atheism

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When Stigmas Collide

This morning over breakfast I was reading the New York Times (ah, the delights of spring break!) when this headline caught my eye: Mississippi A.C.L.U. Rejects $20,000 for Alternate Prom.

You might remember that earlier this month I wrote a blog called Homophobia: Bad for Straight Kids discussing the decision of a Mississippi school board to cancel its prom because they could not otherwise prevent Constance McMillen and her partner from attending. (They also forbade her from attending in a tuxedo. This is not just about homophobia. This is also about gender expression.)

The ACLU and its Mississippi affiliate are representing Constance and a group called Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition (MSCC) is organizing an alternate prom for the community. The ACLU of Mississippi is apparently the fiscal sponsor for the MSSC. According to the New York Times article, the American Humanist Society offered a $20,000 gift to MSSC to help fund the alternate prom, and a fundraiser at the ACLU Mississippi rejected it, explaining via email that “Although we support and understand organizations like yours, the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist."

Talk about being imprisoned by stigma. Here the stigma attached to atheism potentially thwarts an attempt to fix a problem caused by the stigma attached to homosexuality.

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