Queer Shaming by Religious based Abstinence Only Education

Secular Woman’s second article in the LGBTQ week Series

By Karin Weiss, read her blog Abstinence Only Recovery

I’ve been out as bisexual since 9th grade (14 years old). I was lucky that most people in my high school were accepting of it. There were only a few very seriously religious teens at my school, but, unfortunately, the curriculum of my abstinence only sex ed class was not so accepting.

First let’s talk about one of the extremely religious teens. I had a friend we’ll call Joe. When I was in 10th grade and he was in 11th we became very good friends. He liked to watch Star Wars and go hiking and read books. We started crushing on each other and decided we wanted to date. Then I told him that I was bisexual. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I knew he was religious but it never occurred to me that one of my friends would be anti-LGBT. He was hurt by the fact. He wanted me to be straight because he couldn’t date someone with homosexual tendencies. He wanted me to go to church with him, and since I was a teenager with raging hormones I agreed.

Just before we started dating I had been realizing that I was an atheist. I was raised without religion and it just never occurred to me to put a name on it.

I got to know him and his family and saw that he got along really well with his parents. Now, he is currently in school to be a physician. His family looks like the American Dream, but I know from conversations with them that they believe that the human body has the ability to live for 900 years if the person lives Biblically. They believe that people can choose to be gay, straight, trans, or bisexual. Once Joe said “I’ve thought about dating guys and I find the thought disgusting, so I have decided to be straight”.

It took me 7 months to stop trying to be straight and stop trying to believe in Joe’s religion. I broke up with him when I realized that it was wrong for me to try to change who I was to be in a romantic relationship.

I think that a big part of why I put up with that relationship and denial of my identity was that my school used a curriculum of abstinence-only sex education which ignored or shamed LGBT students and taught religious views on sex as scientific and psychological fact. We were taught that even our “normal” sexual impulses were disgusting and evil, so if someone was LGBT they were even worse in the eyes of our health class. We were taught that sex is a tool for procreation within a marriage and that any other sexual activity would “destroy your reputation”, give you a disease, or make a girl pregnant with an unwanted child. LGBT sex was not mentioned, but it was implied that it was wrong because it did not produce a child and the partners could not be married.

I remember being in that class and thinking that I would wait until marriage to have sex whether I ended up with a man or a woman. Since it was a public school the instructors couldn’t tell us that sex before marriage would send us to hell, but they did make it sound like our lives would be a living hell of disease, depression, and bullying. Only after I graduated did I understand that the class was based on religious opinions about sex and completely devoid of real scientific information. In high school I still believed that if a teacher told me something was based on real science it was true. I didn’t have the presence of mind to research the information my teachers told me because I never doubted it.

I’m in college now and I’m still recovering from the shame about sex and being bisexual that I was taught by that class. Abstinence only education is horrible for LGBT students and straight cisgender students. It led me to deny my own identity for the sake of a relationship and it caused me much shame and pain in my sex and dating life later on.

Fundamentalist Survivor: Staying alive while being Queer

Secular Woman's first article in the LGBTQ week Series

by Aaron Roberts

I'm queer. I can say it now with assurance, pride even, but it took many long painful years to get to this place. I started from a place where gay was sinful, gross, wrong, immoral. Where sex was hidden, something no one talked about. Where sexuality of any kind was looked on with deep suspicion and shame. I've peeled those layers of oppression off over the years and this is my story.

My parents strongly discouraged any thoughts of romance or sex while I was growing up. They made me feel it was wrong to be attracted to anyone regardless of sex or gender. They said it was wrong to have sex before marriage and that it should not be about pleasure. They made me feel like any sexual attraction was an unforgivable sin. I was terrified of being attracted to anyone. But when I was about 15 I couldn't help myself anymore.

At night I started having visions of being intimate with girls. At first I felt guilty because I thought it was wrong. My mind took over, and my fantasies turned to me getting raped by a woman. I thought that, "well, if its against my will then it's not my fault. Then, I won't be guilty."

As I got older I started doubting religion and everything I was taught. By the time I was 18, I was self identifying as Agnostic. As my religious beliefs began to fade, I felt less and less guilty about masturbating and having erotic fantasies. It was very liberating, now I was able to enjoy myself without feeling guilty. My fantasies became more varied, and I also learned that queer people existed and wondered what two men would do together sexually. I started having fantasies involving men, and enjoyed them.

