THE American Humanist Association (AHA) has stepped forward with an offered to organise and fund a prom for the Itawamba County Agricultural High School in Mississippi.
The Itawamba County School District made headlines earlier this week by cancelling their prom rather than allowing a lesbian student, Constance McMillen, 18, to bring her girlfriend as her date.
Said Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of the AHA.
It’s shameful that closed-minded members of the school board are prepared to deprive an entire class of students their prom over their outdated religious mores. People can hold to any belief or no belief in this nation, but the school board misuses their position when they try to impose their beliefs on the student population in Itawamba.
McMillen was barred from the prom after making it known that she intended to bring a same-sex date. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi became involved and demanded the school reverse its policy. The school board responded by cancelling the prom.
The ACLU is doing good work in Mississippi, and we humanists can also bring resources to the table that will defend students from a repressive school board. Prom is a special event for teens across America; we’ll make sure it’s a special night for these students as well.
AHA members Todd and Diana Stiefel made a $20,000 grant available to the AHA for the purpose of holding a prom in Itawamba County. The AHA will be discussing logistics with the relevant parties.
Humanists and freethinkers have a history of speaking up for the rights of all. The AHA was among the first to support civil rights, equal pay for equal work, and the right of same-sex couples to marry. Recently the AHA launched the LGBT Humanist Council to advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families. (www.lgbthumanists.org).
Meanwhile, we learn from this report that McMillen has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order the dance to go ahead. She is also demanding the right to wear male evening dress instead of the traditional prom gown.
The row in America’s Deep South has spread across the rest of the country, with the schoolgirl taking her protests to nationally televised breakfast shows.
The move has infuriated education board chiefs at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi. Miss McMillen admitted the row had not endeared her to some disgruntled classmates.
Somebody said: â€˜Thanks for ruining my senior year’.
Local Baptist Church pastor Bobby Crenshaw said he’s seen America’s South being portrayed as ‘backwards’ over the school’s handling of the affair. But he added:
A lot more people here have biblically-based values.
Translation: A lot of people here are bigoted religious fuckwits.
In the only similar previous case, a gay student sued his school district in Toronto, Canada, to force it to allow him to attend a prom with his boyfriend in 2002.
A judge later forced the district to allow the couple to attend and stopped the school from cancelling the prom.
UPDATE: We have just learned that a New Orleans hotelier has offered to host the prom free of charge. Sean Cummings told The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson he was so disappointed with the school board’s decision he offered to transport the students in buses to the city and host a free prom at one of his properties.
We’re a joyful culture and a creative culture here and, if the school doesn’t change its mind, we’d be delighted to offer them a prom in New Orleans. Concluding your high school experience should be a joyful one. One shouldn’t conclude that experience with all their friends on a negative note.