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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

15 Times Atheists Have Been Discriminated Against In North America In The Last 10 Years

I’ve argued with hundreds of theists by now, who insist discrimination against atheists is not a real thing in the western world. So, I’ve compiled a list for those who still question this, for atheists to use as a reference. Here are 15 instances of atheist discrimination in North America in the last ten years:

1. Nicole Smalkowski

Nicole Smalkowski, a native of Hardesty, Oklahoma, was repeatedly kicked off her basketball team in 2007 and subjected to harassment and bullying so bad, her parents chose to homeschool her.

2. Matthew LeClair

In 2008, Kearny, New Jersey high school student Matthew LeClair, recorded his history teacher pushing creationism in class. Despite facing death threats and harassment, LeClair’s determination eventually paid off. The teachers and administration at his school would be required to undergo special training covering religious freedom and secularism.

3. Neil Polzin

Neil Polzin was an Eagle Scout and an atheist, which doesn’t mix well. In 2009, someone discovered that he belonged to a secular group, and he was promptly fired from his position with the Boy Scouts of America in Los Angeles.

4. Craig Scarberry

In November 2010, Craig Scarberry had his 50/50 custody of his children reduced to four hours per week. The judge explained in the order, that,

He did not participate in the same religious training that the (mother) exercised and that he was agnostic.

5. Justin Trottier

At Ryerson University in Toronto, in 2011, the president of the Freethought Association of Canada, Justin Trottier, was harassed and beaten as he hung posters for his atheist group on Campus.

6. Damon Fowler

That same year, in Bastrop, Louisiana, an atheist high school student didn’t like the fact that there was a prayer scheduled for his graduation ceremony. Damon Fowler complained and when word got around, he was bullied, harassed and thrown out of his home.

7. Skepticon

Also in 2011, the owner of a gelato shop in Missouri, Gelato Mio, refused to serve attendees at the Skepticon conference that was being held in town. He went so far as to hang a sign in the window saying, “Skepticon is not welcomed to my Christian business.” I know… horrendous grammar. That’s what happens when you limit yourself to one book.

8. Foxhole Atheists

A Memorial Day parade held in Pennsylvania in 2011 erupted in heckling and verbal abuse when the Foxhole Atheists went by. Hatred for atheists is about the only thing that’ll make some Americans question their support of their own troops, apparently.

9. Stephen Love

2011 seems to have been a shitty year for atheists, as Notre Dame student Stephen Love was denied official club status on campus for his atheist group, Atheist, Agnostic and Questioning Students.

10. Jessica Ahlquist

In 2012, Jessica Ahlquist sued her high school in Rhode Island, for hanging a Catholic prayer banner in the auditorium. When a judge found in her favour, she was harassed and threatened so viciously that she had to be escorted from class to class by police officers.

11. Atheist Volunteers

A group of atheist volunteers were turned away from offering their labour at a soup kitchen in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 2013. The director of the soup kitchen said she would rather have resigned than work with atheists.

12. Camp Quest

In Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, in 2013, Camp Quest set up a fundraiser to help send kids to camp. As you likely know, Camp Quest is a non-religious summer camp for kids of freethinkers like us. The bar where the fundraiser was to be held had agreed on sharing some of the drink profits from the fundraiser with the organization, but when it came time to get the event going, the bar pulled out.

They posted a notice that said,

Camp Quest Fundraiser is cancelled.
Oklahoma Joe’s regrets the facilitators of Camp Quest Fundraiser did not fully disclose their beliefs. These beliefs do not align with the Christian philosophy of our organization and we can not financially contribute to their cause.
We will provide service to anyone.
Joe Davidson Founder

13. Polls

Pew Research published findings in 2014, that showed that the trait the American people want in a presidential candidate least is atheism.

14. Atheist Scholarships

Just this year, it was discovered that Antelope Valley School District in California, was refusing to publish scholarships from atheist groups in their funding guide for students. When asked why, they issued this statement:

The district said it was rejecting the scholarships because the essay announcements would upset parents, claiming that they that they appeared to “promote anti-religious expression” and had “aggressive” and “argumentative undertones towards religion.

15. Scouts Canada

Scouts Canada lists as one of its core values, duty to God. The Scouts Canada website makes it very clear that only those who identify with a religion are welcome. In their words,

Defined as, The responsibility to adhere to spiritual principles, and thus to the religion that expresses them, and to accept the duties therefrom.

That’s fifteen accounts of discrimination that doesn’t include being forced to recite prayers in school, which happens too often to count. It doesn’t include all the people I’ve spoken to over the last three years who have been disowned or shunned by their family for being an atheist. It doesn’t include the many day-to-day sneers, comments and other bullshit we have to deal with, either. Yes, atheists face discrimination, and while most of the time is nothing we can’t brush off and forget about it, sometimes, it separates families, leaves a bruise or finds an atheist out of work or out of school.

Have you heard other stories of discrimination against atheists in North America? Let me know about them in the comments.

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