When I started having queer fantasies it was hard for me to imagine being able to have a family because I'd never seen queer families. I thought that they wouldn't be accepted by society and that I couldn't have a queer family. I remember telling my sister, "I think I would like having sex with a man, but I don't think I could fall in love with one."

During this changing period, I went on 4-H exploration days. It was a program where kids would go to Michigan State University for 4 days. There were classes that taught a wide range of subjects. One year I took sailing and a drama/acting class. The classes weren't too involved, but it was enough to teach you about a subject and get you interested in it. We also got to go on an all day adventure away from the campus.

This particular year we went to an amusement park. At the amusement park I hung out with some boys that were in my same 4-H group and we went on some water slides. I remember being aroused by their naked chests.

We were assigned dorm rooms on campus during our classes and in our rooms the boys talked about masturbating among other general conversations. Before this point in my life, I'd never had the opportunity to be with my peers; therefore, I hadn't heard people talk so openly about what I thought were private, taboo topics. These experiences were very educational for me.

When I was seventeen, my parents let me put a door on my room, but I wasn't allowed to put a lock on it. I thought I was lucky because I had the only door in the house. My sisters and my parents didn't have doors to their rooms, and there was no door to the bathroom either, as our house was in a constant state of renovation and my parents didn't believe in giving us privacy.

But, since I had a door I felt safer exploring my sexuality and masturbating to porn. I would shut my door and watch porn, listening intently for my mother walking up the stairs. Usually I was able to hear her before she got to my room, so I would close the pornography and pretend I was just surfing the web or playing a game. She would just open my door unannounced and look at my computer to see what I was doing. I know she was scanning my window tabs for porn. She would accuse me of closing a page so that she couldn't see what I was looking at. Then she would tell me to go to bed and not stay up too late.

Because of my mother's unannounced "visits" to my room I started taking pictures of the porn with my parent's digital camera because then I could take it to bed with me. I thought that would be less risky. I had the foresight to swap out the memory cards so that my parents wouldn't find them in the camera but one night I forgot.

That next morning my father came in to wake me up and tell me to feed my horse. He saw the camera and tried to turn it on, but the battery was dead. I immediately asked him to let me see it. He sensed my anxiety and asked me why. I told him I took a silly picture of myself and wanted to erase it. He took the camera downstairs to find more batteries.

I quickly got up and dressed. I ran out to feed my horse. I was hoping to convince my father to let me have the camera back. However, when I got back inside he had told my mother. I went upstairs to my room because I knew I was doomed.

My mother and my father interrogated me about masturbating and my mother went on to tell me how disgusting and repulsive the pictures were; it was clear that she was referring to the gay pictures. She was equally upset about all the porn though. She was very grossed out by any references to sex. My mother then asked me how I would feel if other people were watching my sister like that. She was trying to make me feel guilty.

My mother then quizzed me if I watched porn with my friends. She told me that she was taking my computer away and I wasn't allowed to play computer games or use the Internet. She also said that I wasn't allowed to see any friends. She went on to say that from now on they would make me go to church with them every Sunday. I begged her to not tell anyone about my porn. She got so irate that she left the room and went downstairs.

My father was calmer. After my mother left the room he told me that he had been into things that were wrong when he was younger, and that he wanted to help me to not crave these evils. I'm not sure if he was talking about my sexuality or porn in general. I didn't say much because I knew that they were wrong but I couldn't argue with them.

One of the most upsetting parts about this was they ignored the sexuality issue completely. I knew they believed that gay people didn't exist and that gay sex was just evil and that there was no attraction between two people of the same sex. Because of this mindset my parents only saw porn and sex for pleasure as evil and a sin. The fact that it was gay porn made it no worse because being gay was just as sinful.

My mother said that they were taking me to see our pastor to talk about what happened. I was very upset because I had asked her not to tell anyone. My parents took me to the church to talk with the pastor.

The pastor and my parents started out by discussing my lack of faith. I told them that the biblical story was full of holes and that I didn't need religion to be good and moral. The pastor said that some people, famous atheists, come back to the lord. He also agreed that many people leave the Christianity.

