treatment of students at my high school in small town, North Carolina. I’m here to create awareness and attempt to have a voice.
Let’s start with a disclaimer:
This will most certainly be a biased article, but I will try and refrain from making it largely based off of my own opinions. I am also not here to judge the opposing side and am not here to create controversy or drama. I’m simply standing up for the minority (and that is a fact).
I live in a small town in rural North Carolina. It barely has a spot on the map. Small towns have their advantages like community involvement, compassion, friendly neighbors, and individuals with strong faith. Sometimes, however, being in a small town can, in some way, detach its inhabitants from learning about the vast world or from accepting that other people are simply not like them. It is very easy to get wrapped up in a small area and refrain from venturing out into a bigger horizon. I believe this is why a lot of controversy is seen around small towns. People just aren’t aware or refuse to be aware of the differences seen in other people. This is usually referred to as “closed mindedness” or “small mindedness”.
Is it a bad thing to be small minded?
I am in no way attacking people who might prefer their way of thinking over others. I am attacking the idea. The idea that they are right and everyone else is wrong. The idea that others cannot believe in their own beliefs and have equal rights too. The idea that as America, as the grand Earth, we are all equals shadowed by labels that either put us in the majority or the minority.
There is a majority and there is a minority. There is a white man and there is a black man. There is a hetero and there is a homo. There is a man and there is a woman.
There will always be a majority and a minority and this isn’t a problem. If everyone were in the majority, we would be one bland vanilla ice cream world. The problem is created when the majority, believing they have more power, try to lead the minority off of their secluded path and onto the majority’s beaten down gravel road.
The majority does rule; look at our political system for instance. We have a Democratic president with a Republican Congress. Congress makes most of the decisions in our country due to the overwhelming amount of Republicans holding office. Is this a problem? No. This is only a problem when Congress chooses to attack our President for his beliefs and values, causing disagreement in our government.
The point I present you with is that the minority should be allowed as many equal opportunities as the majority, especially in America: Land of the Free.
Now for the topic at hand.
A fellow student at my high school decided that she wanted to start an Atheist club for her, her brother, and her friends to join together and share similar interests and create community service opportunities. As harmless as it seems, this request was not taken with a grain of salt.
When Kalei Wilson presented the idea to the administration back in October, they shot her down almost immediately. They told her “we don’t need a group like that” and that it was “not a good fit”. A group like that. We don’t need you. Not a good fit? For a school that already has at least two clubs based on religion, how is another religious club not a good fit?
Living in an area that is predominately Conservative Christian, it comes as no surprise to me that my school would refuse to support a club like this. The administration also told Wilson that there would be no teachers available to support the club. There is still debate whether or not there were actually teachers available, considering some teachers stated that they hadn’t heard about the club at all. Was the idea shot down before a teacher could sponsor it?
The argument at hand seems relatively amateur at first glance, but this succeeds into a much deeper ocean. Not only is the administration’s actions unfair, their actions are against the written Constitution of the United States of America. Not only does the First Amendment prohibit the combination of church and state, but the Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) clearly states that, in the end, no one religion can be given more benefit than another. If my school is allowed to have Christian clubs, they–by law–cannot turn down an Atheist club without a full-proof reason.
Wilson and her friends are also protected by the Fourteenth Amendment which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction there of, are citizens of the United States and of the State where in they reside . . . nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Kalei was denied her rights as an American citizen to be given the chance to express herself and her beliefs. Since she is a student and not an employee at this public high school, she had every right to start an Atheist club for her and her friends.
The Constitution isn’t the only thing on Wilson’s side. There is a federal law that states, “It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.”
To sum up my previous paragraphs, not only is this school’s administration going against our Constitution but they are also breaking a federal law established in the last thirty years.
Some might argue that they are not breaking any laws and had valid reasoning behind their choice to not allow her club. The two things that the students needed to get approval of the club were a teacher sponsor and the school’s approval. Since Wilson went to the administration before finding a sponsor, she was shot down with the excuse that no teacher was “available” at the time. There is still no proof that there wasn’t an available teacher and, like I stated before, there are teachers that had no idea any of this was going on. I am a registered student at this high school and I am almost positive that there are teachers who would’ve supported the club for equality reasons at the least.
Kalei’s hopes for a club have been crushed but that doesn’t seem to be stopping her. She has been talking with people about her experience and it sounds like she is working hard to spread the word of what happened. You can read one of the original articles in which she was interviewed here.
I contacted Kalei last night to talk to her about the situation and her response was impressive:
I’m going to get judged but I think somebody needed to stand up to the school and let them know that there is a separation between school and church and not every body believes the same.
It’s clear that Kalei Wilson is aware of what she has gotten herself into and she is willing to fight for her rights, something no American citizen should have to do.
America was founded on freedom of religion. In fact, the words “In God We Trust” and “One Nation Under God” were not added to our coins and pledge until nearly two hundred years after our Constitution was written. Our Nation was not founded on one religion and it would be Unconstitutional to give Her an official religion–and that is a fact.