It is not just atheists who have a hard time in the Bible Belt; Jews do not have it much easier. I've long heard disturbing anecdotes from my Jewish friends about what their children must endure at public schools. Now Jews on First is calling attention to the problem of Christian proselytizing in public schools throughout the South.
"A lot of classmates said they'd pray for me since I was going to hell because I'm Jewish," said Hanna, now a college sophomore. "Once I was asked if I had horns or had shaved them down," recalls Jane, who attended a different public high school in the metropolitan Atlanta area.Like atheists, many Jews face tremendous pressure to convert to fundamentalist Christianity and are often threatened with hell (or worse) when they refuse. This appears to be a part of the culture in which we find ourselves.
Shelley Rose, associate director of the Southeast office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), attributes the fact that she gets calls regularly about the same issues, to the culture of religion in the South. "And it happens in the metro Atlanta area, not just in the rural areas," she says.Changing this culture is going to be a long uphill battle. It occurs to me that atheists and Jews, along with many LGBT students, may be natural allies. I hope we'll see groups like the Secular Student Alliance make more progress in establishing student groups in public schools throughout the Bible Belt. It is important that those most likely to be target by proselytizing Christians have some support.
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