He went on to discuss porn and the sex industry. He said it was evil and that the women were forced to participate. My mother sat there agreeing with him. He said that watching sexual images was wrong. He then went on to say that pornography led to homosexuality. My parents asked if I would be willing to meet with the pastor and talk more. They made it clear that if I didn't meet with the pastor I had to move out.

I was forced to see the pastor a couple times, and during our visits we talked and he tried to pressure me into reading a book about a crazy evangelical guy. The pastor and my parents basically wanted to convert me back to Christianity, convince me of the evils of pornography and get me to become ex-gay.

After this traumatic experience I became more reserved. I knew my life was over. This person was dead. It took me years to come out and be comfortable with myself. My family used religion to try and control my sexuality and it scarred me for life.

After this experience, about a year later, I moved out and started college. I played soccer and hung out with the soccer guys. I said I was straight and tried to be straight. It was a very difficult time for me because I was trying to be someone I wasn't. The soccer team was very homophobic also, which didn't help. I also tried to have sex with girls and began dating a girl for several months. I tried to make our relationship work but I just didn't feel an attraction for her. Finally, I came out as bisexual, which made her very uncomfortable. She was afraid I would leave her for a man. I was very sad that she couldn't accept me because I knew she had other friends in the LGBT community.

After I broke up with my girlfriend I started dating a guy who was a friend of my sisters'. I felt more comfortable with him right away, and I just knew inside that this was right for me. I'd never felt that way before. It's something that you can't explain with words.

Since I had a boyfriend it was easier for me to come out because all I had to do was mention my boyfriend. Most people at my work were friends of mine and so everyone would mention my boyfriend once in awhile in conversations. It didn't take long for every new employee to find out that I was queer.

One time I was working with a guy who I knew from a conservative family. I don't think he knew for sure I was queer, so one day he was goofing off and called me a faggot. I told him never to call me that again. He immediately became embarrassed and asked me what he could call me. I told him anything but a faggot.

One time another conservative guy made a comment about a customer who he heard over the headset saying, "Sounds like he plays for the other team." It was not necessarily a negative comment; he didn't have a negative tone, but, I knew the comment itself was heteronormative and homophobic. I was taken by surprise, but I also knew this guy wouldn't understand what heteronormative meant, so I just dropped my jaw and stared at him with the expression, "what the fuck?" I think he got the message without me saying a word.

Another time at work I was telling my co-worker about the night before when I ordered pizza for my boyfriend and I. The guy delivering supplies for the store overheard our conversation. After the delivery guy left my co-worker told me that he had asked about my sexuality and commented that he didn't know people were so open. I was surprised about this reaction because I assumed that he would have seen open people before. I realized how important it is to be open because other people notice it. If they are queer themselves it will help them feel more comfortable and if they are straight they will realize that queer people exist and are comfortable.

Now I know that I am queer and I am proud to be who I am. I define myself as queer because it is a broader term than gay. I think the term queer explains that I do not fit into normative gender identity and gender expression categories as well as covering my attraction to men.

For me, queer also encompasses how I don't fit with society on many levels. For example, I used to have a speech impediment and to this day sometimes it surfaces. I don't have the same values or beliefs, as most of my peers. I do not accept our capitalist, greedy mind set that so many do. I know that the clothes I wear have no bearing on my character. I have many terms to define myself; hard worker, liberal, atheist, humanist, queer, and survivor. But, although I happen to be queer and I am proud to be who I am, it is only a fraction of my being, my identity.

Introducing the LGBTQ Article Series, Recognizing Pride Month

This week Secular Woman will be featuring stories on LGBT people and their experiences with the oppressive forces of religion. Many queer and gender variant people face horrific and relentless discrimination and hatred from their faith (or former faith), and often from their family who practices a faith which rejects them. Part of our vision is a world where secular values celebrate same-sex love and people of all gender identities and expressions.

The stories this week show how far we have to come as a society and the capacity of the secular, atheist, and humanist communities to embrace LGBTQ people and stand with them in their fight for equality and justice. It is our goal to share these stories with the expectation of increasing understanding in the secular community of the challenges gender and sexual minorities face and the importance of continuing to support their struggle for acceptance and equality.

