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10 Scariest States to Be An Atheist

If you're finishing your degree in secular studies and are trying to decide where in the country you want to plant your godless stakes, here are some places to avoid.

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Oh, and in case that's not enough: Let's talk about some places where it sucks to be an atheist in high school. Let's talk about the Secular Student Alliance, and its new program specifically devoted to supporting high school atheist groups. Let's talk about the resistance that atheist students routinely get from public high school administrators who want to block students from forming secular groups. And let's talk a little more about Alabama. The only state where the SSA has had to initiate a lawsuit about it.

Duncan Henderson wanted to form a secular club at his public school -- which he has the full legal right to do. But his school principal denied his request. According to JT Eberhard, campus organizer and high school specialist at the Secular Student Alliance, "When Duncan's father scheduled a meeting to discuss the matter, the principal showed up to the meeting with a lawyer, who more or less repeated, 'We're going to follow the law' in response to every question. But the school has not followed through on that promise to follow the law. The school has stonewalled, and attempts by the SSA to discuss the matter were met with an email from the school's attorney saying they're not going to speak to anybody."

Hence -- lawsuit. Which, as of this writing, is happening solely and entirely in the state of Alabama. As Eberhard added, "While it's not the first state in which we have seen pushback from adults in a position of authority over students to the idea of atheists forming clubs in the same way religious students form clubs, it is the first state in which we've had to bring in lawyers to fight for equality denied."

#6: North Carolina. Where in December of 2009, Cecil Bothwell couldn't even get elected to the Asheville City Council, without people trying to invoke laws -- antiquated laws overruled by the Supreme Court, but laws nonetheless -- banning him from taking office because he's an atheist.

Okay. Let's be fair. This isn't exactly an isolated case. Lauren Becker of the Center for Inquiry points out that several states have antiquated laws on the books banning atheists from holding office. "The Supreme Court has said that federal law prohibits states from requiring a religious test to serve office," she says, but "there are still some states that have such laws, whether they enforce them or not."

North Carolina, however, has the distinction of actually trying to enforce one of these laws. Less than a year and a half ago.

#5. Florida. On the other hand, in Florida, you might get kicked out of a city council meeting simply for wearing an atheist T-shirt. And if you protest against prayers at city council meetings, you might actually get arrested.

So that's gotta suck.

#4: Rhode Island. Did you hear the one about the public high school with the prayer banner in the school gym -- a prayer banner specifically addressed to "Our Heavenly Father"? The public high school that got asked to take the banner down by 15-year-old atheist high school student Jessica Ahlquist, since it's an unconstitutional promotion of religion by government? The public high school that's digging in its heels and hanging on to the banner, despite decades of unambiguous legal precedent making it clear that they're in the wrong? The public high school that's getting sued by said atheist high school student and the ACLU... and is still digging in its heels, devoting extensive time and resources to defending their promotion of religion?

 
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