A few days ago, we had a new member by the name of Tim. Tim posted an introductory blog telling us about himself. I can't link to it now, because it's gone. I'll get to that. First, let me repost Tim's blog.

Hi,
I'm a minor (17) and I'm wondering what exactly are my rights? I've tried researching around and I can't seem to find a definitive answer on the subject.
I've been an atheist for almost three years now and I've chosen not to tell my parents (who are militantly Catholic) mainly so I don't have to deal with getting yelled at, grounded, etc.
I have however, disclosed to them that I am no longer a Catholic (although my mother does not believe me; she thinks if you were baptized you are Catholic for eternity, regardless of choice), and that I do not wish to continue to attend church.
They told me as long as I am under their roof, I must continue going to church.
I completely understand this, but still it doesn't feel right that I can't choose my own religion (or in this case, lack of religion).
I feel like as a more mature and reasoned minor (more so than, say, an eight yeah old; I know I still have a long way to go), that I should be able to choose this. I feel that the government might have something in place to protect the rights of the individual, in this case my right to choose my own religion, which I see as an individual right regardless of actual law.
So what are my rights? Is it legal for my parents to force a religion I have already told them I am not a part of on me? It seems tyrannical and absolutely not in the spirit of American democracy.
And if it is legal, what can I do to protect the religious rights of children in the future, so they don't have to go through the same disconnected, psychological torment that I feel now?
Thanks for your responses in advance!

In my response to Tim, I linked him to a website that I frequent (the forum of a Youth civil rights organization) and advised him to seek advice there from his peers who have been through this before. He reposted his blog on that forum, which is why I'm able to repost it now. I recieved the following e-mail from Tim just a little while ago:

Hey Galen it's Tim from TA.
Last night my parents found out I'm atheist through TA (they looked through the history looking for a site they were on earlier and of course it was the one time I didn't clear the history :-/ ).
They made me delete my TA account and while I plan to just make a new account with a different name shortly, I was wondering if you could do me a favor and spread the word (maybe through a blog post or something). I want people to know that's why I'm gone for the moment...

So, honoring his request, I'm posting this blog to inform everyone here of what happened to one of our newest members. Once again, intrafamilial religious intolerance rears its ugly head. I wonder what the outcry would be if I, an atheist, forced my Christian teenager to delete their account on a "praise Jesus" website? What wailing and nashing of teeth would we then hear about "intolerance" and "bigotry" and "OMG THE WAR ON CHRISTIANS!!1!11!!"

But, sure, perfectly reasonable response, right? You find out your child has a fundamental disagreement with you and rather than accepting that your child is an individual with his own thoughts, feelings, opinions, and beliefs, you immediately react by forcing them to deny who they are in favor of keeping them your own little clone. Why do parents do that? It never works - EVER. I feel bad for Tim, having his parents find out this way and the reaction they surely had. I hope he does come back under another name as he said he would. It just seems to me that young people should be allowed to think for themselves. I guess maybe that's a "sin" in some people's eyes.

Good luck, Tim.

Views: 6

Comment by Reggie on February 17, 2010 at 10:37pm
But, sure, perfectly reasonable response, right? You find out your child has a fundamental disagreement with you and rather than accepting that your child is an individual with his own thoughts, feelings, opinions, and beliefs, you immediately react by forcing them to deny who they are in favor of keeping them your own little clone.

Somebody slap me if I do that to my child. But you are right, people like to control and try to shape their children into younger versions of themselves. It is the ultimate in vanity. I keep reminding myself that when my child bursts on to the scene this summer, my little poop machine is going to grow into an individual and in respect to certain things, I would do well to remember her or his individuality. That includes if he or she decides to worship gods.
Comment by Graham E. Lau on February 17, 2010 at 11:06pm
That's unfortunate. I have a feeling though that this will help Tim to become a better parent himself. Having a rational mind will make it easier for him to deal with it. Let's face it, many of us have had some problem or another with family or friends who couldn't accept that someone has viewpoints outside of their own. I hope Tim can find a way to maintain his questioning attitude but still be safe in his home.
Comment by Pinko Commie on February 18, 2010 at 2:48am
If i found out my kid joined a site that I found questionable, I would check out the site and see what was going on. I can honestly say that if my kid joined a religious version of think atheist at Tim's age, I wouldn't care. This site is comprised mainly of opinions and ideas. We're not posting porn or swapping baby recipes, I don't get what the problem is.
Comment by Graham E. Lau on February 18, 2010 at 3:51am
...then we sprinkle it with a mix of marjoram, sage, and thyme. Now sit it on the rack and let it bake at 350 for... Oh, sorry...

I hope I can be a good enough parent to give my children all the tools they'll need to rationally consider their choices in life, but never step in and tell them what they have to believe or not believe.
Comment by Silenus on February 18, 2010 at 8:43am
this should get "featured"
Comment by Michel-san on February 18, 2010 at 10:03am
Poor Tim, that's cruel. I'm guessing his parents think atheists are evil.
Comment by Dan on February 18, 2010 at 12:10pm
Timothy Docster left because: parents caught me. im sorry. i hope to be back soon. think atheist everyone.
Comment by Galen on February 18, 2010 at 9:24pm
No, but it would be a hilarious response!
Comment by Shine on February 18, 2010 at 11:08pm
Wow, that is really messed up. I feel really bad for him that he has to wipe this from his browser history like it's porn. He created the Atheist Writers group, and posted some really good stuff on the discussions there. In particular, he had the beginning of really good short story started.

Tim, if you read this, just keep in mind that you have less than a year until you hit eighteen and then you will have the full legal right to frequent atheists sites as much as you want! Hang in there!
Comment by Shine on February 18, 2010 at 11:09pm
And, lmao, Brandon that is the best idea for retaliation ever.

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