Reader Skye sent me this article about a Portland student who was expelled from art school, supposedly for expressing his skeptical outlook on leprechauns. According to Bob Averill, he was hanging out at the end of a class when another student mentioned a belief in energy layers. Averill jokingly asked if she also believed in the little men with the pots of gold, leading to accusations of rude behavior. This led to a suspension followed by an expulsion for “rude and belligerent behavior.” Was this a case of discrimination against reason, or simply a just punishment for a jerk?
The answer: who the hell knows? I checked out the guy’s blog to see if he more thoroughly details the incident, but didn’t find anything relevant. From the article, we know that he has had past issues with professors (though unfortunately the journalist doesn’t give details) and that the teacher who started this may have received similar complaints in the past about his behavior. I’ll be interested to see whether or not the ACLU or Freedom From Religion Foundation jump in to help him out with his case.
This story has me thinking a lot about victimhood. A lot of people enjoy the “victim” label, and it always makes me flinch when I see a skeptic doing it, in the name of skepticism. “We’re the only group left that people can still make fun of without it being considered politically correct.” I’ve heard that line from atheists, skeptics, Southerners, Christians, and Irishmen, and each time my response is the same: oh, shut up. I’ve also heard horror stories about discrimination that go something like this:
“The other day at work, I said I’d be getting a raise next week, and a coworker told me to knock on wood. So I said, “Aren’t you a little old to believe in moronic fairy tales?” Then I gave her a stack of skeptical texts, signed her up for a subscription to Skeptical Inquirer, and invited her to my weekly atheist brunch. Now she’s ignoring me. Why am I being discriminated against?”
Okay, so I made that one up, but it’s not far from some of the things I’ve heard. How often are people just being jerks, and blaming the response they get on (non)religious persecution? I don’t know all the facts of this art student’s case, so of course there’s a chance he’s absolutely correct that he is being discriminated against. But seriously, getting kicked out of art school? In Portland, Oregon? A state with one of the highest percentages of non-religious people in the country? Where everyone is on a mellowed high, all the time? Somehow, this feels all too much like a case of someone improperly blaming his problems on the religious, which only serves to detract from cases of actual religious persecution.