All This Talk of Speeches Has Gotten Me Thinking

By M. A. Melby, read her blog at Sinmantyx

During the last few weeks many of us have been talking about speeches. From Ron Lindsay's Speech at the Women in Secularism 2 Convention to the young man who tore up his approved speech and recited the Lord's Prayer counter to the rules of his school, the concept of standing up and being a representative and a leader is on our minds.

I joke that my high school administration would have changed my grade to avoid the awkward situation of allowing me to give a commencement speech. Let's just say, in high school I was a bit of a character. I certainly spoke my mind and wasn't always adequately respectful of authority. High school was not a pleasant place for me, and I wasn't always pleasant back at it. Among so many other things, such as asking the English teacher if he wanted me to start writing in crayon, complaining to the next English teacher that perhaps we should be covering dangling participles instead of going over "nouns" for the fourth year in a row, quitting Art because I didn't appreciate us being used as cheap labor, writing an essay *against* the flag-burning amendment, refusing to go to Baccalaureate because we were taken out of class to plan it, and exiting Choir in diva-like fashion because I hated the music that was being picked out for me (Bach or NOTHING! Romantic period sucks!), I had gained a bit of a reputation.

The principle had artfully avoided the possibility of me singing, "Planned Obsolescence" by 10,000 Maniacs at the talent show, so they dodged that bullet. I sincerely don't know if there would have been a little creative bookkeeping.

In retrospect, I'm glad it wasn't me. I have no idea how I would have handled the responsibility because, like a lot of people that age, I was painfully self-absorbed. The commencement was for everyone. It was no place to air my grievances. However much I would have been tempted to stick an epic, "Remember when you replaced the theater's dressing room with a weight room for the football team over the summer and threw all our stuff in a closet over there? Yeah, that one, right there, with the sewer pipe running through it!" speech, it would have been extremely inappropriate.

When you have an audience that you are there to serve and you are acting as a representative, it's not about you. It's not about what divides, but what unites.

Perhaps I don't give myself enough credit. Perhaps I could have written something that would have brought us together. We had grown up together. We meant a lot to each other when it really came down to it. Maybe I would have cobbled together something that everyone found meaningful. Maybe I would have been humble enough to listen to my classmates and think about our larger experience together instead of providing a speech only from my limited perspective.

That was a long time ago. More-and-more as I gain authority and position in my career, I find myself in situations where my primary function is to facilitate the growth and expression of others. It may be tempting to think that the person who is standing in front of the audience or the class is the center of attention, but that is far from the truth.

The first lesson is to know your audience and to find out what they need from you and how you can provide it. You need to meet them where they are at, not somewhere else entirely. Ron Lindsay's speech, for example, was akin to describing how to cross the street to a group of women and men who run marathons, and implying that they may not be putting one foot in front of the other correctly.

It is selfless work to lead. More is expected of you. It's stressful. People are less forgiving. The necessity to be diplomatic and professional can be infuriating when your filters are on maximum expletive deletion. I absolutely empathize with anyone in leadership who has put their foot squarely into their mouth. When people are depending on you and have entrusted you with responsibility though, living up to those responsibilities is the primary concern, not what's going on in your own head. I am confident that Ron Lindsay understands this.

It's easy to think of people in authority as little gods, and not real people with their own challenges. The "perfect person" for the job is fantasy. Leaders are not born, but develop in time. A good leader learns as much as they can from both success and failure. They take criticism, even if it upsets them, as information useful in making future decisions and being better at what they do.

There is a time to fight your fights; to have unpleasant discussions; to stand up for yourself; to fall flat on your face and learn from it; and even to tell someone you think they are full of *it. When acting as a representative, is not one of those times. In front of an audience who yearns for solidarity and a voice, is not one of those places.
That is the lesson that may still need to be learned.

 


M. A. Melby is a physics instructor, blogger, and sometimes poet, artist, and musician.  Her work appears in Atheist Voices of Minnesota: An anthology of personal stories as well as her blog “Sinmantyx”.

Are you #ShameLESS?

Secular Woman, through our project Abort Theocracy, has launched a campaign aimed at eliminating stigma and encouraging people to talk openly, shamelessly, about their reproductive health experiences. The campaign is, appropriately, called #ShameLESS. We are sharing your stories on our sister site aborttheocracy.org.

