Standing up for your rights can be a very difficult and brave thing to do. However, no one should ever be vilified and harassed the way that many secular people are when they speak up for their rights.
Amanda Scott is a student at Faulkner State Community College. On June 19th, she testified before her local county commission against a resolution to display a plaque with “In God We Trust” on it at the Mobile Government Plaza. However, her voice was not listened to, and the commission voted 2-1 to approve the plaque.
Amanda wasn’t done standing up for what she knew was right.She stood up once again on August 7th for a proposal to allow other individuals and groups to put up their own plaques. The one proposed by Amanda the Mobile Atheist Community, had “In Reason We Trust” written on it. Once again, the commission ignored her voice.
However, Amanda knew she could still get her perspective listened to. So when the largest local TV station requested an interview after her second testimony, she accepted. This news station, rather than focusing on the presence of the plaque, asked their audience what they thought about Amanda speaking up for her rights.
The results were horrific and beyond what anyone should have to deal with. Her community posted death threats, told her to leave the country, attacked her character, and attacked her appearance.
After a different news outlet ran a story about the hate mail she had received, more people stepped up to tell Amanda that she deserved the harrassment and even accused her of lying about receiving them.
This is atrocious behavior; anyone should be able to stand up for their rights and their belief without receiving death threats.
We are so proud of the work Amanda has done towards advancing equality in her community, in spite of the hatred and harassment that has been directed towards her. We want to recognize Amanda’s bravery in standing up for her fellow secular people in Mobile, Alabama, and are thrilled to be able to recognize her courage with an Award for Outstanding Activism.
Amanda, please know that you have the full support of the Secular Student Alliance. We know that an award from us doesn’t make up for the harasment, but we hope it can serve as a reminder that you are doing fantastic work, and we are proud to have you as a part of the secular student movement.
If anyone has any messages of support or encouragement to share with Amanda, please send them firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your courage, Amanda!
On August 7, 2014, I testified again before the Mobile County Commission with a proposal to open up Mobile Government Plaza as a public forum and allow other individuals and groups to request to put up their own plaques representing their views. I urged the Commission to approve the requests from the Mobile Atheist Community for a plaque with “In Reason We Trust” and the request from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mobile for a plaque with “COEXIST”. I delivered a petition with over 100 signatures and 30 comments from local Mobile residents in support.
On July 16, 2014, I delivered a persuasive speech titled “Why the United States Isn’t a Christian Nation” in my Fundamentals of Public Speaking class at Faulkner State Community College. I used examples such as the No Religious Test Clause of Article VI and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in the Constitution, an act passed by Congress removing references to “Almighty God” and “So Help Me God” from the oath for public office, an article from an international treaty stating the United States wasn’t founded on Christianity, President James Madison’s opposition to prayer before government meetings, and President Thomas Jefferson’s opposition to a national day of prayer.
On June 19, 2014, I coordinated public testimony and testified before the Mobile County Commission against a resolution to display a plaque with the motto “In God We Trust” in Mobile Government Plaza. I told the Commission that the motto excludes the Mobile residents that are polytheists and believe in multiple gods and goddesses and atheists that do not believe in any gods. I urged the Commission to display the motto “E Pluribus Unum” instead because it represents all Mobile residents regardless of religion.
On May 3, 2014, I helped organize and spoke at the Alabama Rally for Secular Government at the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. I gave my speech on the topic of retribution against activists for the separation of church and state from the public and the government. I brought up the hate mail that plaintiffs in Establishment Clause cases have received and the attempts made by state legislature to remove the anonymity of the plaintiffs and make bringing lawsuits against government officials a misdemeanor. I quoted James Madison’s warning in his letter to Thomas Jefferson on how the Bill of Rights was intended to protect the rights of minorities from the will of the majority.
On February 16, 2014, I gave a talk at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mobile on the topic of church politicking. I brought up the history of the Johnson Amendment, Americans United’s lawsuit against the Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton which successfully revoked the church’s tax exempt status, the Alliance Defending Freedom’s “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” urging clergy members to defy the ban, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service for failure to enforce the ban.