Student Duncan Henderson has been trying to start an atheist club, called the “freethinker” club, at Auburn Junior High in Auburn, Alabama, but was met with strong resistance for two years.
[Duncan Henderson is pictured here (center) in front of his family's house with brother Brendan (right) and father Greg]
Duncan told WBMH-TV that many of his classmates were not encouraging: “One threatened to shoot me and every other atheist with a shotgun.”
Duncan says another classmate tried to choke him: "I kinda kicked him, and he never touched me again."
Duncan and his family claim a former principal blocked the club, which the administrator, who's now with a different school system, denies.
Duncan told WBMH-TV: "I had just 'come out' in seventh grade. And I had a few friends that I knew were non-religious. And as we got older, we started hanging out more, and I was like, 'you know what? I really want a group for us to not be badmouthed constantly by the majority of the school. So, I really want to start a group.'"
Now after two years of delays, Duncan is the founder and president of the Auburn High School Freethinkers' Club, thanks to principal Dr. Todd Freeman, the club’s sponsor.
Freeman, who is a Christian, told WBMH-TV: “Our kids have a right to meet. And they have a right to establish a club, and it’s not my prerogative to necessarily agree or disagree with positions of clubs, but it is my prerogative and responsibility to make sure they have the right to have the club. I could see where there would be resistance, but it’s not really a question because it’s law.”
The 1984 Equal Access Act says any school club has to have the same access to meeting spaces and other resources as other clubs at a federally funded school. The law was originally promoted by Christian lawyer Jay Sekulow who won a landmark Supreme Court decision, which allowed Christian clubs to meet in public schools.