"To you I'm an atheist; to God I'm the loyal opposition," declared Woody Allen. These words came to mind when I learned about the young woman who wrote an editorial about her experience as an atheist at Lenoir City High School.
The school newspaper refused to print it. Her title was "No Rights: The Life of Atheist." The decision not to print seems to lend her argument greater credibility. (The News Sentinel published the column, by Krystal Myers, on Sunday under the headline, "School promotes religion and discrimination of atheist students.")
School officials nixed the article, claiming it would be "disruptive." However, there are moments when a little disruption is a great educational experience. For instance, political campaigns can be disruptive to society, as anyone knows who has listened to the boos and corresponding cheers from the audience during a televised presidential debate. Without elections there might be fewer disruptive moments in our routines. Yet living in a free and democratic society means a willingness to live (and more importantly learn) from a little disruption.
Our country is founded on the principle that when we all have freedom of speech, God does not fall out of heaven, nor does everything go wrong with the world. The truth is always made more secure through the contest of ideas than it can ever be through the avoidance of debate. The goal of a public school must be to teach us that we can disagree and still respect each other as fellow citizens.