A student from Yulee High School in Florida concluded the morning announcements on February 9, 2015 with the phrase “God Bless America” and has since been punished. This incident goes to show how oversensitive America has become.
Two atheist students in the school were offended by the mention of God and went straight to the American Humanist Association (AHA), which advocates for “progressive values and equality for humanists, atheists, and freethinkers.” The organization reacted by sending an angry letter to the school, going so far as to threaten legal action.
They stated that it is unfair for the school to bring up religious beliefs that not all students agree with, as it is a public school and attendance is mandatory. The school responded by scolding the student and banning him from giving the morning announcements.
Now, it would be one thing if a teacher in the school was caught giving Catholic sermons to a freshman English class, but a student saying “God bless America” over the morning announcements is harmless.
“I understand why the atheist students would have been offended, but I do not think the student should have been punished for such a small problem,” said junior Madison Lipoff.
One thing to keep in mind is that religious references are regularly used in everyday life. Any work by William Shakespeare or James Joyce is full of religious themes and symbols. When someone sneezes, “bless you” is the common response. If someone were to get offended every time religion was brought up in school, there would be constant conflict.
“I think the student was unfairly punished because he had no intention of putting down anyone else’s religious beliefs,” said junior Amy Patel.
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion. The mention of God in the morning announcements could arguably have been perceived as the school promoting one specific religion, infringing on the atheist students’ rights. In that, the AHA’s actions are somewhat understandable. However, in this instance, it is quite obvious that that was not the case.
What are your thoughts on the situation?