Share your first person reproductive health story on topics like abortion, adoption, childfree decisions, miscarriage, midwifery, genital mutilation, sex ed, etc. with us today by filling out this form and let everyone know you are #ShameLESS!

Secular Woman to Match Up to $500 in Donations to Humanist Homeschoolers Lending Library

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, please contact:

Secular Woman to Match Up to $500 in Donations to Humanist Homeschoolers Lending Library

KellyAnne and Jennifer are two homeschooling parents who recognized a need for affordable educational materials not containing a religious agenda.  Because of the large market for religious homeschooling materials, it has become increasingly more expensive and difficult for free thinking homeschooling families to find alternatives.  The Humanist Homeschoolers Lending Library hopes to fulfil this need by pooling resources and providing secular homeschooling curricula and supplies to families in need.

Secular Woman believes that the educational needs of free thinking children are of utmost importance.  We will be aiding secular homeschooling parents in accessing quality educational materials by matching donations of our members and supporters of this project up to the amount of $500.  Upon finding the Humanist Homeschoolers Lending Library, we feel that the idea of providing these resources on loan is an effective way to not only help in education, but also with families for whom the cost of new books may be out of the budget.

The Humanist Homeschoolers Lending Library needs your help in building this valuable resource.  Funds raised will go to purchase of books, building a database, maintaining a website, postage, and other maintenance items. We ask for our members’ and supporters’ help to ensure that children in the secular movement are provided with the materials best suited to obtain a quality education.

If you would like to help please donate to the Humanist Homeschoolers Lending Library IndieGoGo Campaign.  Once your donation is completed please forward proof of your donation to Nicole at [email protected] On the final day of the campaign, we will tally donations made by our members and supporters who have provided proof of donation to us and match these donations up to the amount of $500.

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Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit: www.SecularWoman.org.

LGBTQ Pride Month Writer Submission Form

June is LGBT Pride Month and to recognize it Secular Woman is doing an article series on LGBTQ people and the effects of religion on their lives. We are particularly looking for writers interested in telling their stories and writing about “reparative therapy”, anti-gay religious messages, “ministries” like Exodus International, etc. We are also looking for writers who want to explore the liberating effects of leaving religion behind as an LGBTQ person and what life is like as a secular person. We are accepting articles by people of any genders; accounts may be personal in nature or they may be investigative or commentary pieces.

 

To submit an idea for an article please fill out the form below.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month Recap

If you didn’t have a chance to check out all of the great articles we published during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, here they are below, all neatly rounded up for your viewing pleasure.

Street Harassment: An Inconvenient Truth?

by Shanna Wells, follow her on twitter

“Hey baby, shake that thing.” “Mmmm, I like ‘em that size.” “Ugh, you’re a dog!” “Nice ass!”

For women, the simple act of walking down the street can become an exercise in navigating a minefield of unwanted comments. According to Author Deborah Tuerkheimer, “street harassment occurs when a woman in a public place is intruded on by a man’s words, noises, or gestures. In so doing, he asserts his right to comment on her body or other feature of her person, defining her as object and himself as subject with power over her” (1).

I Hide Inside

by Shanna Wells, follow her on twitter 

It’s summer in Philadelphia. The sky scraper in which I work is just three blocks from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Behind the Hall is a shaded green space, an enviable place to be on my lunch hour. But to get there I must pass a construction site. As a large woman, I’m not sure which comments are worse from the all-male crew: being told I’m a hideous excuse of a woman, or being told how my body will be used for the man’s pleasure. I dissociate, seeing myself through their eyes. Just steps from where the Declaration of Independence was signed, I am a prisoner – in my office, in my body, in my gender.

Comprehensive Sex Education Can Prevent Sexual Assault

by Laurel Reed, follow her on twitter

As we enter into Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it is painfully clear that the youth of America are more unaware than ever. And we adults can directly blame ourselves for their ignorance. Sex education classes in the United States (where they’re available) are woefully inadequate. Only 18 states require sex education to be medically accurate. And, thanks to the overbearing presence of religion, most sex educators’ hands are tied when it comes to updating or presenting new material. We all remember the “Don’t Say Gay” bills that circulated through various mid-western state legislatures. If students and teachers can’t even say the word “gay”, how are they supposed to educate themselves and other people about different sexual identities?

