Hermant Mehta, known throughout the blogging community as the Friendly Atheist, recently blogged about the Illinois Family Institute (IFI) outrage over the recent Great Nationwide Kiss-In. I even blogged about it after reading Mehta’s blog.
But IFI Director Laurie Higgins wasn’t too happy with Mehta for accurately describing her bigoted views and expressing his opinion about them. So what did she do? She tattled on him to mommy and daddy? Well, no. She contacted his bosses and co-workers, trying to get Mehta fired:
A couple days later, I discovered that Higgins emailed my boss, my high school’s entire administrative staff, and every school board member to inform them that what I do in my private life was very unprofessional.
… He, of course, has a First Amendment right to write whatever he pleases on his blog “The Friendly Atheist” during his free time, but it’s unfortunate that a role model for students would write some of the things he writes.
What more could parents hope for in their children’s teachers than a little old fashioned vindictiveness.
The underlying message, of course, is: “Look! You hired an ATHEIST! And he BLOGS!”
What my private life (i.e. this site, the volunteer work I do with non-theistic groups, etc) has to do with my ability to teach high school math, I don’t know. I keep them separate. What goes on in my “atheist” life doesn’t come into play when I teach. I respect church/state separation. I would never talk about my religious beliefs in class. Hell, I teach math. Religion rarely comes up in discussion.
I should also mention that this email never got sent to me… in fact, Higgins sent it to everyone except me. (I later received it from another source.)
Not surprisingly, everything is fine at work. My superiors respect my right to free speech and their concern is with my professional work, not my private life. For what it’s worth, my teaching evaluations over the past couple years have been excellent, thank you very much.
Anyway, school officially begins tomorrow. And I still have my job.
Maybe that fact upset Higgins. Because yesterday, she tried another tactic: Sending out an official press release condemning me to her followers:
Judging from his blog, Mehta’s mission in life is to spread the gospel of atheism to students across the country, making disciples of all men and women. Judging from his blog, he also seeks to spread the message that homosexuality is morally equivalent to heterosexuality.
I love how she uses Christian imagery to attack me. (Spreading a gospel and making disciples of men and women is a bad thing? Higgins must really dislike Jesus then…)
Oh, and it gets better:
Higgins goes on to argue (emphases mine):
Of course, teachers have a First Amendment right to blog or speak publicly about anything they want. And parents have every right not to have their children in the classroom under the tutelage of someone whose publicly articulated views they find fallacious and deeply troubling. Having a First Amendment right to speak freely does not guarantee public approval or public silence. And the public response may be that parents choose not to have their children in the class of those who espouse views that parents find foolish and destructive.
Parents have a justifiable concern that the personal views of teachers may find their way into the classroom, either through curricular choices or classroom commentary. Those parents who want nothing more than that their children will believe in God may find someone whose mission in life is to persuade young people to reject a belief in God to be a poor role model.
So let me get this straight… if you’re a parent, Higgins would like you to find out the religious and social views of all your kids’ teachers ahead of time. Then you can decide whether or not your child should be in their classroom?
. . .
After writing about how those teachers want to make their students ideological clones, she then points out that I have never done these things. (Subtext: He’s still an atheist, and he teaches your children!)
But even if Mr. Mehta does not view his math classes as opportunities to proselytize, there still remains the fact that he is a role model and he regularly engages in very public discourse on very controversial topics. For many parents, views on homosexuality and belief in God are two of life’s most important issues — issues that are critical to both civilized and eternal life.
. . .
But again, she admits I never mixed my personal beliefs with my professional life. That fact alone makes the rest of her press release completely irrelevant. Instead of stopping there, though, she digs the hole a little deeper by comparing atheism to racism:
Many parents would recoil at having their children spend a school year under the tutelage of a teacher — particularly a charismatic teacher — who in his or her free time blogs favorably about racism and travels the length and breadth of the country preaching racism. Similarly, some parents may recoil at having their children spend a year under the tutelage of a teacher who spends his free time blogging favorably about atheism and homosexuality and traveling the length and breadth of the country preaching favorably about atheism.
Wow! That’s a whole lot of bullshit. So Higgins admits that he Mehta doesn’t teach his students to be atheists. . .in his MATH CLASSES, but she thinks atheists and gays should not be allowed to teach children, especially if they regularly blog about their opinions in their free time because if you’re passionate about anything enough to blog about it regularly, that makes you no better than a racist and will cause parents to recoil in horror. Oh, and she believes in free speech so long as you just don’t exercise it. Have I got that straight?
So as I said, Laurie Higgins is a crazy bitch.