Here's some great churchless news from right here in Salem, Oregon.
The Friendly Atheist blog picked up on a local newspaper story and described the beginning of what happened in "Young Atheist Gets Youth Pastor Banned from Middle School After He Preached to Her At Lunch."
Tim Saffeels volunteered at Straub Middle School in Salem, Oregon, meaning he supervised during lunch periods, reminded students to clean up after themselves, and served as a role model during his time there.
Last week, he sat near a group of students, including one who attended Salem Heights Church, where he serves as youth pastor. The subject naturally drifted to religion. He should’ve stopped the conversation there, but (of course) he kept it going.
Shit really hit the fan when a student told him she didn’t believe in God.
Unfortunately for Saffeels, he picked the absolutely worst lunch table for getting away with what wasn't allowed by school rules: preaching the Christian Gospel on school property, during school time, to an unwilling audience.
Shelby Conway and her friend, Sarina Keightley
Notably, Shelby Conway, a courageous 14 year old girl who isn't shy about proclaiming her proud atheism. She sent an email to the school principal asking that Saffeels not be allowed to return.
It's a great letter. The Christian youth pastor comes off sounding like a dogmatic jerk, while Conway held her secular rational ground.
Dear Mrs. Perez,
My name is Shelby Conway, I am 14 years old, and an eighth grader at Straub. Today at lunch, our table was approached by a youth pastor who said he was from a Christian church out in South Salem. He then proceeded to preach to our entire table, several of whom are not Christians. When he finished, he asked us for our religious beliefs.
I replied that I am an atheist, which I am, and I am very firm in my beliefs, and that he should not try to convince me otherwise. He began insulting me, my beliefs, and my intelligence, saying that, "Any logical person would see that atheism is wrong" and telling me that I am "too young" to choose this belief and saying that he believes I am simply trying to "rebel".
I explained that it was quite the opposite, that I find religion itself illogical. He got upset here and started telling me that my belief was "bad," "stupid," and "evil," and that I was as well. I was already quite upset, so I told him to "leave me alone" and he simply continued, telling me that I needed to come to a church function to "cleanse my mind and soul of evil" and gave me a card for his youth group, because, as he said, which I promptly got rid of. I know there were other things he said, but some were not direct, and I don`t remember exact quotes.
I have no problem with religion, and I respect all peoples beliefs, even if they aren`t like mine. Some of my best friends are very strong Christians, and I have no problem with it. However, I am very willing to defend myself and others when they`re insulted, which they were. I was very uncomfortable and personally offended with the way he was speaking to both me and other non-Christians around the lunch room.
I request that we keep things like this, such as pastors and religious speeches, in places where they are welcomed, such as churches, or religious schools. It offends me, and several other non-Christians, that it was assumed that we were both a small minority, and unintelligent and easily convinced. There is a wide array of religious beliefs here at Straub, and we should not assume that all people believe the same.
The man refused to offer his name, but I assume that there is a way to contact him. I`m fairly certain that he was here because he was welcomed by the school. I ask that he does not return.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration, Shelby Conway
Way to go, Ms. Conway. You've warmed my soul. Or rather, the positive conscious feeling I have toward what you did which, in my true believing days, I would have considered to be soul-related.
Our local newspaper's story about this, "Church official banned from Straub Middle School," has gotten almost 300 comments so far. They're interesting reading. Most are supportive of what Conway did, and critical of Tim Saffeels.
Some, though, exhibit the same kind of Christian zealotry and preachiness that irritated Conway so much when Saffeels called her atheism bad, stupid, and evil. Here's an example.
Shelby Conway is a product of her parents teachings. Any non-believer is fearful of the truth being spoken! I pray for this young girl that has been blinded by lies and the intolerance of her heart. What a sad foothold Satan has on so many!
Wow. It always amazes me how hateful and intolerant fundamentalist Christians can be. Guess they haven't taken to heart all the sermons they must have heard about Jesus' loving kindness. Here's one of the responses to Hernandez.
This guy left a couple of excellent comments. The second is a response to another commenter.
Sorry christians, but you're no longer a special class with special rights and privileges any more. You don't get to insert your mysticism into our public institutions and government. It's unfortunate that you're so used to always getting your way, that you think actually having to adhere to the law constitutes persecution and oppression. In reality, you're just terrified at no longer being a privileged class that always gets its way, and the fact that millenials and children are abandoning your fairytales in droves.
Renea Jones - Actually, you have been a privileged class. For over a century in this country. That you are entirely unaware of your privilege is demonstration enough. Christians, being the majority, have long gotten to do whatever they want to do in this country, with very little to no legal repercussions or restraint. Openly preaching in classrooms, religious symbols in public institutions, and a whole host of other things which until now you've taken completely for granted, and seen as commonplace.
But now, the non-religious are actually becoming a prominent segment of society. The "none's" (those who claim no religious affiliation) now make a full one-fifth of the country, and they're getting tired of your religiosity being pushed into our public institutions, on their tax dollar. Suddenly, you're getting opposition, and you don't like it. You're so used to getting your way, that when you suddenly don't get whatever you want without question, you think you're being oppressed.