Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Being Out

hemant mehta, friendly, atheism, atheist, ifi, higgins, christian, homophobia, homosexual, free speech

As open as I am in the online world, I am not "out" as an atheist in real life. Very few people in my life know I am an atheist. I don't attend church or pretend religiosity, but I've never outed myself either. While a few like-minded friends know I am an atheist, very few of my family members know, and none of my coworkers/employers know. There is a reason for this, ably demonstrated by the current situation Hemant Mehta finds himself in.

Essentially, Mehta, a math teacher, mocked the head of the Illinois Family Institute, Laurie Higgins. Higgins threw a hissy fit over the Kiss In, and Mehta suggested that perhaps the Kiss In should be held outside her house. I thought it was hilarious, and not at all serious, but apparently the concept of people kissing outside her house sent Higgins into the sort of panic I would reserve for a tactical nuclear strike, prompting her to attempt to have Mehta fired.

She emailed school administrators and school board members and posted an open letter on her website:

District 204 parents really should spend some time perusing Neuqua Valley math teacher, Hemant Mehta’s website to determine whether he is the kind of man with whom they want their children to spend a school year. He absolutely has a First Amendment right to promote any feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral ideas he wants via his blog, but, as I mentioned in my earlier article, parents have the right not to have him as a teacher and a role model for their children. I want to be very clear about what I’m suggesting: I am suggesting that parents who have serious concerns about Mr. Mehta’s potential influence on their children’s beliefs politely insist that their children be placed in another teacher’s class………..

. . .

Some parents fail to understand the adolescent mind: they fail to understand that teens are often predisposed to affirm the ideas of adults whom they find cool or personable or funny or iconoclastic. Those parents, no matter what their personal beliefs, will likely be comfortable with their children in Mr. Mehta’s class.

Some parents may be ideological kindred spirits with Mr. Mehta. Those parents may relish the idea of their children being impressed by Mr. Mehta and influenced by his subversive ideas.

But those parents who are troubled by the ideas Mr. Mehta expresses, posts on his blog, and endorses, and who recognize that their teens may be predisposed to look favorably on his ideas merely because they like him, may want to ensure their teens have another math teacher…

Catch that? Mehta, a math teacher, is feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral and, as a math teacher, will rob his students of all belief. Mehta mocked Higgins' hatred of homosexuals, online, she tried to have him fired- in real life.

When called on her behavior, Higgins tried to dodge responsibility for her actions:

She first stressed that she never suggested to school administrators that he be fired or that he should resign.

Then defending her previous statements, Higgins said she has made it clear that she was simply trying to inform leaders in District 204 about Mehta's "vindictive, irresponsible, and unprofessional public statement" that the kiss-in should take place outside her house.
Her goal, she explained, was to provide information to parents in the school district "about the nature of the ideas you express and endorse on your public blog so that they can make informed decisions as to whether they want their children to spend a school year under your tutelage."

Really? She called Mehta feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral, suggested that parents should remove their children from his class, but she didn't want him fired or anything, she just wanted people to know their child's math teacher is feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral .

Higgins then goes for broke with this irony meter busting statement:

Teachers have a First Amendment right to blog or speak publicly about anything they want, the family group director acknowledged. But she added that having the right to speak does not guarantee public approval.

Funny, I think the same thing can be said for directors of "institutes", too. Except that when Mehta expressed his disapproval, Higgins didn't say, oh, well, you have a right to disapprove if you want.

Fortunately for Mehta, his employers haven't been swayed by Higgins' thuggery.

School board member Mark Metzger replied to Higgins' e-mail, rebuking her action.

"Have you considered the possibility that if your actions caused Mr. Mehta to suffer consequences in his employment, you'd be subjecting yourself and/or your organization to liability? That's potentially unwise to your organization's self-sufficiency, surviival (sic) and mission," Metzger stated, according to IFI.

This is the scary side of the American Christian Hegemony. They practice a kind of morality and discourse I can only describe as "do as I say, not as I do." Ms. Higgins talks a big game, just like all of them do, about responsibility and freedom of speech, but exercise it against them, ask them to take responsibility, and you find yourself at the receiving end of some very nasty behavior. Lucky for Hemant Mehta that his employers aren't inclined to test the teacher's union or free speech rules. I remain hidden because secretaries are far easier to fire.


  1. The interesting thing about Higgins and the IFI is this: I don't think anybody knew who they were before Mr. Friendly Atheist found their little pamphlet. I'll bet you that I could go to the people in the fundagelical church I used to attend, which is about 30 miles outside Chicago and take a poll and find out that no one has ever heard of IFI. I think it's just a big, silly publicity stunt.

  2. Which is actually appalling, because if Mehta weren't a teacher, he might well have been fired. Teachers, with their union, are difficult to fire. If Mehta had a different job, he'd be pretty easy to fire. (Unless Illinois employment law is significantly different from PA law.) Can you imagine getting fired for someone else's publicity stunt?

  3. In Illinois there would be lawsuits all around. That much I know.

    But the thing is, your question is almost moot. If Mehta weren't a teacher then Higgins wouldn't have had her publicity stunt. I mean, "Do you really want an atheist insurance adjuster," just doesn't have the ring of, "Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children?"

  4. Good for the school board member for standing up to Higgins' histrionic hissy fit.

  5. I wrote about this situation also. It's nothing more than a blatant attempt to silence criticism. Even though it fortunately didn't get him fired, it is still possible that Mehta could have future problems with parents or even students. I wouldn't put it past someone like Higgins to contact the parents of his students. She's a real low-life.

  6. It really shows what shakey ground her beliefs are on if she's frightened that a maths teacher will 'turn' the children.

  7. I saw you posted on my blog, so I thought I'd return the favor.

    It is a lie when you say that Laurie Higgins tried to have him fired. She simply requested that students be allowed to switch math classes if they wish.

    So either you have read the other lies posted about this situation, and just repeated them,which would make you merely uninformed. Or you knew the truth before writing this post, which would make you a liar.

    Which one is it?

  8. apparently, you cannot read. from above:

    Really? She called Mehta feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral, suggested that parents should remove their children from his class, but she didn't want him fired or anything, she just wanted people to know their child's math teacher is feckless, destructive, offensive, and immoral.


Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

Creative Commons License
Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at foreverinhell.blogspot.com.