Incest, A Family Curse

by Claire Bardelux

From around five years old until I was thirteen, I endured repeated nighttime attacks at the hands of my three brothers—sometimes they acted as a group, but, as we got older, my primary attacker was my older brother acting on his own. Or, at least, that’s what woke me up. I struggled with the sleep paralysis that held me captive and powerless even as I was being violated, and I never really knew what happened when I was asleep. Some mornings, I would wake with the tell-tale missing panties and feel sick with the not knowing, with the lack of control over my body.

My Body the temple, my body the toilet

by Jennifer Forester

When I was five, I decided that I wanted to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour, and I went through all of the motions: I asked him into my heart, assumed he accepted, and was baptized before the congregation. I remember vividly how afraid I was to be baptized; the thought of the water closing in over my head filled me with panic, but somehow I went through it, understanding that I had been washed in metaphorical blood and was now sin-free in the eyes of God. What was not possible for me to process in my gloriously naïve five-year-old brain was that, in return for the unconscionably horrifying experience of vicarious redemption, I had agreed to surrender my will to a being who could not express his will to me excepting through the men who controlled what ostensibly came from him.

Monsters

by Elsa Roberts, follow her on twitter

Rapists are monsters, evil. Child rapists are the king of that monster pack.

They never tell you that those monsters are good friends, a nice neighbor, someone with a good sense of humor, a person who will help a stranger fix a flat. Nobody tells you that.

They don’t tell you that they’re the person you fell in love with, your uncle, your brother, your father. Nobody tells you that.

The Steubenville Case, a microcosm for a culture wide problem

By Renée Neary, of NiftyIdeas

In a down-on-its-luck eastern Ohio town, the local high school’s star football players were powerful people. As the town’s pride and joy – its hope for the future – the young men in Steubenville enjoyed all the privileges of small town princelings, just like millions of young men in millions of small towns all over the world. One of the privileges of that power was that the football players had their “pick” of the town’s unattached girls. For star athletes, the privilege of first pick of the most desirable girls is like selecting ripe melons at Kroger. The athlete gets to choose or discard, never the girl.

Rape – a Secular View

by Elsa Roberts, follow her on twitter

What do you think of when you think about rape? Be honest. Dark alleys, knives, blood, strangers – those are the things I usually hear when I ask that question. Ask the average person where women are most at risk and from whom, and the answer is usually 1. after dark walking anywhere, and 2. a stranger.

That is the picture people have of rape; that is what most people see as “real” rape, “legitimate” rape. But, that’s not how most rape happens.

An Interview with a Secular Mother on Drunk Driving

Interview by Kim Rippere, President of Secular Woman

Angela Champaneria is secular mother who is battling her family and community regarding teenage drunk driving.  Her daughter was recently in a car accident. Angela’s decision to have her daughter take responsibility for her actions was not universally well received.  Adults were supportive, but not all the kids! Here is a recent interview:

How is your daughter? And the other teenagers? Is everyone ok?

My daughter is physically ok now. She had the worse of injuries. All the other kids are fine.

What do you have to say about teenage drinking? Teenage driving? Teenage drinking and driving?

I personally feel that drinking before the legal age is wrong, period. I feel parents need to take more precautions to prevent this. I feel teenagers should not be allowed to drive till age 18. I have always felt this way. Aside from alcohol, teenagers just don't make good choices.

Do you see any roll in this for peer-pressure or bullying?

I feel peer pressure exists, for the good and for the bad. There are good role models and there are bad. When we are around people we like and look up to, we tend to follow them, even if it's not right.

What has been the most surprising thing in the wake of the accident and the position you have taken?

The most surprising thing in general is the lack of lessons learned. My daughter for example has learned not to get in a car with someone who is drunk. She has not learned that drinking as a minor is wrong and dangerous, period!

What are three things you want teenagers and parents to know about teenage drinking?

Teenage drinking is a major problem that affects us all in the end. Just because your child says he or she is not drinking, does not mean they are not! take away opportunities by taking away communication at night (cell phone, electronics etc). As a parent you need to be firm because these kids will find a way to do it if you as a parent are not on top of it. Trust me, it was a lesson for me personally.

What three resources do you recommend regarding teenage drinking? Why do you recommend them?

