Religion in the News
Religion major wins FFRF Youth Activist Award
December 1, 2015
Holly Baer is the first recipient of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s $1,000 Yip Harburg Youth Activist Award, generously endowed by the Yip Harburg Foundation and FFRF members Ernie and Margie Harburg, the children of the famous lyricist of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
The award was spurred by Holly’s Nov. 3 op-ed headlined “This misrepresentation of church and state” in the Daily Mississippian (the University of Mississippi at Oxford student newspaper). It detailed FFRF’s complaint to the city of Collins about unconstitutional mixing of state and church in a city-owned park in which Christian displays had been placed for decades.
Holly also detailed the vitriolic reaction to the complaint on new stories online:
- “Those nonbelievers need a city of their own to move to. Far far away from us.”
- “They will have their own city, it’s called HELL.”
- “I think the city should take the complainer down.”
Holly, a senior, later told FFRF:
When I enrolled in the University of Mississippi to pursue a degree in religious studies, I intended to me a missionary and live abroad spreading the gospel. Three years later, I am an outspoken writer, columnist and blogger chronicling my own struggles and frustrations as an ex-Christian in the Deep South.
When my hometown of Collins received a complaint from FFRF for illegal Christian decorations, I watched and listened to family and acquaintances make combative statements toward the person who informed FFRF of the legal violations. Many called for the “complainer” to be run out of town and said they deserved to have their house burned down.
Almost the entirety of my family, including those who no longer lived in Collins, went to the “Rally For Christmas” at a town hall meeting to discussing how to handle the letter of complaint. Instead, it became a religious revival, with Mayor V.O. Smith pledging to keep the decorations up.
As an opinion columnist for the Daily Mississippian, I wrote a response condemning the behavior I had seen as well as the superiority complex of Christians in the state. Despite claiming to be one of the best, most Christian states, Mississippi mostly excels at teen pregnancy, obesity, lack of education and a slew of other negative things. Mississippi has a history of explosive responses to being required to follow the law. The persecution complex is fueled by the idea that Christianity deserves a special place in society.
After graduation, I plan to continue writing and speaking out as a nonbeliever. I am pursing a master of fine arts in poetry, where nonbelief, subversion of religious themes and the conflict of my identity versus my upbringing have become central in my poems. I hope to continue to be involved with FFRF and to advocate for true separation of church and state.
Holly’s blog is titled “Sex, Religion, Politics and other topics to avoid at the dinner table.”
– See more at the FFRF webpage.