Is Krystal Myers the next Jessica Ahlquist? If you're unfamiliar with the latter, she's the 16-year-old Rhode Island girl atheist who successfully fought to have a prayer mural removed from her high school. Myers, too, is a non-believer who is alleging that her Lenoir City, Tennessee, high school refused to allow her column about her atheism to run in the school newspaper.
Myers, 18, who says she knew there would be opposition to her views on matters of faith and religion, is the editor of her Lenoir City High School newspaper, The Panther Press. Her editorial, "No Rights: The Life of an Atheist," documents the challenges the young girl perceives as a result of her non-belief in a school that she describes as overtly Christian.
Additionally, it wages some bold accusations against administrators of church-state separation violations. "Myers' editorial...accused school administrators, teachers and coaches of violating the constitution by promoting 'pro-Christian' beliefs during school-sponsored events," Knox News reports.
"As a current student in government, I have realized that I feel that my rights as an atheist are severely limited and unjust when compared to other students who are Christians," she wrote in the article. Here's more from her piece (which can be read in its entirety here):
Before I even begin, I just want to clear up some misconceptions about Atheism. No, we do not worship the “devil.” We do not believe in God, so we also do not believe in Satan. And we may be “godless” but that does not mean that we are without morals. I know, personally, I strive to be the best person I can be, even without religion. In fact, I have been a better person since I have rejected religion. And perhaps the most important misconception is that we want to convert everyone into Atheists and that we hate Christians. For the most part, we just want to be respected for who we are and not be judged. [...]
There are several instances where my rights as a non-believer, and the rights of anyone other than a Christian, have been violated. These instances inspired me to investigate the laws concerning the separation of church and state, and I learned some interesting things. However, first, I would like you to know specifically what my grievances are against the school. First and foremost is the sectarian prayer that occurs at graduation every year.
In the past, the high school senior's articles have apparently run without incident, but this article was a different story. District superintendent Wayne Miller says he didn't want the editorial to become a distraction at the school, but he hasn't commented further on the matter. Myers says she doesn't think publishing the piece would have created many problems among the student body.
According to Dr. Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C., the school does have the right to control the information disseminated by students.
"I didn't think it was fair, honestly, but, I mean, they do get to say what's in the newspaper and what's not in it," Myers said about the decision not to run the article. "That's just their decision."
Already, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Atheist Party have reached out to the young girl, with the latter offering to publish her editorial. Interestingly, Myers isn't angry with administrators and, despite seeing their decision as unfair, she understands their concerns.
"I feel like it should be able to be censored because some topics just don't need to be talked about or written in a school, and I'm sure you can think of which topics and things like that, and so, I think that there should be a little bit of government around there," she explained.