I recommend getting involved with MADD. They have support and resources for everyone involved. It is by far one of the best organizations out there and I don't know where I would be without their support. Establishing your own network of friends and family to have gatherings with and to be involved with regularly would help in the sense that you can pull together as a village to help a teen who is going on the wrong path. Get involved with whatever spiritual outlet you have or non spiritual network, in assistance with the teens inner being.

How can a community “pull together and do something?” How are you leading this in your community?

By pulling together as a community, we as parents need to start in our own homes. If the parents take firm action in their homes, this will cut the issue in half, I guarantee! We also need to have stricter laws in Montana in order to wake these kids and some parents up. Start fining the parents if the teen is caught drinking underage. Allow law enforcement more mobility when it comes to catching minors. Make harsher consequences for minors so that they really think before doing it again. Laws need to be changed, this is a fact. I have started the ball rolling by speaking up and taking action. I am far from done. I plan on assisting in legal changes as well.

What are the next steps for you? Your family? Your community?

The next steps for me are getting involved with changing laws. I will continue to express the importance of parenting in every way possible. My family will be getting involved in support of fundraisers for victims of Auto related accidents. The community has been very supportive minus the kids involved/ indirectly involved.

What was the role of social media in supporting (or not) you and your decisions?

The media has been super supportive. Many people have contacted the Shelby Promoter and myself expressing their gratitude that the Promoter took action and did something. I have had been contacted by many sources wanting the story for their paper as well. People feel it's a Nationwide issue and that no ones ever stands up and addresses the issues. They feel this story will benefit everyone everywhere and give strength to parents who are feeling weak with no outlet or support.

How has this changed you?

1My being has changed in so many ways. I have become stronger and more active due to almost losing my baby. I have realized that this has happened to so many people and that they need assistance. I've learned that addressing the issue publicly has given so many people relief and comfort. We can now as a community move forward…together!


Angela’s Biography:

The Majority of people find their support and guidance from a Church. Given that I don't belong to any particular Religious group I have found it very hard to find a support group. I have morals and values and a sense of right from wrong without a book. I feel like our voices, as secular woman, are not heard unless there is a religion to thank for saving us. I have been an example to my children, family and friends that non religious woman are just as moral as any woman who follows rules from a book. So many people have mistaken me as being very religious due to my lifestyle and beliefs. I have found that they end up respecting and trusting me more due to that. I feel that secular woman also should be given credit for being good moral Mothers, wives, sisters and friends. We are good people, there is nothing to fear of us

A Man of Faith on Secular Exclusion

by Rogelio Tavera

Member article by Rogelio Tavera, his thoughts as a religious man in the wake of the Boston tragedies and secular people’s exclusion from official mourning and commemoration ceremonies.

Greetings, my siblings in humanity!

As a man of faith, I wish to speak about the painfully obvious exclusion of secular people from the memorial service for the recent boston marathon tragedy.

I am angry that these people, who carry the tax load for religious institutions were excluded. Yet the people who arrange such events don't seem to worry that someone else is carrying our financial load and receive a slap in the face in return.

Secular people, whether they label themselves as humanist, atheist, agnostic, anti-theist, or whatever label with which they identify, carry a moral compass that leads them to do what is right without hope of reward or fear of reprisal for not doing so. They have my utmost respect because I find that concept to be inherently beautiful.

My lord jesucristo, walked the earth with a message of social justice. To exclude a huge segment of society because they do not have need for a belief system is an affront to that message of love thy neighbor.

I ask any religious person whose beliefs would lead them to exclude my secular siblings from the grieving process that we, as a society, need to participate in the following questions:

Where is your compassion?

Where is your sense of unity?

WHERE IS YOUR GOD?

If someone's religious beliefs lead them to exclude others from the events and customs in which we as a society find solace because of their lack of a belief system, then those religious beliefs or the interpretation of the person who has them are seriously lacking in love and compassion.

We share one humanity and the exclusion and even outright persecution that secular people receive at the hands of religious people is immoral.

They can no more pretend to themselves that they believe in divine entities than I can pretend to myself that I don't. Nor should any of us have to.

True religious freedom cannot exist only by freedom OF religion; it must also include freedom FROM religion. A just society will reflect this in its laws, its customs, and its acts.