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Calif. schools busted for ignoring atheist scholarships because of ‘anti-religious expression’

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Schools in Los Angeles County’s northernmost communities known as the Antelope Valley will have to dole out $10,000 in legal fees for refusing to list atheist groups’ scholarships on student publications, according to the Friendly Atheist.

The Antelope Valley Freethinkers and Freedom From Religion Foundation wanted the Antelope Valley Union High School District to list their scholarships — but the district refused to do so.

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“The district said it was rejecting the scholarships because the essay announcements would upset parents, claiming that they that they appeared to ‘promote anti-religious expression’ and had ‘aggressive’ and ‘argumentative undertones towards religion.’ Offers to modify the wording were rejected,” the blog reported.

The Friendly Atheist reports the prompts are not aggressive at all.

“A freethinker is someone who develops opinions based on science and reason in contrast to faith and dogma,” the Freethinker prompt reads. “Write from a personal perspective encounters you’ve had when you object to or raise logical- or evidence-based challenges to statements of faith or dogma within your family, your school, or the Antelope Valley at large. Perhaps you’ve been ridiculed, harassed, or punished for speaking up against religion in the classroom, at school events, in government, or within your family. Perhaps you’ve been successful in convincing others of your position. Discuss the effects on you and those around you as you’ve dealt with these encounters.”

As a result, both sides agreed to a settlement in which the district will advertise the secular scholarships alongside the others.

“We’re sorry it took a lawsuit to get the school district to agree to equal treatment of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and Antelope Valley Freethinkers,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor told the Friendly Atheist. “But we were confident we would prevail. It’s also heartening to get a victorious settlement so quickly.“

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