California Schools Ban Atheist Scholarships, But You Won’t Believe Which Ones They Allow

A lawsuit filed in California last week is accusing the Antelope Valley Union School Board of blocking scholarships from atheists while allowing some from Scientology and other religions. The district refused to let students compete for a $17,950 scholarship from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a $1,750 scholarship from the Antelope Valley Freethinkers.

The school district failed to notify the students that the offers were available. The scholarships would require the student to write an essay on the challenges of being a non-believer. The religious ones are scholarships that

“Solicited religious speech, required applicants to be religious, and dealt with the historically controversial topics of homosexuality and guns.”

Yes! Scientology! The rational atheists groups are not allowed, but students are allowed to get scholarships by believing in aliens.

Deputy Superintendent Jeff Foster told the Antelope Valley Freethinkers President David Dionne that offering the atheist scholarships would “make some parents uncomfortable.” Foster said that these scholarships would make students write about being

“Ridiculed, harassed, or punished for speaking up against religion in the classroom, at school events, in government, or within your family.”

Dionne had this to say about the scholarship:

“This scholarship is the first of its kind in the Antelope Valley. Our members have generously donated their time and resources to benefit the freethinking students in our community. We hope to encourage and inspire future leaders who champion reason, science, and secular ethics to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

The two atheist groups are asking the judge to make the school district stop suppressing the students’ free speech. Some parents complained that it “promoted anti-religious activity” and created “argumentative tones about religion.” School is expensive enough; students need help from anywhere they can get it. If you are religious, just choose a different scholarship essay to write. Simple!

Featured image by U.S. Department of Education, available under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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