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 Fancy Nancy on February 19, 2010 at 4:07am
Ummm steady on there Brandon ... no need to burn the furniture ... just have a nice wash! Keep it real, eh ;)
Comment by Galen on February 23, 2010 at 10:18pm
Welcome to the site, Cynthia! I'm not surprised at all that your daughter realized the truth at age 10. Many on this site will say that one so young can't *really* be an atheist. I say that's nonsense. We were all born atheists and it takes no special knowledge, skill, or experience to remain in (or return to) the default state to which we are NATURALLY born! It also takes no great intelligence or maturity to look at religion and say "um...no, that's a load of crap." Children see the problems with religion right off the bat, but are giving lame ass answers to shut them up until finally they stop questioning. I'm glad your daughter had the good fortune to have open minded parents who encouraged her individuality, even when that individuality was different from what you may have wished for her yourself! Hard thing for a parent to do, but it's SO important!
Comment by Mario Rodgers on February 23, 2010 at 11:16pm
I guess this begs a peculiar question. Do atheists often make better parents than believers?

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